Urban Airship is moving fast to roll out the Apple Passbook tools it acquired last month from Tello, a TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 startup which offered developers a visual pass builder for Passbook. Starting today, businesses are able to sign up for access to the PassTools API, through Urban Airship’s Passbook Early Access Program.
As the name implies, the program will be limited to “select companies” at the start, but those who are granted access will work with directly Urban Airship’s development team on the launch of their first Passbook campaigns, while also offering feedback that could impact the toolkit’s future development.
When talking with Urban Airship CMO Brent Hieggelke last month about the Tello acquisition, he made it clear that the company believes strongly in Passbook’s potential to usher in a new set of customers – specifically, those who may not really need a fully-fledged app in order to reach their target audience on mobile.
Urban Airship, which currently offers a range of backend services to mobile developers, including push messaging and location targeting, for example, has historically worked with mobile application developers – meaning individuals or businesses who are selling into one of the top mobile app stores, like Apple’s App Store or Google Play. But as the app market grows over-crowded and the cost of user acquisition increases, some who have been hesitant to enter or invest in mobile application development may find that building for Passbook serves their needs.
“This gives a lot of companies that have not developed an app an ability to go into mobile by developing passes and dipping their toes in the water,” Hieggelke told us in December. “There’s well over a million apps in the App Store, so we don’t need a lot of apps put out there just for the sake of having an app,” he said. He noted that consumer packaged goods companies make sense as a type of brand that would actually be better served by developing for Passbook, rather than building an app, for instance.
Passbook, which Apple designed to serve loyalty cards, tickets and boarding passes, has already see adoption in the mobile couponing space, with coupon giants like Coupons.com as well as big box retailers like Target adopting the technology. Some of Urban Airship’s early PassTools customers include brand marketing and advertising agency The Integer Group and Orange Silicon Valley, the innovation and research lab for the European telecom Orange.
PassTools, for those unfamiliar, was one of the first WYSIWYG editors for building Apple Passbook passes. To use the service, businesses could just upload a logo, select a template and the customize the text. The entire process end-to-end takes around five to ten minutes. It was ideal for those businesses without their own in-house development teams. However, just prior to the acquisition, Tello had begun quietly offering an API which allowed businesses to build the template as described above, but then programmatically plug in data into various fields on the fly.
It’s this API that Urban Airship is now making available to select companies interested in enterprise-scale PassTools functionality. The sign up form is here, and Urban Airship will also be hosting a webinar on the topic later this month.