Tarsin, Hallmark tackle write once, run everywhere challenge

This post is part of a series leading up to an upcoming Connected Planet feature story on open mobile. Road to Open: Read part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, part 3 HERE, part 4 HERE and part 5 HERE.hallmark.jpg

When popular card maker Hallmark decided to break into mobile, program manager Mike Adams knew it couldn’t do it alone. Having run into roadblocks when working with carriers in the past, the company decided to team up with Tarsin, a platform-agnostic development house. Adams said he wanted to create a greeting card delivery app that worked across carriers, something they were unaccustomed to doing at a time when most apps followed the ringtone or wallpaper carrier-specific model.

Many platform-agnostic app development houses promising the write-once, read everywhere ideal, have sprung up following the app-store explosion. In a market punctuated by fragmentation, however, developing for 10 or more platforms is not a simple concept. According to Tarsin CEO John Osborne, the challenge has more to do with procedural issues than any technological hurdles. The Hallmark app, for instance, looked great on the iPhone’s touchscreen, but the company’s goal was to run the same design everywhere. Tarsin had to deal with inconsistent carrier policies, billing models and business practices to do so. The more platforms it developed for and proved itself on, the easier development became to repeat,” Osborne said.

“It was the technology originally, but it is not so much anymore,” Osborne said in a CTIA interview. “Some legacy handsets simply cannot run the applications, but we support all handsets.” Tarsin worked with Hallmark to maximize – not miniaturize – their e-card service for mobile. “Anyone who wants to do it realizes it’s hard, and they focus on smartphones with data plans,” he said. “But that will not be enough for mass-market scale.”

Hallmark is currently certified on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Adams said it is working through Verizon’s development process on the Brew platform, but will base its future development decisions on what operating systems are most popular, regardless of how hard they are to work with.

“Our driving principal was as much reach as possible,” Adams said. “The way it’s played out was due in part to, I don’t know if I’d call it openness, but an easier fit to our product has allowed us to get up quicker on some carriers. There are some phones that were easier to get to and easier to adapt the application to. That is driven a little of it. The primary guiding principal is to cover as broad as a base as we can.”

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