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Interview With The CTO of Pandora Tom Conrad

July 21, 2010 - Written By Mike Corbett

  • What is your opinion on the Android Market? positive and negative?

The adoption of Pandora in the Android Market has been outstanding. We’re glad that we’re able to reach tens of thousands of additional listeners each week who are choosing to download Pandora on the Android platform.

  • What kind of Android Phone do you use personally?

Our employees use various kinds of phones, including the Android. If I were to guess, the Nexus One and Droid models seem to be the most popular.

  • What got you started developing Android Applications?

We want to be available everywhere our listeners want us to be, and by late last year it was clear that our listeners were clamoring for Pandora for Android. While it was hard to sit out the first few chapters of the Android story we were delighted to launch just as the second generation handsets – for example the Motorola Droid – were coming to market.

  • How did you come up with the idea to develop Pandora for Android?

Developing Pandora for Android was really driven by the desire to reach the millions of Pandora listeners that were choosing Android.

  • Have you been working on a new version for Android 2.2?

The new version of Pandora that supports Android 2.2 is already live – you can download the app at http://www.pandora.com/android.

  • What do you find is the easiest thing about developing for Android compared to other Mobile OS’s?

The Android platform allows our developers to easily plug into OS and default tools, such as widgets, media players and notifications.

  • What can be the most frustrating part of developing on the Android OS & how do all the different versions of Android OS affect you development of apps?

We don’t find the Android platform to be a frustrating OS for us.

  • What would you like to see in future Android OS versions or changes?

I’m really enjoying all of the work that Google is putting into polishing the user experience for Android. With each successive release things get more refined and elegant. Can’t wait to see what they have in store for the next version.

  • Besides Your Own Apps, which apps do you use most on your Android Phone?

I really like Twitter for Android as well as the doubleTwist Media Player

  • What inspired your UI?

When we’re developing for mobile, our goal is always to blend into native phone user experience as much as possible. So that means our key inspiration for the Pandora Android experience was the Android OS itself. We hope our listeners feel that Pandora for Android is a natural extension of the phone.

  • Tell Android Fans a Little about Pandora.

Pandora gives people music they love.  This is done with the help of the Music Genome Project, which processes all of the human-analyzed details of a song – the melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics, and more – into musical DNA. Just type the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome do the work. It will quickly generate a station filled with music by artists with pieces similar to your seed artist or song, as well as play your original song or artist seed.

  • Pandora is getting recognition, are you surprised by the popularity?

We know we have very loyal listeners, and our new listeners are constantly surprised and thrilled by our service.  We’re glad that people love listening to Pandora and discovering new music through us.

  • Does Last.fm or other music services take from the success of Pandora?

No.

  • How did you come up with the name Pandora?

The name Pandora means “all gifted” in Greek.  The famous woman with the name Pandora She was also notoriously very curious, which is why she opened the box. Today, we celebrate that curiosity and have made it our mission to reward our listeners with a never-ending experience of music discovery.

  • Are you worried about competitors stealing ideas?

No.

  • Tell us why Android users would want to get Pandora?

The same reason anyone would want to get Pandora:  to get free music you love to listen to all the time; the ability to create your own personalized stations that pull from a large and eclectic collection of music; and the experience of hearing new music you might not have heard otherwise, that’s music discovery and its one of the things that people love about Pandora.

Pandora has already proven to be extremely popular among smartphone users, and Android app users in particular. Currently, it’s one of the most-downloaded free apps of all Android apps available. The Pandora app allows listeners to take their personalized stations on-the-go, making it available anywhere there’s a wi-fi connection or cell phone service.

  • What new features can you share with Android users that will be coming to Pandora?

We’ll continue to refine the app, based on user feedback.  Otherwise, you’ll need to stay tuned for any major announcements.

  • Are you thinking of doing other apps in the future?

Our developers constantly monitor the marketplace to see what new products we might be able to offer our listeners.

  • Will there be any other UI changes to the app,  or Sharing songs to  Social Networks at all?

We don’t speak about specific future changes. That said, we do make updates and evaluate future needs on a regular basis.

  • Maybe this is just Pandora, but I notice that it will go from song to song and eventually end up on something I do not like or want, like from blink-182 to…. nirvana (i like nirvana, just not really the same as blink-182)

A big part of the Music Genome Project – and Pandora – is musical discoveries.  So everyone once in a while, the Genome will serve up a bit of a broader song to see if it suits your taste. If not, a simple thumbs-down helps to refine your station even more. Furthermore, two thumbs-down to an artist will remove the artist from that station moving forward (see this link for a more detailed description: http://blog.pandora.com/faq/contents/82.html).

For even more reading on station refining, you might be interested in this description of how to make your station more specific to a particular type of song:http://blog.pandora.com/faq//contents/523.html.