Your Nokia Lumia smartphone is great for catching up on your favorite TV show on your commute or watching that movie on the airplane that you’ve been meaning to get to for months. But there’s one really annoying detail that often gets in the way: you have to remember to sync your media with your smartphone beforehand.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could access all your media across your house, or even play it on your Nokia Lumia smartphone no matter where you are? Plex will let you do just that. It’s an extremely popular app/service that allows you to stream your media from your computer to your TV and even on your smartphone.
Just recently, the Plex development team shipped their popular mobile client to Windows Phone. In a recent blog post, Elan Feingold, CTO of Plex, talks about the process to bring an app to market on the Windows Phone platform. The post spoke highly of Windows Phone from a developer’s point of view.
To dig in a little more, I had the opportunity to sit down with Feingold (on a video conference) and discuss Plex on Windows Phone.
JH: Tell me about Plex as a company – where are you guys based?
EF: We’re really spread all over the globe. I’m based in Maui, Hawaii, and most of our team, including Business Development is in the Bay Area of California. We also have folks in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden.
JH: Describe how it was like to bring the Plex app to Windows Phone
EF: I was immediately stuck by the look and feel that Metro brings to apps. Metro, as a design paradigm, heavily influenced the aesthetic nature of the app. In fact, now when I go back to our iOS app, it feels ‘clunky’ compared to the Windows Phone edition.
There are so many elements to Windows Phone including the way the apps can pivot and scroll, this architecture is impossible in other mobile platforms. For example, I could put big fan art behind the media tiles and as a result, the app looks really good.
We’ve received amazing feedback on our interface, and we didn’t even have to work harder to make these effects happen.
JH: What’s your coding/development background
EF: I’ve been coding off and on since I was 10. I’ve dabbled in everything from Mac to Windows to Linux. If you name a platform, I’ve coded on it.
For mobile OSes, I’ve worked on our iOS app and also on the media server for our Mac client. I’m constantly dabbling in different technologies – depending on what our projects call for.
When we hired my brother from Microsoft, he came with a Windows Phone background and pushed for us to evaluate Windows Phone as a platform.
In my opinion, I really think Windows Phone 7 and the upcoming Windows Phone 8 will be a HUGE platform and for us, it was a strategic move to be on this platform.
We can be super productive on the Windows Phone platform – like no other.
JH: Speak to developing on Windows Phone – what were your first impressions?
EF: Obviously – C# is a perfect programming language. The big thing for us developers is the edit/build/deploy cycle. As developers, we’re constantly running these three steps over and over again. In Windows Phone, the three steps are quick and easy.
JH: How long did it take to write Plex on WP – how long did you *think* it would take?
EF: We took a few days and did a proof of concept. Then we spent a month with me putting 50% of my time and my brother doing 75% of his. So, in a couple of months of us devoting just a portion of our time to our Windows Phone app, we had a prototype up and running.
In fact, the Windows Phone app was done before our corresponding server app was completed. We’re using Silverlight Smooth Streaming on the server side.
As for how long we thought developing Plex on Windows Phone would take – once we got our feet wet and had a few wins early on, we knew full development would go really quickly.
JH: What advice would you give to aspiring Windows Phone developers?
EF: For those coming from other platforms, my advice is to give it a shot – it’s way easier to get your app up and running than you might think.
Also, you’ll find that the users on Windows Phone are eager for new apps and excited to see what’s new. The users on Windows Phone are willling to engage with developers. We’re finding our reviews in the Marketplace and feedback on our forums are much nicer and more constructive than our apps on other mobile platforms.
JH: What’s missing in the Windows Phone world for developers?
EF: Overall we have found the process to be really fluid and easy to work with. With Windows Phone, there are some things that are a bit young and you can tell, but we didn’t run any to any show stoppers.
As a company, we’ve made four updates to our application since we launched four short weeks ago.
JH: Is there anything you’d like to say to Plex users?
EF: I would say to anyone who’s having trouble with any of our products, please get in touch. We’re easy to connect with on Twitter, live chat, or on our forums. We want to help our users and we’re really responsive.