New York Times, 4/24/12 — One intriguing outcome of the iPad is how it has encouraged developers to create hybrid apps that don’t fit neatly into one genre. There are a lot of iPad books, especially for kids, that experiment with sounds, video and gamelike elements to enhance their storytelling.
Jean-Marie Hullot, a computer scientist and a longtime associate of Steve Jobs at Apple and NeXT, is one of the iPad’s genre-benders. A start-up he founded called Fotopedia has started to attract a following with its own growing catalog of apps that seek to combine the elegance of photo-rich coffee table books with some of the utility of travel guides. Mr. Hullot has a passion for travel and photography that is reflected in Fotopedia’s apps, which typically focus on a single place or theme.
There are nine Fotopedia apps in all, focusing on things as diverse as North Korea and Paris. The company says more than 10 million copies of its apps, which work only on the iPad and iPhone, have been downloaded. The apps are free. Fotopedia has plans to develop an advertising business.
What sets the apps apart from traditional picture books is that they’re intended to inspire travelers to plot their next adventure. Someone browsing a collection of pictures from Olympic National Park in Washington state, for instance, can shift to a view that locates the attraction on a map, which can also show where the iPad user is located. The app lets users compose a travel itinerary using the images.
“It’s somewhere between Lonely Planet, Nat Geo and Discovery Channel,” Mr. Hullot said over breakfast recently in San Francisco, though he is based in Paris.
Fotopedia isn’t really a substitute for a traditional travel guide like Lonely Planet, though. “Beauty — that’s what is missing for me in Lonely Planet,” Mr. Hullot said. “It’s very useful for what do you want to eat, where do you want to sleep?”
Mr. Hullot said his years working for Mr. Jobs taught him how important it is to avoid compromising on the quality of products. He joined Mr. Jobs at NeXT in the mid-1980s, but he did not remain with the company after Apple acquired it in 1996, choosing instead to work on start-ups. Mr. Jobs lured Mr. Hullot to Apple in 2001, where he became chief technology officer of Apple’s applications division. He left in 2005.
When Mr. Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, Mr. Hullot decided to quickly shift from his original plan of building an online photo encyclopedia to creating iPad apps. “I said, O.K., we have our consumer story,” Mr. Hullot recalls. “When it comes to doing photobooks for a new generation, I said we have to own this space.”
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