More about Pokki – Interview with SweetLabs Chief Marketing Officer Chester Ng

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Chester Ng - CMO SweetLabs

Chester Ng – CMO SweetLabs

Yesterday, I introduced you to Pokki, the new platform developed by Sweetlabs.

I believe I described it as “an interesting desktop based version of the Apple Store, Windows 8 App Store and Download.com all merged into one”.

After doing the demo and looking thoroughly at the concept, I naturally had a bunch of questions for the company. What does this new model of software delivery mean for Windows 8? How will this work with Metro apps? How long will the apps be free? etc.

Long story short, I was able to conduct a brief interview with their Chief Marketing Officer – Chester Ng.

As the CMO for Sweetlabs, Chester is mostly focused on building and growing partnerships with developers and consumers in the application world. Before working at SweetLabs, he worked at DivX for 7 years in sales and business development.

He was gracious enough to answer my questions.

Onuora: Thanks for making the time. Tell me a little bit about your company SweetLabs.

Chester: SweetLabs is a four-year young startup, aiming to reinvent the PC. We were started by founding/early DivX employees and have raised $21.5 million from Google Ventures, Intel Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures.

We have 70 employees in San Diego (HQ) and Seattle, split between our two operating divisions, Pokki and OpenCandy.

Pokki is an app platform for the PC, bringing a modern, beautiful, app experience to the desktop. OpenCandy is an ad network for desktop apps, helping software developers make money and reach new users.

Onuora: What is Pokki and what problem does Pokki solve? – Also, what is the OpenCandy Software Network?

Chester: Pokki is an app platform for the PC, renovating the desktop because we feel Microsoft has failed to do so. For the billion PC users who have been left behind in the 90’s, Pokki offers a modern app experience with the convenience and elegance that iOS and Android users have been spoiled by.

So, imagine apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and games like The Godfather, Madden one-click away, always on with real-time notifications, on the desktop.

OpenCandy is a co-install ad network for desktop apps, powering high-quality offers in tens of millions of monthly software installs. We help software developers (large like Google, Microsoft, Symantec and small like ISVs on Download.com, SourceForge) increase distribution and monetization for their apps.

Onuora: What platforms are supported? Windows/Mac/Linux? and why?

Chester: All major versions of Windows (8, 7, Vista, XP), Mac coming soon. We started with Windows because it is an enormous, yet ironically “forgotten about” market with a huge user base and enormous opportunity to innovate.

Long term, we plan to help developers easily extend their apps into multiple ecosystems so will add additional platform support.

Onuora: What are Pokki development tools ?

Chester: We provide tools for developers to easily create and distribute Pokki desktop apps. The Pokki development tools are integrated in Pokki and do not require any additional download or install.

They are based on the Chromium and WebKit development tools – which employed by Apple for Safari, and Google for Chrome. Developers can use all their existing web development tools to build apps for Pokki, as all apps are essentially HTML5.

Onuora: How do developers get training?

Chester: The beauty of Pokki is it doesn’t require the developers to learn anything new. All they need to know is standard web languages like HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and they can utilize our platform to create a rich, connected desktop app. All without having to worry about native desktop app programming.

Onuora: Is this built for Touch?

Chester: Pokki is built and optimized for the common point, click, and type interface first. That said, many Pokki apps would fit a touch interface well and we ultimately want to create a universal solution for developers to publish their apps to multiple devices and interfaces.

Onuora: How many apps are in the store?

Chester: Over 150 apps have been created and released on Pokki since the beta launch 9 months ago, most of which are listed in the store.

Onuora: Can you tell me some of the big name developers that have signed up to develop apps for Pokki?

Chester: Social game developers are one category that has embraced Pokki as a way to reach and engage users outside of the browser and Facebook. Leading developers like Kabam, EA, and Digital Chocolate have released their premium titles on Pokki like The Godfather and Madden NFL Superstars.

Onuora: How is this going to work with Metro?

Chester: Pokki apps already work in Windows 8 desktop mode and we will make sure the apps work in Metro as well.

Onuora: How is this different from Metro?

