Developer Workshop: Quickoffice

Developer Workshop is a series of profiles exploring the current state of the mobile marketplace from the point of view of the software developers mapping out its future. Each profile focuses on a developer with a compelling story to tell, and offers their perspective on what the industry's doing right, what it's doing wrong and how to make it better. Check out our previous workshops on Shazam, InfoMedia, Viigo, Meet Now Live, Shortcovers, Pint Sized Mobile, Geodelic, Spark of Blue Software, Tarver Games, People Operating Technology, Booyah, Bolt Creative, Thwapr, Monkeyland Industries, Rocket Racing League, Vlingo, Advanced Mobile Protection and PapayaMobile.

This week FierceDeveloper profiles Quickoffice, which offers software for document creation and editing.

With the industry shifting its focus from the consumer to the prosumer, enterprise applications are fast emerging as the next major mobile software battleground. "I believe 2011 will be the breakout year for mobile apps in the enterprise," proclaimed AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) CEO Ralph de la Vega earlier this month at the newly-renamed CTIA Enterprise and Applications 2010 conference, an event once characterized by its pronounced emphasis on entertainment-themed services--days later, Motorola unveiled the Droid Pro, the first enterprise-centric smartphone running the Android operating system. In addition to voice and data coverage spanning over 200 countries, full push corporate email and a unified calendar with additional work tools, the Droid Pro preloads Quickoffice Mobile Suite, a full-featured Microsoft Office solution developed by Dallas-based mobile business applications developer Quickoffice; HP's forthcoming Palm Pre 2, the first device running the new webOS 2.0 platform, also pre-integrates Quickoffice Mobile Suite, further underscoring the utility's expanding presence across the enterprise platform.

Quickoffice Mobile Suite enables on-the-go users to create, open and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, remotely access files from multiple cloud services including MobileMe and Google Docs, transfer desktop files via WiFi and email/view attachments in a host of formats like PDF, HTML, JPG, GIF and MP3. According to Quickoffice, its software is now installed on over 250 million devices spanning more than 180 countries--in addition to Android and webOS, the firm also supports iOS, BlackBerry and Symbian. FierceDeveloper spoke to Quickoffice director of engineering Jelte Liebrand and vice president of sales and strategic partnerships Gregg Fiddes about the rapid growth of the enterprise segment, the webOS opportunity and Android's chances as a corporate staple.

Fiddes on Quickoffice's mobile enterprise roots: We're focusing on all the major mobile platforms, including iPhone and iPad as well as Android. We've long been a deep player with Symbian--we know every single iteration of the Symbian OS. That fragmentation's been tough.

Our deal with Palm has been in the works for some time now--we're excited to embed [the Mobile Suite app] as part of webOS. That's only going to add depth and scale to what we do. It reminds me of the Yogi Berra quote: It's déjà vu all over again--the company had its roots in the original Palm OS, and now we're back again. Moving forward, you're going to see enhanced viewing and editing--we have a progression of new features and functionality coming out.

Liebrand: I've been focusing on webOS for some time now. It's been a pleasure to deal with. In the past, we've been successful because we have an interesting architecture--our engines are cross-platform. But with webOS, we can use HTML5 and Web elements to render on top of our cross-platform engines. Editing can become quite difficult across different devices and countries, but with webOS, it's much easier to deal with.

webOS is quite a young OS, so it's focused well on the developer community. All tools are generic, for lack of a better word--they're easy to get to grips with. Because it's not some proprietary system, the learning curve isn't steep. A lot of developers already know how to do this stuff--they can get started on webOS straight away. It's very different on Android, where you have to do a lot more things yourself when it comes to document rendering. There's so much to do yourself on Android--it can become quite complicated quite quickly.

Fiddes: We've all seen the ebbs and flows of Palm, but I believe that once HP puts its scale into Palm, we're going to see it change. Palm just needs more and better devices--once HP's worldwide scale is applied, people are going to see it's a really nice OS. It's just that simple.

Fiddes on the enterprise applications renaissance: It feels like from a mobile office perspective, devices are now real tools. Dial it back two or three years, and people were not as confident to leave their laptops at home--now, because of bigger screens, faster processors and primetime applications, convergence is happening. It's there--you can see it.

Think back to push wireless email--RIM got it right, then other people got it right. Now we have to have great Office tools--professionals have to have access to information, no matter where it is. CIOs are inundated--there are massive numbers of iOS and Android devices coming into the workplace. They're asking "How do I handle this stuff?' Solutions providers are going to say ‘Here's how you do it.'

Liebrand: A lot of [writing a successful enterprise app] requires listening to the customer. You can't take a smartphone product and blow it up for tablets--the expectations are much greater, and usability must be different. Everyone has these devices, and they expect them to work and they expect to work on them. You have to give them what they want and what they expect.

Fiddes on Android's push into the workforce: Google has a strong focus in the enterprise--look at Google Docs. They're going to be relentless until they get it right. The standard bearer was RIM, and they will continue to be a force, but now the Android ecosystem is kicking in, and it's coming in the front door so fast that CIOs and IT departments have to react. The Android ecosystem has to react, too. Look at how Motorola is positioning [the Droid Pro]--it's secure and locked down to give the enterprise what they need.

Fiddes on tips for aspiring mobile enterprise apps developers: Developers should think very carefully--the enterprise is not for the meek. You need to know the needs of the CIO and IT. We have our ear on the ground, and we listen very carefully. We have years of data on what users want. Part of our strategic plan is partnering with companies with deep roots in the enterprise--you're going to see us try to raise our game, and identify where we have holes.

Liebrand: You have to target multiple platforms and hit them all with the same quality of code. A successful business app needs to address all the major platforms.