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Smule's Dr. Ge Wang on what's next for the company and the App Store


Smule is one of the oldest names on the App Store. Ocarina was one of the App Store's first big successes, and they've continued to make music and social-based apps like their most recent app, Magic Fiddle for the iPad. Dr. Ge Wang is not only the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of the company, but he's also an assistant professor at Stanford. We caught him right after his CES keynote last week and asked him a few questions about what Smule's been up to lately and what they're working on next.

Magic Fiddle has done very well, Wang told us, after releasing last year. "The very next day, it was actually our fastest app to reach the number one paid iPad app. We saw off the charts engagement with the app. So it's been really positive." Lots of users they've heard from are not necessarily violinists or magicians, just people interested in using their iPads to make music.

Read on to hear more from Dr. Wang about why Smule's apps have gotten more complicated over time, and what the next app from Smule will be like.

Magic Fiddle is probably the most complex app that Smule has yet released, and I asked whether that was a consequence of Smule's experience so far, or just where the App Store is headed lately. "Part of it is that we are learning, and so we can apply to what we've learned to build more sophisticated apps," he told me. "The other part of it is just the changing landscape of the App Store. You can still make these very minimal apps where you get the one thing right and have it do very well. But we not only want to get people on ramped to our product, but we want to keep them engaged. And so sometimes by fleshing out the experience more with additional features, additional interactions or various modes, like having a tutorial in Magic Fiddle for example, we can really ensure people not only download the app, but they have fun with it and have fun with it for a long time."

Magic Fiddle is also a relatively traditional app, if anything on the App Store can actually be called "traditional." It doesn't use any of the new iOS 4.0 features like the gyroscope or Game Center. But Dr. Wang says Smule is looking into both of those technologies, and any others that the platform offers. "Whatever's there in the platform, we'll do our best to make use of it."

I also asked if Smule is interested in the freemium model that many App Store developers have used, and Wang confirmed that yes, there's an interest for free apps with a profit plan later on. "We think there's definitely some goodness in freemium," he said. "We've actually started experimenting with that idea, and while nothing's concrete yet, I can say stay tuned." The company gave away their Ocarina app free for a week, and Wang said that worked out well.

As for the next app, Wang confirmed that Smule is working on another title, but that "I can't tell you what we're making, because to be honest we don't fully know." Whatever it ends up becoming, Wang says there will likely be ties to social integration. "We're looking to deep dive on the social -- the community angle is very big. We want to truly reach kind of a next level of critical mass users, but also connections between users." We'll look forward to that for sure.

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