Chester: Metro is really built for touch/tablets and we think it will be jarring to mainstream PC users who spend the bulk of their days in front of a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

While Metro is a bold, innovative approach to “touch” computing, we believe the vast majority of Windows users will continue to engage in a “point, click, and type” experience for the foreseeable future, and that is the experience Pokki is focused on renovating.

Onuora: Why should we use Pokki, why not just download Chrome Apps?

Chester: Chrome is my favorite browser and their Apps and App Store have really improved recently. That said, Chrome Apps are specific to users who have Chrome and have Chrome open. Pokki provides users desktop apps that are free (and agnostic) of the browser and have all the benefits of native apps like being one-click away, real-time notifications directly on the desktop, and usable/playable in full-screen mode.

Onuora: Is this like a hybrid of Download.com and the Chrome Store?

Chester: In many ways, we view Download.com, one of our partners, as the original app store. And as mentioned, Chrome has gained some traction recently. However, what we are building, with Pokki, is an ecosystem – for developers to create, distribute, and eventually monetize fantastic desktop apps and for users to enjoy a modern, delightful app experience they crave and deserve. This is a broader set of problems than a download directory site or a browser-centric app store is looking to solve.

Onuora: Did Intel or Google help you develop the technology or are they just funding the company?

Chester: Google Ventures and Intel Capital have been excellent investment partners and have helped our company in numerous ways. That said, Pokki and the underlying technology was developed entirely in-house by our talented team at SweetLabs.

Onuora: What’s the best case scenario for Pokki as a company? – Where would you like to be in a year?

Chester: Just to clarify, the company is SweetLabs, and Pokki is one of our platforms.

With Pokki, we hope to make substantial progress in renovating the desktop. For users, that means providing the fantastic app experience they deserve and for developers, that means helping them create and distribute killer desktop apps.

Long-term, we aspire to provide the universal app platform, one that is not biased by any particular device, OS, browser, search engine or social network. But, as a startup, we must focus and are starting with the largest, yet ironically forgotten about, ecosystem… the desktop.

Onuora: What’s the revenue model/split for developers?

Chester: We have not rolled monetization out yet. That said, we will be testing various models with developers in the foreseeable future.

Onuora: Where did the idea for all this come from?

Chester: Our crew wakes up in the morning thinking about how to help developers and have always aspired to provide a universal app system. A couple years ago, we realized there was an enormous opportunity that most of the world was not paying enough attention to, on the desktop.

As PC users and developers for decades now, we realized the desktop app experience has been largely stagnant while mobile and tablets have seen remarkable innovation in the past years. So, we decided to take a swing at renovating the desktop.

Onuora: Do you have patents for this application/framework?

Chester: Yes, we filed at least two patent applications that cover aspects of the Pokki platform. Both applications are patent pending.

Onuora: How many apps have been downloaded to date?

Chester: We’re really excited about the early numbers we’re seeing but are not disclosing any exact numbers at this time.

Onuora: What do you think about Windows 8?

Chester: We think Windows 8 is an obvious direction for Microsoft to take in order to compete in the tablet/mobile space. The technology is bold and innovative, but seems to forget about the traditional PC user.

We do not believe that users will stop sitting in front of keyboards, mice, and monitors, so see an opportunity to complement Metro with an innovative desktop app experience.

Onuora: What do you see the desktop looking like in the future?

Chester: I hope the desktop will evolve to provide simplicity, convenience and elegance at par with today’s best smart phones and tablets. And of course, I hope we can play a major role in helping to make that happen.

Onuora: What’s it like working in a startup – what’s the journey been like?

Chester: It’s a rollercoaster, the highs are super high and the lows are super low. But, that is what we live for and we’re lucky in that we’ve managed to assemble an incredibly passionate and talented team I’d be proud to work with on any set of problems, and that makes the ride all the sweeter.

Onuora: Who are the founders of the company?

Chester: Early and founding DivX employees who worked together for 3-7 years: Darrius Thompson, Mark Chweh, Chester Ng, Adrian Bourke, Blake Machado, and Matt Meredith.

Onuora: What message would you like to leave the public with?

Chester: Come try Pokki… free, beautiful apps and games on your desktop.

Onuora: Thanks again for your time.

Chester: You’re very welcome.

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