Do you remember your first touch screen experience? I remember mine. I got my first iPhone in September of 2008. I had been intrigued with the iPhone for a while, but when I lost my current phone while traveling, my loss turned into a gain as my iPhone dream became reality. I found an AT&T store and joined the millions of iPhone 3G users world wide. At first, I didn’t even quite know how to use the thing; the whole touch-screen interface was still a foreign concept to me.
I quickly learned how to use my iPhone and adapt my motor movements to the touch interface. Apple marketing is full of words like “magical” and “revolutionary”, but these are more than buzzwords. They describe how I felt once I first “got” how to use my iPhone. Using my fingers was such an elegant way to control a device and I got a rush from every new gesture I learned to invoke. I felt like I’d landed on Deep Space Nine and was living in the future. It was the same feeling as if I’d sat myself down in a flying car and taken off, or stepped into a teleportation device and whisked myself away to another part of the planet instantly (by the way, I still can’t wait for those technologies to become real). This was science fiction meets reality.
When I first used the iPhone, I knew I was glimpsing the future. This is now absolutely clear to me after watching my kids use it. My 3-year old son can use my iPhone and iPad like it’s second nature. When he sees a laptop he wonders why it does nothing when he touches the screen. Clearly the future of computing is evident in that our children can immediately and intuitively learn to use these devices. A keyboard and mouse in the future will be like a stick-shift Jeep: many kids will learn it because their parents are adamant to teach them about the tools of the “good old days”, but most people won’t have any need or inclination to ever figure out those old tools that predate their current technologies.
As a developer, I definitely thought about building an iPhone app, but never quite had an idea that stuck. Time passed and two years after I got my iPhone, I felt as if I’d missed the iPhone app gold rush. Yet, strangely, as a consumer, I had never even bought a single app for my iPhone. I was stingy and preferred the free stuff. Clearly there was a yet untapped market of people like me who had yet to see value in the device beyond novelty.
So, when the iPad was announced, I was at the edge of my seat waiting to hear about the new Apple tablet. I immediately thought to myself: what app can I build for the iPad that will take advantage of its unique capabilities? The obvious advantage was the larger screen size. A few weeks later I was on a conference call at work. During the course of the call I had some ideas that I naturally wanted to put on the whiteboard, but obviously the people on the phone wouldn’t be able to see what I was drawing. That’s when it struck me that if I could jot my sketch on an iPad, I could immediately share it with those on the phone.
Once this basic light bulb had gone off, I started to have sci-fi visions of an app where I could create my sketch on a magic tablet and beam it across the globe to whoever was interested. I also wanted something extremely elegant. So elegant that I could draw better on my iPad than I could on a physical whiteboard.
My vision and venture with my business partner Geoff hit its first obstacle when the app store first launched for iPad. There were immediately dozens of apps that could be considered competitors. Some of them were quite good. I thought about giving up on building yet another app for sketching, but I didn’t want to let Geoff down. We stuck through it and released our app. Our first version was extremely minimal (we were both a little bit embarrassed by our first release) and we held pretty low expectations. Despite this, we received a lot of positive feedback and as a user myself I quickly realized that our app was the only one on the market that did what I wanted. We focused our efforts on quickly improving and launching a paid version of the app and are continuing to make it better. For the specific task it does (simple, easy, sketches and whiteboarding), we believe it’s the best app out there.
As we continue to develop the app I still hold the vision from when I was first dreaming about Jot before it was reality. I want to build an app that’s better for drawing than a pen and paper or a physical whiteboard. Just how the iPad itself is version 1, I feel we’ve only just begun. Here’s to innovation!