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A Massachusetts startup is tackling the mobile application performance market with a service it contends will help app developers substantially improve the speed in which their apps are delivered.
Burlington-based Kwicr's Mobile Delivery Network (MDN) uses acceleration and optimization techniques that can boost mobile performance across both Wi-Fi and cellular connections, said Hugh Kelly, vice president of strategy and marketing.
The cloud-based MDN speeds up application traffic from the point where content is served to a user's mobile device. Application developers need only embed Kwicr's lightweight software development kit (SDK) into their software to tap into MDN. The service can stand alone or be used in concert with network-oriented application performance management platforms now available from vendors such as Dynatrace, Riverbed Technology and others.
Greg WhelanACG Research
Ben Johnson, director of product strategy at Boston-based mobile app developer Raizlabs, said MDN provided a 40% performance boost to Alarm Clock Radio, a music streaming app Raizlabs used to evaluate Kwicr. "With music you have to keep the bits flowing as quickly as possible; the SDK lets us boost performance when we needed it. What that meant is that we could prioritize network traffic on the stream itself and optimize that stream," he said.
Johnson, whose firm develops mobile apps for such clients as Macy's, B&H Photo and MIT, said Raizlabs expects to add the SDK to other client apps in the next few months.
Even as mobile device use soars, Johnson said network performance isn't keeping pace. "The crux of the issue is that people are spending time on their phones [and attempting to access apps] in relatively low network-performance scenarios. There is Wi-Fi, but oftentimes, when you think of mobile apps you're also thinking of users going in and out of connectivity, switching cell towers, doing all the things that make communication difficult. The more you can optimize that experience, the less people will see spinners [on their mobile devices] waiting for the apps.
"You have to juice it as much as you can on every piece of the platform, and the solution Kwicr is providing will definitely help with that optimization."
Mobile users demand good performance -- or else
Mobile app developers are justifiably concerned about application performance. Consumers have little patience when accessing apps on their mobile devices. If a music streaming app continually buffers or a ticketing app freezes, it's likely the customer will no longer use that app, said ACG Research analyst Greg Whelan.
"Mobile app developers have two main problems: coverage and capacity. If you are a household brand name" -- like Facebook or Google -- "people will still go to you even if performance stinks, but for the million other apps out there, people are very intolerant of poor performance," he said. "Anything that can give you a performance enhancement so that the user doesn't say, 'I don't like this app anymore' is vital because once they lose interest in an app the odds of going back are slim."
Kwicr uses a combination of content delivery network caching, cloud computing, packet recovery and intelligent rate control to improve the delivery of mobile content. Kelly said the technology is engineered to automatically adjust to any degradation it might encounter over the mobile network to ensure performance.
"The problem with TCP is that it's hit or miss; with mobile, the available bandwidth, contention, roaming issues, interference -- all of these things vary tremendously," he said. "The challenge for the mobile app owner is this: If I'm trying to monetize content and it's a frustrating experience, users will abandon that experience if it becomes too problematic."
Mobile app developers can monitor the performance of their apps through dashboards accessible through Kwicr's portal. Developers can also determine when and where they'd like to apply the acceleration and optimization features -- by day, device type or network, whether it's Wi-Fi or cellular. Traffic is only accelerated when network conditions reach levels set by the app owner.
Kwicr pricing begins at $500 per month. The company is also offering a 45-day free trial to prospective customers.
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