Q&A: Marketcircle CEO Alykhan Jetha at Macworld

Just prior to Macworld’s official start, Marketcircle Inc. CEO Alykhan Jetha spoke to ComputerWorld Canada about the mood at this year’s show and the state of third-party Apple Inc. business software.

The Markham, Ont.-based company, which creates business software for all things Apple, picked up a Macworld Best of Show acknowledgement for its Billings Touch app. The time billing program allows users to track expenses and invoice clients from their iPhones.

ComputerWorld Canada: Much has been made of Apple’s absence at this year’s show. With no big Steve Jobs announcement, what is the mood like in San Francisco?

Alykhan Jetha: Apple not being there definitely makes a difference because it changes the whole perspective of the show. The question is, has IDG adapted the show appropriately? So far, indications are they have adapted, but the jury is still out in terms of how successful they are.

The mood here is somewhat pessimistic in regards to whether there will be a show next year. But over the next day or two, if the networking is good, there might be some legs here.

There definitely has to be some kind of community Mac event where people can network. This is the perfect place to do that.

They have an opportunity. But I don’t know whether they’re going to capitalize on that opportunity.

CWC: I’m assuming you were at last year’s event. Will more companies be demoing business-focused apps for Apple devices compared with last year?

AJ: There will be less. I’ve spoken to a lot of companies and I’ve found they’re sitting it out this year to see what it will be like.

They’re here as visitors, but they’re not exhibiting. A lot of people are on the sidelines, waiting and watching. So the success of this year’s show will dictate what happens at next year’s show in terms of participation.

CWC: So what are you expecting from this show?

AJ: This show is about what’s going to happen with Macworld. It’s important that we have something, but is this going to be the venue for it?

Everybody is waiting to see what happens. It’s not about announcements or new products. It’s about the show itself.

CWC: So in your mind, what would have you leaving with a positive outlook on the show?

AJ: If they can get a good number of people through the turnstiles that would be great. For us, it’s always been about meeting people.

One suggestion for the future could be moving cities. Maybe one year to Dallas, one year to New York, then to Boston and then back again. That way you get different people to the show.

I think they might also want to move away from the Macworld name because that is so tied to Apple being there.

CWC: From what you’ve experienced so far, has most of the buzz at this year’s show been about the iPad?

AJ: There has been a lot of talk about the iPad.

It’s a little bit different than the iPhone. When that launched, there was optimism and pessimism, but more optimism. This time, people are a little bit curious, wondering how the device will fit into their lifestyle.

Those people are missing the point, though. This is a new kind of device and it will bring new kinds of usages.

It’s a new category, not because of the form factor, but because of the software interaction. I think that will be key and it will take a few great apps to turn the tide.

CWC: Anything planned from Marketcircle for the iPad and to help it gain relevance in the business world?

AJ: We’re bullish about it. We don’t have one yet, so once we get it, we’re going to evaluate it.

The SDK is already available, but it’s different to make a commitment without actually playing with it. We do know that our applications do run on it and we have tested that. But we will evaluate it more in depth when we actually get one.

CWC: How important will the developer community be in giving the iPad a chance in the business world?

AJ: Very important. There are some interesting out-of-the-box usages outside of browsing the Web and checking e-mail.

It’s a no brainer for the medical industry, so that will start to turn the tide. As I was saying, there’ll be a bunch of apps — and they won’t be the same for everyone — that will change the game.

CWC: Apple doesn’t seem to be as interested in the iPad’s applicability to the business as they are with the consumer world. What is your opinion on that?

AJ: I see it more applicable to businesses than consumers, but they’re pitching it as a consumer device. Once again, we have to wait for the applications to come out. The applications out-of-the-box won’t be enough.

But think of the use cases in business, such as reference material. One of the reasons I was considering a Kindle was, as somebody in a technical environment, there’s a lot of materials in books that I have purchased but can’t carry them around.

Real estate agents and financial advisors have a ton of information to share with you and all that information is in a laptop. But they don’t bring their laptop into their house when they come to talk to you, they bring papers.

The reason for that is when you open your laptop you put a barrier between you and the person you’re talking to. And you’re always looking down. But with the iPad, you can share it, the same way you’re sharing paper.

So that industry is another one that’s ripe for this device.

CWC: What’s the latest with Marketcircle?

AJ: We just launched Billings Touch, a companion product to our Billings product, which is being announced as a Macworld Best of Show. We’re continuing developing our applications to suit our customer’s needs.

We’re still targeting the business market. We think it’s going to keep getting bigger.

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