Mobile Development and Aggressive Testing: An Interview with Josh Michaels


Josh Michaels is an independent software developer who makes apps for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac under the company name Jetson Creative. In this interview, Josh discusses mobile development, testing aggressively, and keeping users happy. 


Josh Michaels is an independent software developer who makes apps for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac under the company name Jetson Creative. In this interview, Josh discuses mobile development, testing aggressively, and keeping users happy. 

Jonathan Vanian: Okay. I'm here today with a mobile app developer. This is Josh Michaels. Josh, thank you for joining us.

Josh Michaels: Thank you for having me.

JV: It's nice to speak to some people who are outside the enterprise software side of spectrum; folks who are making mobile apps, mobile games. It's good having you here. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

JM: I'm what you might call an independent software developer. I make apps for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac under the company name Jetson Creative. We make software from the future; that's the slogan. I've been doing this for about five years at this point. Prior to that I worked in a variety of different areas in technology. I actually started in Microsoft and I worked on SQL Server for a couple of years, so I'm familiar with working on enterprise software, at least in the Microsoft context of things.

I went on from Microsoft to work at a variety of different startups and at the end of the day, I discovered what I really love to do is just make apps and make software, and with the App Store there's just this great opportunity for people like me who can do all the different pieces of the puzzle to just have a small business that does just that.

JV: You have to gain experience in a bunch of other tasks too, right? You're now a jack of all trades.

JM: Yeah. I did product management as well as software development when I was in a more professional career and I think product management touches on a lot of the different things that you have to do as an indie developer. Anybody who's worked on software knows all the different jobs and roles that go into making a great piece of software and it's pretty hard to imagine given all that how one person can take care of it all. When you simplify everything down and constrain what you build to very simple things, it's possible.

JV: What type of apps are you developing?

JM: Most of my time now is spent on a product line called Magic Window on Mac. It turns your system wallpaper into slowly moving time apps. Rather than having a static image, which is a sunset at one moment in time, it'll actually slowly transition overtime. We try to do this while using as little CPU as possible. This is something you can run in the background and just enhances your day as you switch between applications or if you have multiple monitors. The same product works on iPad and iPhone as a relaxation app and on Android as a live wallpaper app. We're across all those platforms.

We'd love to be on Apple TV. That's where I'm dying to get to. You can use the app with the Apple TV today with airplay but airplay is a pretty compromised experience. We want to have the best virtual window you can have on Apple TV when it's possible to build out to that platform and that's hopefully the next big project. It's always finger crossed waiting for Apple to finally let us in there.

JV: I didn't realize that was such a big deal trying to get on the Apple TV.

JM: There's no open SDK for it at this point. You can build for it in some ways using airplay but it's just not a satisfactory experience. I have to hear from customers complain to me. They're like, "Oh, your airplay thing sucks," and I'm like, "I know it sucks. I don't want it to be this way but there's no other way for me to build it at this time. Trust me, when there's a better way to do it I will do it the second that it's possible."

JV: You were responsible for Ow My Balls!

JM: Yeah. Back in 2009 I did a game that was designed to be a viral thing. It took it a year to take off, but it was called Ow My Balls! and it was a game about kicking a dude in the nuts. I think people don't understand that that game is really about what my career was like prior to making that game. In software as product manager a lot of what you do is just deal with problems and then fires come up, you put them out, fires come up, you put them out. That's what happens in the game that he gets kicked in the balls, he falls to the ground and then he gets kicked in the balls again.

JV: It's a very cathartic experience.

JM: Yeah it was. What was amazing to me is the way everyone else in the world interpreted it. Some people got the joke, some people didn't get the joke. Some people are just like, “This is a great game,” and I'm like, “That wasn't really what was intended.” It was meant as a joke.

JV: Was it Idiocracy inspired, I'm assuming?


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