For this interview Kiosks.org contacted Tim Daw, Chief Operating Officer of NetShift. He was one of the founders of the company and still is hands on with its operations.
- Org: NetShift has always been known for being big in the UK and Europe, what are you doing in the States?
Tim: Since way back in '96 we have always seen ourselves as a global company, that is one of the great advantages of the web. The US has always been an important market to us, even though we have not had an office there, and so we have always had a strong presence in the States through the web and through contacts. Of course our great distributors have helped us there as well. In some ways we have been in stealth mode recently. We know that the US market hasn't been as strong as our local markets so we have concentrated on some large rollouts on our doorstep. However we have some exciting plans for the States, which we will be executing in the next few months.
- Org: How important has the States been to you in the past and how do you see that changing.
Tim: Without giving our business plan away, it is a well-known industry fact that for software companies the States are about one third of the world market. And I am happy to say that is born out by our experience as well.
Org: So the rest of the world is important to you as well.
Tim: Yes; some companies are very vertically orientated, they want to do the whole kiosk project and of course this means they have to do projects that are within driving distance of themselves. They also compete with all the other kiosk hardware, integrators etc. We decided very early on to be a horizontal supplier. This means we work with hundreds of integrators all over the world. This means the whole world is important to us. The interesting thing is that because we help in all these projects we are able to offer complete kiosk project management now from a position of excellence, but still stay working alongside the integrators. It is a win-win for everyone, especially the end client who gets their project working reliably first time.
- Org: It sounds like you have moved on from the early days of simple software suppliers.
Tim: NetShift started out developing a fairly simple front end, a bit like the web wrappers some companies still sell as kiosk software. Because we have always been a professional software development company we based our system on a componentized architecture that enabled us to build powerful features right into the code. This meant that even our first software release was extensible and we were able to add the extra features our clients needed through the years.
- Org: So you are still based on that early software?
Tim: No. Only in that we use the knowledge we have gained from our tens of thousands of users. We have never been afraid of taking the time to build it right. I think the phrase is Saw Sharpening Time, by giving some of our developers a year out from maintaining the old software they were able to create a completely new set of software that is built completely from the ground up as the ultimate answer to providing a kiosk system. The public part of it is NetShift Version 5, but behind it there is a whole Enterprise solution. This has been designed without compromise to run networks of thousands of kiosks. I hope you will run an interview with Andy Pinkard soon. He is our CTO and can explain the power and features better than I can.
- Org: Tim, you have been involved in the kiosk industry for many years, what needs to be done to promote the industry as a whole?
Tim: We are very lucky that we have this great organization here. Most industries grow up and then try and organize a trade body, in some ways we have done it the other way around. What we need is for all the industry to support this organization and the trade shows we have and put a united public face out there. Our biggest competition is No kiosks - the ones that aren't being put in, so promoting kiosks helps us all. And the biggest threat to us is kiosks that don't work. So we need to promote professional kiosk integrators, because a dead kiosk hurts us all.
- Org: So which markets do you see as largest opportunities?
Tim: I think we all know the broad vertical markets; retail, gaming, government etc and we are active in them all. My particular interest is however in the more general sense of what we are doing. I think "kiosk" can be the wrong word and that our biggest markets are in other appliances.
- Org: Such as?
Tim: I wouldn't want to be too specific, but I always explain why I got into the internet kiosk industry back in 1995 as a simple logical exercise:
Fact A: All information (to a first degree of approximation) will be Web based.
Fact B: Information needs to be displayed and made accessible in public places.
Therefore: There is a need for a browser system that allows this, existing browser being designed for the "trusted user" market.
Now that doesn't seem like rocket science to me, and six years later it still seems to be true, So that is how we see our market, and it is broader than kiosks. That is why we say we are "Taking the Net Public".
- Org: what do you think of Neo buying LGC? Was Peter Lowe an influence on
Tim: I am really pleased about this, it is a great sign of confidence in the UK market and I have
known Peter for many years. He was a key person in getting me started in kiosks, without him I wouldn't have
done so. And it looks like a great progression for him from his close involvement with Neo over the last couple
- Org: It's a competitive marketplace. Degasoft is coming to the US and NetKey is coming to the UK I think.
Must mean the market is still healthy. What do you think?
Tim: Without a doubt the market is still growing, I think there is some consolidation going on at
the moment but we certainly are seeing new projects appearing all the time.
- Org: So what's next!
Tim: We have built the best kiosk software system now, it has been frustrating getting it all together, but it had to be right before we launched it. Alongside this we have built a great professional services division, which is already helping many clients with their rollouts. And we are taking this worldwide, so I am looking forward to an exciting and interesting time.