Miguel de Icaza: From “Anti-Apple” to Xamarin, Helping Windows Devs Go iOS

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I was living in this anti-Apple bubble and had this notion that the iPhone was just marketing…I thought BlackBerry had it right, with a keyboard.”

Fast forward a year or two, and de Icaza says, “I was secretly drooling when someone let me use their iPhone. They did amazing work with the user interface. I was working with Linux on a desktop, and I thought, ‘How the hell did they achieve this smooth animation and perfect display?’ As soon as I bought one, that was it.”

Like a lot of people, he sees the deeper impact of mobile interfaces on the younger generation. His three-year-old daughter uses an iPad, for example. “She runs her apps and videos. It’s very impressive. We never really taught her anything,” he says. “I didn’t get to use a computer until I was 14. I never had videos, and not much TV. As a parent, I’m a little concerned. Now she’s watching the Harlem Shake…I mean, she can’t type.”

On the plus side, he says, “She learned the alphabet and how to count on her own, with apps.” Indeed, there’s a ton of activity in mobile and tablet apps for education. And de Icaza thinks developers, companies, and advertisers need to agree on some design principles for the future—keeping in mind that device users now include three-year-old kids.

Here are some more highlights from our recent chat (especially interesting are his thoughts on Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others in mobile):

On the mobile platform wars: “I see it as a very challenging time for Microsoft. They’re the third horse in a two-horse race,” de Icaza says. “It’s very difficult for Windows, BlackBerry, or Nokia or Firefox to get traction.”

On Android vs. iOS: “What Android has going for it is deep integration with Google services. I like Android for that reason, but the UI is still not there—it’s still pretty rough and more complicated than it needs to be. It is very powerful, but if I had to recommend a device for somebody, I would point them to Apple, unless they’re super technical. But Android will keep being the leader for cheap phones.”

On Google vs. Apple, more broadly: “There’s this idea floating around that Google can learn and integrate Apple ideas faster than Apple can integrate and roll out Google ideas. It remains a question whether Apple search will get as good [as Google], whether its maps will be as good, or Siri…But the quality of the OS is still important for the next few years.”

On other big tech players: Amazon’s “devices are mostly for the content they sell. It seems like they are trying to drive users to their store,” he says. Facebook is largely about “eyeballs and selling ads.” Twitter’s activity is “aimed at a high IPO price. They kind of betrayed their own community when they killed access to the Twitter platform” for developers. He adds, “Apple is focused on the consumer experience; Google wants to make sure Android gets on [more phones], so it wants to make the phone vendors happy; and we are trying to make developers happy.”

On what he wants to see at Mobile Madness today: “I am in love with all the stories of how people are building things, the challenges they have. The mobile world has unleashed lots of creativity. I think the market is very well understood in terms of where it’s going, and the adoption. I don’t think there are many questions. Devices are getting cheaper and better.”

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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