10 Burning Questions with Bernhard Thielen, creator of NewsSpot

There is stiff competition in the RSS reader app category for Windows Phone, and Bernhard Thielen has created one of the top contenders. NewsSpot is a Google Reader client with a gorgeous Metro design, and many features to get you caught up on your feeds. Read what Bernhard had to say in this edition of 10 Burning Questions.

1. How did you get started with Windows Phone?

I still remember pretty well, it was back when Scott Guthrie announced the Windows Phone developer tools at Mix in March 2010. At that time I was mainly programming Silverlight in my day job, and there were rumors that Microsoft might introduce it to WP7. Additionally my girlfriend and I were thinking about getting self-employed and this seemed to be a good business opportunity for us. So we were watching the live stream, and when Guthrie said the tools are going to be available now, we were both like screaming, jumping around and stuff like that :) The same day I downloaded the tools and started working for NewsSpot and setting up my company, FourSpotProject.

2. What phone do you personally use?

I’m using a Samsung Omnia 7.

3. What was your biggest challenge in developing NewsSpot?

The biggest challenge was (and is) to get time for developing. With a day job and a family, I often end up choosing between sleep and programming and while you can go with little sleep for some time, it does not work indefinitely.

4. Do you have any other apps planned for the future?

My next project is to get NewsSpot done for Windows 8. Besides that we have some ideas and prototypes, but nothing presentable yet.

5. Monetization: in terms of driving revenue, can you tell us about your experience, your strategy, and the overall potential? (We know this is a touchy subject and confidential issue, but we appreciate any details you’re willing to share)

I think it became already clear that Windows Phone could perform better in terms of revenue for the majority of developers. Those success stories you hear are mostly from games, and from what I’ve heard even the most successful app developers don’t earn enough with WP to live from it. It’s a pity, because as long as the market share is low, people won’t port or create their apps for Windows Phone and the number of quality apps is a major selling point for the platform. However, I think Windows Phone still is a bet for the future and with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 on the horizon the situation will improve considerably.
Regarding NewsSpot, there is a lot of competition in the area of Google Reader apps in terms of both quality and pricing. On one side, it drives you to further enhance your app (which is good for the customer), on the other side it doesn’t necessarily help increasing your download numbers. I went for a mixed strategy of providing a slightly restricted version together with some ads and nag messages. Having said that, NewsSpot has nearly 2500 downloads in total, of which only a small part are purchases.

6. What do you want to see in Windows Phone 8?

As a developer, I want to have WinRT and C++, so I’m able to reuse the code from Windows 8 and add some high performance stuff. Additionally Microsoft should facilitate chances to monetize via the Marketplace, e.g. by enabling in-app purchases, adding payment options such as XBox points or PayPal.
As a consumer, I’d like to be able to download movies and TV-series from the phone, and Microsoft should make WP able to run game engines like Unity, so games can get ported from Android and iOS easily (and maybe pay Epic Games a billion $ to release Infinity Blade III exclusively for Windows Phone :) )

7. Do you develop for other platforms and how does Windows Phone compare to those platforms?

As being said, I’m mainly working with desktop Silverlight and C# during my day job. Besides that I’ve worked with Windows Communication Foundation, C++ and Qt and several web projects. HTML5 looks interesting, though it still lacks tools and SDK support for enterprise scale development.

8. If you could give one tip to fellow Windows Phone Developers, what would it be?

Just go for it! Seriously, it is so easy today, just a computer, a phone and a developer account to present your own apps to millions of people. Sometimes it might be disappointing, but overall it’s a great experience and a lot of fun!

9. Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.

Ages ago I was active in the C64 scene. You may find some of my work when searching the web for flare/padua. Was a great time with awesome people :)

10. Besides NewsSpot, what app do you use the most?

Mostly I’m using Mehdoh from Christopher Field, an excellent Twitter client and AppTracker by VerySoftware to check for Marketplace reviews.

Thanks Bernhard! NewsSpot is available for just $.99 for a limited time in honor of Dev Appreciation Month, but you can also try it out with a free trial. Follow Bernhard and his company on Twitter @fourspotproject.