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7 posts from April 2009

April 30, 2009

At the moment of surrender - or why WorldMate for iPhone, and why NOW

If you have come here searching for WorldMate for Android, follow the link to sign-up for the WorldMate Android Beta

For over a year now, we've been inundated with questions (initially), requests (later) and grunts (lately) regarding WorldMate for the iPhone. Initially, it was simply WorldMate's history - we've had WorldMate on Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian UIQ, S60, S80, S90, J2ME, Windows Desktop, BlackBerry... people naturally assumed we'd automatically do iPhone too. Later it was surprise - as it seemed like the iPhone app market is a huge opportunity for developers - how come a long-established and category leading brand like WorldMate isn't there?

On our CEO's blog he explained our rationale. In retrospect, it's interesting to see how the iPhone and our perception of it changed over time. In August 2007 he stated "What the iPhone definitely isn't is a good business tool". In October 2008 he asked users to petition Apple to allow us to do push, background processing etc. to enable the Auto-updating and Alert functionality in WorldMate Live. By then, it was clear to us that the iPhone is here to stay, and that iPhone desire, even crave WorldMate - and that we can't ignore their pleas. The comments we got ranged from enouragement - e.g. "I think worldmate live is a great application and I'd love to see it on iphone" to"I switched from BlackBerry, and not having WM is killing me."

But still we dragged our feet. Why? the reasons above had much to do with it. Our pre-occupation with Windows Mobile, Symbian etc. contributed too. But mostly,  we were concerned about the business model. You see, WorldMate Live is a $99/year service. The propsects of selling in a market where the so-called leaders sell $0.99 mini-apps is daunting. In January 2009, when we were examining the iPhone App Store success stories a little closer in the post titled "iPhone, iTunes, iFart..." we asked people what they thought we should do. We were encouraged to hear responses like:

"a high price suggests higher value and differentiation from the low quality apps out there - from seeing who's carrying iphones in the big cities, seems like there'll be enough happy customers for the worldmate live app."

and

"If people are willing to pay $.99 for crappy apps and odd sounds, imagine what they would pay for an app that is actually useful and works wonderfully like WorldMate Live."

These responses marked the trigger for our iPhone development. But WorldMate Live is a BIG system.  We have an 8-person team working on it since January. When it's released, it will arguably be the biggest, richest iPhone app out there.And in the mean time, we still have quite a few dilemmas and debates. Some of which we aired in public in March. At this stage, it seems like the audience wasn't too appreciative anymore, and the comments we got were a little less appreciative...

"What I think is that you are very bitter... Now I have the iphone, as it is in my opinion the better platform I now look forward to getting a product similar to WM from someone else, it will now only be a matter of time..."

Last month, Apple announced iPhone SDK 3.0. It doesn't let us do everything we want to be able to do, but it's a huge step forward. By this summer, it will allow us some limited push functionality, and management of paid subscriptions. For us, this is a coming-of-age of this platform, and we want to be on it - ASAP.

The iPhone has revolutionized the smartphone market in several ways. The most important one is not technological or design-centric - it has to do with the marketing message. Apple is focusing it on the availability of applications - stuff to do with your phone beyond voice / SMS / Email. Everyone in the mobile software business has been pleading with manufacturers and operators for years to do this. These manufacturers built great smartphones, then marketed them as "camera phones", "camcorder phones" (remember the Nokia 6620?) and "communicators". In doing so they've been sending the wrong message to their customers, and delaying the smartphone revolution. In a way you could say that these companies they were not confident in their product. Maybe the engineers and product managers unsderstood apps. The marketers didn't. Nokia was not really sure that the 9300 is good for anything beyond communications. RIM was not sure BlackBerries are really more than e-mail devices.

Apple is confident. And with this confidence they set out to show the public that these devices they've built can do all those "new" things. TV commercials showing apps on the iPhone. Full-page ads showing just an iPhone with apps. Apple retail shop-fronts with displays of hundreds of apps – can the message get any clearer?

