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ATPM 9.05
May 2003




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by Lee Bennett,

Jonathan Gales,

Advances in mobile communication technology lately have picked up such a pace, one can hardly stay abreast of what is current—that is, until came along. ATPM decided to dig into the mind of MobileTracker’s kingpin, Jonathan Gales.

During one of my numerous weekend trips to Tampa, Florida, I met up with Jon at the Apple Store at International Plaza. We spent a few moments drooling over the current line of PowerBooks, then made our way to the outdoor portion of the mall, sat down, and started to talk about MobileTracker.

• • •

ATPM: Start by telling us what you currently do. You’re in school, right?

Jonathan Gales: Shhh. You aren’t supposed to know I’m in school! But, if you must know, in a few years I will be a degree-carrying computer scientist. Currently, my time is divided among MacMerc, MobileTracker, and school.

ATPM: What did you do that first got you into Web programming?

JG: I started out about six years ago learning HTML through GeoCities. It was about the only thing back then and, at that time, it didn’t have any fancy templating. Just HTML, baby.

ATPM: At what point did you start learning the level of HTML and PHP you program in today?

JG: I got a book on Perl a few years back and then quickly moved on to PHP because CGI just plain sucks. I got a few books on the subject, but what helped the most was (the best site for a programming language, ever). I quickly learned a few things and then started writing stuff for other people.

ATPM: Before MobileTracker, MacMerc was where much of your online time was spent. What is your role there and how did you get involved?

JG: I’m technically the “Webmaster,” but most of my time is spent writing articles and news—not code. Rick Yaeger, the founder, started the site probably close to four years ago and asked me to come on board in June 2001. We took the site from a weeny to a PHP/MySQL powerhouse. It was a big transition, but it’s been fun. Along the way, we’ve picked up a few other people—Greg Maddux and Brian Burnham.

ATPM: And then, after a time of working with MacMerc and your blog, you started MobileTracker. Tell us exactly what MobileTracker is all about and your motivation for starting it.

JG: I love Gizmodo, but it doesn’t cover much of the phone market—it’s all about gadgets. I figured I could scoop him on most stories and just cover the market much better. I also thought the economics would pay off and, so far, they have. MobileTracker is the relaunch of Cell Station—a site that lasted about two weeks. I thought it was great, but then the editor over at MacMinute said, “Hey, you need a domain name.” It never crossed my mind before, but I instantly felt the need. In about 10 minutes, I had the debit card out and owned The site’s purpose is simply to track the latest and greatest in the mobile world. MobileTracker is never pushy about buying anything, but when someone does, we get a kickback. Not big, usually 15 percent, but it keeps the server running. As the site grows, economies of scale start to kick in.

ATPM: And the site’s tag line is dead on. You can’t trust the salesperson! Do you report on all things in mobile communications or is there a niche that you tend to focus on?

JG: MobileTracker definitely focuses on cell phones, but since the market changes so fast, who knows what’s going to be next? Gotta keep the future open.

ATPM: Do you have access to particular sources or any insider information about upcoming technology, or do you simply report on what you find on your own?

JG: Can I plead the fifth? We go into rumors as much as possible, but our sources aren’t, at this time, mission critical. However, if anyone wants to be a snoop, they can e-mail us.

ATPM: Hah, yeah, you’re allowed to plead the fifth! So what are some of the coolest and most innovative things you’ve reported on to date?

JG: I’d say the satellite-powered phones that are being used all over Iraq by essentially every cable news station. They are actually quite cheap and readily available. Some of the other cool stuff in the news is video recording on phones (MPEG-4) and the color HipTop that’s coming this fall.

ATPM: MobileTracker’s coverage includes combination PDA/phone devices. Is there any other type of related technology you’d like to include as part of MobileTracker someday?

JG: The PowerPage does a great job with some of the other mobile technology (laptops, for instance). The goal is really to just focus on phones. It’s a big market, and the site can always do even better than it is right now (everyone can always improve).

ATPM: We were just looking at the latest version of PowerBook G4s at the Apple Store before doing this interview. I suppose you’re itching to buy one pretty soon?

JG: Totally. I use Macs exclusively and, since I update a few sites daily, I spend a lot of time on my aging 400 MHz G4 tower. As I mentioned, I go to school and, in between classes, it would be great to be able to bypass the computer lab and hop online in style. I have PowerBook envy so bad, it hurts.

ATPM: Should I be worried that you’re typing on my PowerBook with your responses? (smirk)

JG: Um (scouts out escape path), no, not at all…

ATPM: I’m suddenly reminded of the Lay’s potato chips commercial. Get your own PowerBook! Anyway, how do Macs figure into MobileTracker and your own life?

JG: MobileTracker isn’t a Mac site but, because most Mac users like nice things, a good bit of our traffic is Mac users. Also, most of my contacts are at Mac sites thanks to my stint at MacMerc, so when I beg for the almighty link, it’s usually on a Mac site (it’s no coincidence we’re doing this interview). I use a Mac because I’m not an IT guy. When I’m working on something, I want the computer to be a tool to accomplish the task—not just a tool. Windows-powered computers just don’t do this.

ATPM: Is there anything else about MobileTracker you want potential visitors to know? What can a newcomer expect when he clicks to

JG: We update all the time Monday through Friday and as warranted on the weekends. If you don’t want to be a compulsive clicker, subscribe to our RSS feed. It includes full posts and pictures. If it’s your first time at MobileTracker, take some time to look around and, hopefully, you’ll like what you see. Also, if you have a lead on a hot news story that hasn’t yet been featured, let us know—

ATPM: Thanks, Jon. It was totally my pleasure to meet you in person and I wish you success with MobileTracker.

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