WinSource Interview: Greg Wenograd of Radio Controlled (Pandora)

WinSource Interview is a weekly series of developer interviews. Check out our previous interviews here.

We’ve mentioned an app called Radio Controlled quite a bit on this site, it’s a great Pandora client made by developer Greg Wenograd. The app launched back in December after a beta program, and since then Greg has been listening to users and adding features. Greg was kind enough to answer a few questions about developing for Windows Phone, working with Pandora, and even Windows 8.

Have you ever developed for other platforms?

I haven’t done any Android or iOS development. When Android first launched I drove from DC to Baltimore to buy the original G1 with the intention of building apps. I was a Java developer a few years before and forgot how painful it was. MonoTouch and MonoDroid are attractive alternatives I may look into.

Why did you choose to work with Windows Phone?

Before Windows Phone I didn’t have much interest in Microsoft’s mobile offering. Back in 2010 I saw the preview of Windows phone and was blown away by the changes. I went to a developer conference that year that highlighted Windows Phone and loved what I saw. The transition to building mobile apps was really easy as any .net developer could leverage their existing skillset. It’s amazing how quickly you can build apps for the platform, and the tooling is top notch.

Your app Radio Controlled is a Pandora client. Why did you decide to make a Pandora app?

I listen to Pandora every day, and as a user I find it disappointing they didn’t bring their service to Windows Phone. Pandora is one of the top apps on other platforms. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Do you feel that Radio Controlled would offer a better experience than an official app?

That’s a hard question. Pandora has the resources and team in place to produce high quality software. I am a single developer with limited resources. However, I am not limited to the bureaucracy that goes along with being a big company. If a user requests a feature I don’t need to get approval to implement it. One of the first feature requests I got was for the Driving mode. I loved the idea and had it ready to go hours after receiving the email. I try to let the community help me decide on what features to add, either through suggestions or polls I post. Send me feedback!

Also, not being affiliated with Pandora I’m able to add in things like disabling skip enforcement, last.fm scrobbling and possible integration with other services. These are things that don’t benefit Pandora so it’s doubtful they would ever make it into an official app.

I’m not an expert on stuff like this, but from what I gather Pandora doesn’t make it easy to create 3rd party apps. So how does Radio Controlled access Pandora?

You are right, they don’t offer a public API to access their service. Justin Angel (@JustinAngel) created an open source library that connects to services Pandora uses in their own apps. Through this SDK Radio Controlled is able to do just about anything the iPhone/Andorid versions can. Occasionally Pandora makes a slight change and all of the third party apps have to update to be updated to continue to function.

Would you work with Pandora if they ever decided to make an official Windows Phone app and asked for your assistance?

I would. Pandora is a big name app and the fact that is missing doesn’t help the platform. Having an official app is important to some users, and if that brings more people onboard then it would be worth it. I’d still continue to work on Radio Controlled to provide some competition and keep them honest.

Will you be bringing Radio Controlled to Windows 8?

Yes, definitely! It’s already in the works. Development is progressing quickly and I hope to have something pretty soon. However, I’m splitting my time between that and working on a new Windows Phone project. It’s something I use daily and wish had support for Windows Phone.

What is your current device?

I’m currently using a Lumia 800 on T-Mobile at 2G speeds. It’s painful when not connected to wi-fi. I’m trying to hold off on a 900 hoping it comes to T-Mobile.

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Thanks Greg!

You can find Radio Controlled for free in the Marketplace here.

Greg’s website is here, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.