Australia’s most popular music video show, Take 40, had to react at lightning speed when its young audience started migrating from online media to apps. Keeping apps fresh, however, consumed scarce IT resources. In 2012, Take 40 used the prescriptive
design features in Windows 8 to launch a new app in a record three weeks, with minimal .Net coding resources. Development costs dropped 80-90 percent, while Take 40 created its most compelling app to date.
||Development was lighting fast. We took between one-fifth and one-tenth the time it takes to develop for iOS or Android: that is entirely due to the simplified design process.
| Cameron Moore
Chief Technical Officer
Founded in 1984 by MCM Entertainment, Take 40 is Australia’s longest-running music count-down show. Based on the Australian Record Industry Association charts, Take 40 is a key brand in Australian popular culture, and MCM streams more content to online audiences
than any other company in Australia.
With the explosive growth in apps, however, MCM faces a major operational challenge. “Our younger audience is moving away from the web,” says Cameron Moore, Chief Technical Officer, MCM. “They tend to live in an app world rather than online because they
can watch videos in a cleaner, less cluttered environment. Our app audience is growing exponentially.”
To keep its audience and advertisers engaged, Take 40 needs to stay at the technical forefront of the app experience. This means that each time a desktop, smartphone or tablet device operating system is upgraded, the company’s developers need to incorporate
new features and re-launch the app as fast as possible.
As a result, Take 40’s five-strong IT staff work under exceptional pressure. The company’s video unit, Movideo, had a technical staff of 20, but these employees are experts in video platform technologies, rather than application development. Creating new
apps for Android, iOS or Windows platforms typically took 3-4 months. To keep up, Take 40 frequently resorted to third-party developers.
“Every operating system upgrade was a major headache for us,” says Moore. “Speed is critical, because our audience won’t wait.” Consequently, when Microsoft announced the imminent launch of Windows 8 in mid-2012, Moore and his colleagues had one prime objective:
to minimize the time and effort required to recreate their Windows app.
Three months before the Windows 8 release, the Director for Professional Services at Movideo, John Sitzler, examined the opportunity. “We knew it would be a great platform because it’s very simple and the live tiles make it a compelling access point for
video content,” he says. “For example, consumers would welcome the chance to preview content without opening the app.
“The big change from a developer perspective, however, was design philosophy. With Windows 8, Microsoft has already taken many of the critical design decisions needed to get the app working, and this eliminates most of the user testing and re-work. The platform
is very prescriptive: it’s just a question of choosing which elements you want to appear where.”
According to Sitzler, app development in Windows 8 also requires less specialized programing skills. “We only had one experienced .Net developer, but that was sufficient,” he says. “The other members of our team had no prior experience with Windows. The
technical requirements are also less onerous. For example, it tells you how to scale out, so designers don’t have to work it out with calculators.”
Staff used technical and design manuals on the www.dev.windows.com site to understand design logic, and access features guides and best practice examples. “The online technical documentation was far in advance of what’s available for other operating system,”
says Sitzler. “We didn’t have to rely on the community and Microsoft typically answered queries within three hours.”
To stream a projected 300,000 hours of content each month, Movideo turned to the cloud-hosting service, Windows Azure, which the company also uses to stream content to iOS and Android platforms. “With Azure, the design pre-packaging and online resources
we finished incredibly fast,” says Moore. “Take 40 app was in the app store the day Windows 8 launched.”
With Windows 8, Take 40 simultaneously created a new app for desktop, smartphone and tablet platforms in record time. The app proved an instant hit with executives and consumers.
Development time reduced 80-90%
At just three weeks, Sitzler estimates development time for the Windows 8 app is a company record. “Development was lighting fast,” he says. “We took between one-fifth and one-tenth the time it takes to develop for iOS or Android: that is entirely due
to the simplified design process.”
Faster development also saved costs. “Our Windows 8 app cost less than one-fifth the amount we spend on other platforms,” adds Moore. “Our project risk was lower because most of the design work is pre-packaged. And we reduced our opportunity cost, freeing
IT resources for other projects.”
The ability to outpace rival platforms
Moore’s colleagues were impressed with the results. “When we showed our executives the new app they were amazed,” he says. “It is much more visually appealing compared to what we can create for iOS and Android with the resources available. The founder
of Take 40 made a point of telling me he loved it.”
“We quickly gained a four out of five user rating for the app, “adds Sitzler. “Despite the short development time, we were able to bring all the major Windows 8 innovations to our audience: snap-to-view, live tiles, home-page pinning, great native search,
and intuitive social media sharing.”
A faster app-development cycle
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With Windows 8 developers can more easily keep Take 40 at the forefront of app user experiences. “Now we are able to react faster,” says Moore. “We’ve scheduled just one week to include five new features available in Windows 8.1; this would take five
weeks on iOS or Android. Windows 8 allows us to focus on customer engagement, and not worry about the technology.”