INTERVIEW: Roope Tassberg from Pastilli Labs Says a Big Thank You to the User Community
This week we got the chance to interview Roope Tassberg, half of the two man crew that make up Pastilli Labs, the creators of the Situations app. Although the app has not made it onto Windows Phone (more about this later) it started within Nokia, based on Symbian^3 and continues to progress on other platforms despite Symbian^3’s demise.
Pastilli Labs was created to continue the Situations app work we started at Nokia. As we (Heikki Haveri and I) were part of the Symbian organization we were part of the business transfer to Accenture, and as mobility didn’t go as planned in Accenture, many of of the old Symbian teams have had to look for new jobs. At the time of the move, we made a license agreement with Nokia to spin off the Situations app as Heikki and I believed in the concept and continued it in our spare time.
Moving on to the Situations app. What has guided your decisions to port from Symbian over to Android?
Basically the user base and capability of other operating systems than Symbian. Any operating system that is relatively easily capable of supporting an automation app to a similar depth to Symbian^3 is supported by us: Symbian, Meego, Android, Sailfish (under development). We are also following the development of Tizen.
How is Android development compared with that of Symbian (QT)
Originally Situations was a native Symbian app, but Heikki rewrote it in QT to have better development environment for a very small (basically Heikki alone) development team to support multiple operating systems.
Based on your references to Heikki, what are your roles within Pastilli Labs?
Heikki is the developer out of the two of us, whereas I was a Product Manager at Nokia, whilst also performing Project Manager duties, especially at Accenture. This said I am also a certified UX designer, although I must give credit to Heikki for the latest UI (User Interface) work. . . Job well done.
Back to the Situations app again…
Compared to Symbian I don’t think there are any. Android’s main problem is not being compatible with itself due to the number of manufacturers and Android versions. The lack of some functionality, e.g. the location based condition, is because of our resource shortage. That is the only reason for its absence. Android can actually do more than Symbian due more integrated 3rd party app support.
When you mention resource shortage, is Pastilli Labs still a two man company or have you employed additional developers to support expansion?
No, we are currently a two man company, and we are working on this in our spare time, so we cannot invest as many hours as we would like into development. Taking that into account I think we have pulled it off rather well. The sole purpose of Pastilli Labs is to continue the support of Situations App, at least at the moment.
Currently you have versions publicly available on Symbian, Meego, Android and the Nokia X (Android). How much scope does this leave you to expand onto Sailfish, Jolla?
As the app has been developed with QT it should be pretty much covered. We haven’t verified Jolla phone yet and have not yet released a version for it as a result, but Sailfish has already been taken into account during current development.
This brings me on to Windows Phone…
There are many Symbian to Windows Phone switchers that are screaming out for Situations. I realise that Windows Phone has it’s limitations, but third party apps have a appeared this year which achieve automated volume control. Can we expect to see a Situations app on the Windows Phone platform?
True. We have been asked this a lot. The problem is that Windows Phone multi-tasking functionality has not yet reached the "Situations level", so to say. To be able to support full automation of phone features, and not just ringtone volume means that it is seriously lagging behind Android when it comes to automation.
We are following the progress of Windows Phone enablers and haven’t discarded the platform, but it is just not yet at the needed level for us, so we are keeping our eyes in it. In the same way,we are also keeping our eyes on iOS, but, it hasn’t shown the same indications of moving in the direction of third party control of device automation, especially if you want your app to be in the official App Store.
The only mobile platform we haven’t discussed is Blackberry…
Due our resourcing constraints we need to stick within our knowledge base and with mainstream operating systems.
What about side loading of Android apps onto Blackberry devices?
Then there’s also the other Android versions like Nokia X and Amazon. Plenty of work could be done to support them too, but so far we have concentrated on the more generic Android platforms to develop the missing features when compared with the Symbian version.
What do you see as the future for the Situations app?
I believe the time is still to come for automation apps like Situations. We are interested in not just how we can automate the phone behaviour, but all things around us. Isn’t that what Internet of Things is all about?
Google is heavily investing in this field on it’s own, but they taken a different approach to contextual automation than us with their Google Now service and it is interesting to see how they are developing Nest.
But there lies the possibilities of Situations as we are one of the all time pioneers in the field. Our differentiation has been providing the best user experience and this is something we continue to develop into the future.
Are you able to provide us any kind of preview of what is coming?
Our short-term plans are to develop all of our apps to the same level functionality as the Symbian version. Other than that, sorry I don’t have anything more to give at the time.
And finally, thank you for your time and what is the future for Pastilli Labs? Are additional apps in the pipeline? Accepting resource limitations.
Finally, we are very grateful to our users. Localisation of the Situations App has always been done together with users. We have provided capabilities and have had great help from the user community in other areas, so we really want to say big thank you to them through this article.