They Want to Connect us All: an Interview with SHAPE Services Marketing Manager
As I heard Helen’s voice at the other end of the line, I immediately recognized that the interview would be an exciting one. Not only did I receive a warm welcome, but unlike my preconceptions she was willing to talk about future application enhancements and observable bugs. What you read below is my interview with SHAPE Services marketing manager, Helen Khais. Before reading the interview, please note that SHAPE Services will bounteously offer two IM+ All-In-One Mobile Messenger licenses and two IM+ for Skype licenses to four individuals who take time to comment on this interview in the comments section. As indicated at the end of this post, the people who provide us with the most comprehensive feature requests will get the prizes. Alternatively, feel free to ask any questions or send your comments because you might very well get the prize in case very few people decide to swamp us with feature requests.
Q: Please talk about yourself and the position you have at SHAPE Services.
A: I’m Helen Khais and work as SHAPE Services marketing manager. In general, I try to organize resellers and integrate them into the infrastructure of the company. I’m not directly involved in application development, but I provide application developers with user requests and bug reports.
Q: When was SHAPE Services founded?
A: It was founded in 2002.
Q: In which countries are you currently active?
A: We are headquartered in Germany, and have an office in Odessa, Ukraine and in Ekaterinburg, Russia. As you know our users are spread all across the globe.
Q: Does the fact that you don’t have an office in North America negatively affect your sales and the provision of technical support to users?
A: The time difference is definitely a downside, but our sales stats in the U.S.A are quite strong. As a matter of fact, 60% of our products are sold in the North American market, and we’ll also be opening an office in the U.S.A soon.
Q: How would you describe SHAPE Services for us?
A: SHAPE Services is a company which offers a variety of applications for the whole range of mobile platforms. Our products can be installed on Java phones, Blackberry RIM, Windows Mobile for Pocket PC and Smartphone, and all Symbian subplatforms. Since 2002 SHAPE Services has been developing Real Time Communication software solutions for both individuals and enterprises. We want to help people connect to one another via their hand-held devices as smoothly as possible. Our mission is the mobilization of all important processes and demands, from communication and entertainment to business processes and productivity.
Q: How many software engineers are involved in the process of developing your Symbian-based applications?
A: Our Symbian development team consists of 5 to 7 full-time technical engineers and all development takes place in-house.
Q: Please talk about Symbian S60 products you offer.
A: Our flagship product is IM+ All-In-One Mobile Messenger, and as the name suggests it helps users Chat with their AIM, iChat, MSN and Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo!, ICQ, Jabber, Google Talk and MySpaceIM buddies in a convenient environment. Version 7.06 of this product was just released and costs $29.95. We also offer a product called IM+ for Skype which is aimed at satisfying the day-to-day needs of Skype users. Its 2.22 release costs $19.95. Our third product is Mobiscope which helps users monitor their apartments, offices and personal properties. It can be used in a good number of unique ways, and can also be set to record certain activities when the application detects a disturbance. It can transfer data in a highly secure way. V2.2 of Mobiscope costs $29.95. Finally, SHAPE Services offers a free application called GPSed. This location-based application is used to track and map trips and works with both internal and external GPS receivers. Routes can be shared with friends and traced on Google Maps. It’s also equipped with geotagging capabilities. More information about our products can be found on the SHAPE Services web site and all of them provide fully-functional trial licenses.
Q: Why do you offer a different product for Skype users? In other words, why not offer an IM+ All-In-One Mobile Messenger which would also support Skype accounts? It’s rather inconvenient to purchase and install two separate applications when, in theory at least, just one app can take care of all communication needs.
A: Our products usually follow a cross-platform style; that is, they tend to offer similar features on different mobile platforms. Part of this limitation stems from the fact that not all mobile platforms support the integration of Skype into other VoIP and IM networks via one application. Also, given the special features Skype offers, we thought a dedicated application can serve users more efficiently. The smooth integration of Skype into other networks is something we’re also looking at.
Q: Why doesn’t IM+ for Skype support free Skype-to-Skype calls? Put differently, people should have SkypeOut accounts in order to call others via IM+ for Skype, and many Skype users don’t buy this type of account. Considering the fact that IM+ for Skype competitors support free Skype-to-Skype calls, don’t you want to implement it in your products?
A: The point is that some competitors offer free Skype-to-Skype calls only on handsets that support WiFi, (e.g., Pocket PC), and others work closely with Skype which allows them to have better access to the necessary technical resources. IM+ for Skype offers good quality and cost-effective calling to landlines and cell phones and is available on all mobile platforms. The support of VoIP which will make Skype-to-Skype calls free is in our feature list.
Q: Many people have been complaining for a while that IM+ All-In-One Mobile Messenger isn’t compatible with the N82 and that it makes the N82 quite sluggish to the point of being forced to close the application. Are you aware of this issue?
A: Yes. This problem seems to be related to the way contacts are loaded in the N82. We have an N82 here and are doing our best to uproot the cause, whatever it is. Stay tuned.
Q: Quite interestingly, it doesn’t affect IM+ for Skype.
A: that’s a good thing to notice. It’ll also help pinpoint the culprit more easily.
Q: What features should we expect to find in future releases of your popular Vo-IP and IM applications?
A: Application development is an ongoing process, and soon you’ll see a tight integration between our products and popular online communities such as MySpace and Facebook – something currently missing in our competitors’ offerings.
Q: Anything you want to share with my readers?
A: We’re always interested in user feedback, so if you have any suggestions for future product releases I’d be glad to take them here. You can also send us your suggestions and bug reports via the Contacts section of our web site.
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