Building a Local Developer Community: A Conversation with Intel East Africa SSG's Fredrick Odhiambo

Published:11/13/2013   Last Updated:11/13/2013

The Intel Software and Services Group (SSG) opened its first office in East Africa in April 2013. This was a big move for Intel, which had previously only had offices in South Africa and Egypt. The local SSG is responsible for working with East African developers to provide them with design tools, resources and expert consulting. 

In a bid to find out more about what it means for local Kenyan developers to have the SSG available to them, we chat with Fredrick Odhiambo, an application engineer with Intel East Africa. A graduate of the University of Nairobi, he focuses on the developer space and seeks to enhance local innovation and provide technical expertise support and tools to developers that enable them to create applications with rich user experience on devices running on Intel technology.

Q: Why does Intel care about software? As far as most people/developers are concerned Intel deals solely with hardware - how do you make the connection with software?

A: The Software and Services group works closely with independent software vendors and operating system vendors. Our aim is to enable them to make the most of our hardware by developing software that runs optimally on our platform. 

Q: Why should I care about going native as a developer? Android is Android. What does going native even mean? 

A: Going native means developing differentiated Android apps using native programming languages like C, C++ or Assembly Language. Native development gives the developer a better, differentiated app that takes advantage of direct CPU and hardware access. Native development is good for performance intensive tasks like signal processing, image manipulation and complex algorithms.

As for numbers from Google Play, 68% of the top 300 free apps on the Play store are native Android apps, and only 32% are Dalvik Android apps. This trend is the same for the top 300 paid Android apps, where 80% are native Android apps. 

Q: How many apps have you developed so far

A: 5 apps, all on different platforms i.e. J2me, Android, Qt and HTML5.  

Q: What has been your most successful app? Why? 

A: My most successful application was a mobile phone utility for the blind, a free text to speech application based on low end, inexpensive java phones. The application helps visually impaired persons to use their mobile phone utilities with ease, i.e. calculator, SMS, phonebook etc. The application is in Swahili which is the most widely spoken language in East Africa, after English. The app is being used by visually impaired and blind people across the country and has had a huge impact on the lifestyle of the disabled. 

Q: You have been seen pushing for the Havok gaming engine. Why would a game developer pay attention to this particular gaming engine?

A: Havok enables developers to create world class gaming apps, and it’s totally free. The cross platform supports Android, iOS and Tizen; and has a published roadmap with regular releases. We are currently running an 8 week fully sponsored training program in Nairobi on how to build apps on the Havok gaming engine.

Q: What are you learning right now? 

A: Perceptual computing. Perceptual computing focuses on research and development of technologies that leverage on natural user interactivity enabling users to interact with their PCs in more intuitive, natural engaging ways. Main modes of interaction are speech recognition, finger/hand gestures, face recognition and augmented reality. A typical example is the facial login, no passwords required at all, the system “remembers” the user. 

Q: What is important for developers in Africa to know regarding how they can benefit from Intel? 

A: Sign up at Intel Developer Zone Africa. This is a global program that enables developers to engage with Intel on topics related to software and is designed to answer today’s software development challenges. The portal gives developers to our latest software development and optimization tools. 

Q: Thanks for your time Fred! Any parting shot? 

A: Let’s go native! 



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