2 years ago, if you downloaded an app to your smartphone, you were a geek. Now you're cool.

On top of this – the iPhone is currently the best mobile platform for content consumption. Between the great screen to the elegant and highly usable UI, a great medium was from an ergonomic perspective. Regardless if what you're looking at is your travel itinerary, a news article or a video clip – the iPhone is probably the best mobile platform to consume this content, and competes well even with other media – from paper through television to desktop computers.

So – what we have here is a platform whose users see as a great medium to carry and consume content on.  Millions of business professionals have turned it into their preferred tool. Their use of it corresponds closely to our WorldMate vision – they carry their info, access it, look up info they need in real time, and react to it - directly on their iPhones.

 Warranted – the lack of some key features still puts it at a disadvantage – if we could push info to you, we'd be able to provide you with the context-sensitive alert capabilities of WorldMate Live. If you had a keyboard, data-entry operations would be easier. And we're still concerned with app pricing, which makes it hard for us to get back the millions of $ we put in the WorldMate Live system. But it's time we move forward – and that is what we're doing. So it's not long now before we'll release WorldMate for the iPhone. In the mean time we invite you to tell us what you want, what you think and what you need. And if you'd like to be notified as soon as it's available – just click here to register for that notification.

April 27, 2009

New travel providers supported

We've just added support for Air New Zealand and Worldspan. This means itineraries you get by email from either of those can automatically generate travel itineraries in WorldMate Live. Check out http://blog.worldmatelive.com/2009/04/email-us-your-travel-plans.html if you're not sure how this works.

April 14, 2009

WorldMate's Flight Alerts Replace Airport Departures Boards

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The information you're used to finding on airports' electronic boards - delays, cancellations, gate and time of departure - are all part of the WorldMate Flight Alerts feature. But our Alerts enable you to find out about delayed or cancelled flights in real time, way before you get to the airport. So instead of leaving a meeting early to catch a flight, just to realize the flight has been delayed once you're already at the airport, you can now know about it in advance and plan accordingly. You'll even receive an Alert if only your gate number changes. And the best thing is this works automatically with virtually any airline in the Western world - no need to register separately for each flight with specific airlines. If your flight is in your itinerary, and you're a Gold member - you'll get the alert. Alerts are available on WorldMate for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. Flight Status is also available on our Palm and iPhone products.


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WorldMate's Flight Schedules feature list all the flights on a specific chosen route - say from LA to NY. You can use it on a daily basis instead of online sites like Kayak, or in a last-minute situation after receiving an Alert about a change in the flight you were planning to travel on. Find the flight that's right for you and book it on the spot without having to talk to airline personnel or wait on line for help.

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The application's Travel Directory lists phone numbers for airlines, hotels and car rental companies to help you make bookings and change them.


Basically what we're saying is that the old familiar scene of people standing around a large monitor or bulletin board at airports and railroad stations... waiting for the board to post information which is relevant to them... that's just not necessary anymore. Why rush to a board and stand there frantically looking for your gate if you can have it all in the palm of your hand way in advance? It's a 20th century scene ;). That information is already available on mobile and our Alerts show up on your screen automatically so you don't even have to look for them. All you'll need to do is go straight to the counter and check in.


Questions? Suggestions? Please post them here and we'll get the discussion going.

April 12, 2009

WorldMate: One of the Top 10 Apps Worth Buying on Nokia S60

As this review on All About Symbian states "a slick and free utility... If you’re a regular traveler then this becomes a time and money saver and will easily pay for itself".

April 03, 2009

This Weekend: 20% Off Mobile Applications


Look at this great promotion by our friends at Handango: WorldMate is conveniently placed in the forefront right between Bart Simpson and the New York Times! The promotion they're running is good till Monday so check it out this weekend, there's lots of interesting stuff.


