Urban Airship Leverages In-App Push Services on iPhone

Startup Urban Airship is off to a pretty good start, having scored more than 1,500 customers for a service that's generated more than 110 million messages since its launch last June.

The company was one of the first to see the potential in the enhanced "in app" purchasing functionality Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) built into the iPhone software last year and was quick to exploit it.

Possibly its biggest "push" came last June, when game publisher Tapulous was the first to introduce push notification services on the iPhone. The company's popular "Tap Tap Revenge" game boasts 25 million players on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Urban Airship's push notification system let Tapulous give its gamers the ability to challenge one another from within the game interface. Other customers soon followed, including big brands like Universal Music Group and Virgin Atlantic, as well as other mobile app publishers such as Yowza and Gowalla.

"We're very speedy to market, and the features and functionality we offer are a lot better than what folks could do by themselves," Scott Kveton, co-founder and CEO of Urban Airship, told InternetNews.com. "With push messaging, publishers can send a message to the device even when the app isn't open, whether that's a game challenge, fantasy football or social networking updates."

Publishers pay Urban Airship on a per-use basis.

The next step for Urban Airship is to make these real-time push notifications available cross platform, a process Kveton said has "significant complexity," but the company hopes to announce the news soon. "Our secret sauce is being able to send messages to a lot of devices in real-time," he said.

Eventually, Kveton sees push apps and notifications on the iPhone finding their way to the enterprise. "As Apple allows businesses to deploy applications behind the firewall, that will get very interesting," he said. "We're just scratching the surface of the features we can provide and the smartphone market is poised to be significantly bigger than the PC market."

Urban Airship announced this week that it's closed its Series A funding round of $1.1 million, led by True Ventures. Seattle-based Founders Co-op was another key investor.

Kveton confirmed part of those funds will be used to expand the company's on-demand mobile app infrastructure services to other platforms as well as to hire more engineers.

"There are potentially four or five very compelling platforms," he said, but where Urban Airship goes next has been the subject of internal debate. "We'd like to be on all of them as soon as we can, but we'll just have to see."

The company's nearest-term move may be to the iPad after it's released next month.

"We've been approached by traditional publishers, such as magazines, that want to take our solution and deliver their paper publications in iPad format," said Kveton. "The experience is going to be far superior to what Amazon's Kindle offers today. It's a new business model for publishers and a huge opportunity for content delivery via digital subscriptions that go direct to the pocket of users to engage with the content."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPad, Apple, Kindle, in app, push notifications