Pakistan is kicking up a storm in the app development world. The application made by two students of the FAST University, Karachi campus, called Kick Now has won the first round of the Middle East and Africa Windows Phone 7 Challenge.
Preceded by the Blackberry Pakistani success story of Pepper.pk, this is another achievement that has left local tech enthusiasts proud. These two bright students defied their university workload and study schedule to bring the world an information superhighway for football followers.
They could not have imagined beating competitors from 20 other countries, but they did. And now they know that nothing is impossible. One has to see the app to understand how good it actually looks. Using the developer tools provided, these two kids managed to make an application that uses a Windows Phone 7 metro-style interface. And to say it looks stunning would be an understatement.
“If we are firm in our aim, we will succeed,” say Niyaz Noor Ali and Amir Ali Jiwani, the young techies. “Pakistanis are talented enough to compete with any nation if they are dedicated to their work.”
They were allowed to have a team of four but Noor Ali and Jiwani decided to go ahead with the project by themselves. They had been working together for a while and had previously been involved in each other’s projects. Ali Jiwani is well known in his university for his passion for programming. After graduating a year earlier, he joined a software house called Pi-Labs as their chief technical officer.
“Computer science is his calling,” says Noor Ali. “I can honestly say that he is the most genuine programmer I know. There are very few people who are so passionate about their studies and learning. He would always be open to helping students, doing all he could for them.”
Noor Ali credits his internship at Pi-Labs for his experience with Windows Phone development. When a new course in mobile application development was introduced at his university, he did not hesitate to avail the opportunity to display his skills and talent before his colleagues and friends.
Earlier, during a course project, Noor Ali decided to develop an app to publish in the Windows Phone market place, hoping it would benefit his portfolio. While searching for ideas, a friend told him that he had a website project from the football league in Germany, which might require a mobile application as well.
And it was there that the idea for Kick Now was born. This was to be an app that would keep football lovers and fans updated with the happenings of the football world round the clock. Searches for similar applications showed very few results, so the idea was finalised. Noor Ali figured out which features would be available in the app, deciding on live scores and breaking and special news.
The app was near completion in December, when Noor Ali found out that Windows Phone had launched a competition for students in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The enthusiastic university student welcomed the news and immediately contacted Jiwani to join him.
Noor Ali was having his final exams at the time but that did not deter him. He took time out of his busy study schedule and worked with Jiwani to complete the application.
“We already had an application that could serve many mobile platforms, but we were focused on Windows Phone. We needed reliable data, so we scoured the internet and at last we found some that is currently serving the app as the data source,” explains Jiwani.
While planning the structure of the app, they decided to have a lightweight client and a server layer in between which would just send the client the data required, rather than making it heavy which simply harms user experience. The two say that they knew user experience is the core of mobile apps, which is the reason they focused on the user interface as much as on data retrieval.
Jiwani initially told Noor Ali to start software development himself as he had been working on it. He assured Noor Ali that he would be there if he faced any problems in development. Jiwani’s experience with app development at Pi-Labs allowed him to easily iron out all the coding issues, which had threatened to undermine the successful launch of the app.
Jiwani provided new techniques and tools for the development of this mobile application and guided Noor Ali at each step with better solutions. He showed Noor Ali how the app could be made more responsive and efficient, informing him of the most reliable ways of accessing data required for the app. “It was his motivation that made us win. I learned a lot from him in this project, and I will continue to learn from him in future,” says Noor Ali.
The project had to be submitted before the end of December and the pair worked hard together to meet the deadline. When they were done with it, they named the app Kick Now and gave it the tagline, ‘Kicking news live into your phone’. And it won.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2011.
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