Handango

April 01, 2009

WorldMate Premiers on BlackBerry App World

 BBAppWorld_getitat_black_lowres_reduced  

At long last! Research In Motion (RIM) launched its AppWorld application storefront today taking a bite out of Apple's playbook. Check it out on BlackBerry's web site. We're proud to be able to say that WorldMate Live is one of a select few featured applications in the store, in fact it's showcased on the front page carousel. We're prominently displayed along with other top BlackBerry apps such as Facebook and MySpace. Looks like the WorldMate community is going to skyrocket...


Of course, this isn't the first time consumers can buy apps for their BlackBerries. They've been doing so for years via PC websites from Handango, BlackBerryCool, AT&T's MEdia Mall and others like them. Still, this App World launch is a watershed moment for the BlackBerry community because it represents the first mass-distributed, on-device storefront for the platform. It is going to make it much easier for consumers to find, download and purchase high-quality apps right on BlackBerry smartphones.


This short clip was used at the announcement:



Open the floodgates!

Email Us Your Travel Plans

Here's the problem: your flight was booked directly on an airline's website, your hotel was booked via Expedia. Your meetings are in your Outlook calendar and now you just landed, heading out to catch a cab. Maybe you printed all your email confirmations and now there's a stack of papers in your bag. Your laptop is off. Where's the hotel...? When's your first meeting...? You don't remember.


The solution is WorldMate's itinerary, that puts all this info in your cellphone - automatically, for free. Itineraries are at the heart of WorldMate Live and we're constantly working to make their creation as simple as possible. WorldMate therefore creates itineraries automatically from emails you forward to us via a dedicated email account (trips@worldmate.com). Once you receive confirmation for your travel plans from your airline, travel agent or any other type of travel management company - just forward your email confirmations to the above account and we'll create your WorldMate itinerary for you. Keep in mind that we support Word, PDF and RTF attachments so no need to copy/paste them into the body of your email before forwarding.


Another way to automatically create WorldMate itineraries is by installing our Outlook Add-In onto your PC. Downloading the Add-In enables you to send us your travel confirmations with one click, instead of forwarding.


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WorldMate supports hundreds of airlines and agents. Please let us know whenever you run into an email confirmation that doesn't go through so that we can add it onto our list of supported providers.

If you work with a dedicated travel agent who handles your bookings for you, ask him or her to CC WorldMate Live on booking confirmations or final itinerary emails. It'll save you the trouble of doing it yourself. In this case, tell your agent to copy cc@worldmate.com (note that this is a different email account from the regular one you use yourself).

You can always send your itinerary to colleagues or family members, as well as print it.

WorldMate Live automatically pieces together an entire itinerary from separate emails received and multiple sources. You can forward more than one email per itinerary: if you have one message with flight info and another with hotel info, our system will recognize them both as related to the same trip so no need to worry.

If you send us only hotel information, or only car information - but without flight details - our system will categorize your items as "unassigned." Unassigned items will assign automatically once you send in the corresponding flights. If you don't want to add flights, you can bring unassigned items into your regular itinerary list by logging into your account on our webiste and clicking "assign."

We're working on adding emails that confirm ground transportation and will be sure to announce when that's available.

An important point to keep in mind when forwarding emails to WorldMate is the email account you're using. WorldMate will only recognize your email address if you tell us about it :). It's okay for you to forward from more than one account, just make sure you first go into your account settings on our site and tell our system about your additional email address so that we know it's yours. And if you're using a BlackBerry, the meetings you have in Outlook's calendar can sync up with WorldMate to show up on your itinerary. This is especially useful if you like checking out what your day looks like with WorldMate's mapping functionality.


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The person behind WorldMate's email parsing operations is Alex Karpov. Alex has been at WorldMate for two years and he's the one who makes sure we are able to work with different types of email confirmations and itineraries. As seen below, he also happens to be a nifty musician, actively keeping the beat on drums for a couple of rockabilly bands.


Alex  

Questions? Suggestions? Please post them here and we’ll get the discussion going.