Pandora CTO: 'The iPhone changed our lives'

At the Mobilize conference in San Francisco, Pandora's Chief Technology Officer credits the iPhone with Pandora's brand-name success.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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The majority of Pandora's business comes through mobile devices; 70 percent, to be exact.

Yet like many Web services that began with only the desktop on the mind, the early Pandora team had no inkling that mobile would become the runaway success it is.

"Like most rock bands, Pandora was sort of like a 10-year success in the making," Tom Conrad, CTO and EVP of Pandora, told the audience at GigaOm's Mobilize conference in San Francisco.

Despite holding on to the ambition to become "the future of radio," in Conrad's words, Pandora's initial goals were quite modest: tuning 1 million listeners in to the fruits of the Music Genome Project, which forms Pandora's algorithmic backbone for discovering new artists in streaming playlists of Pandora's amalgamation.

Pandora surprised itself, as it turns out. On the eve of the iPhone App Store launch, Pandora had grown to 13 million listeners. When the App Store opened, the number or registered users skyrocketed overnight, and today the streaming service enjoys more than 100 million registered users, all acquired without spending a single cent on marketing, Conrad says.

All this speaks to the power of viral marketing, and to the iPhone's game-changing ability to launch developers into the spotlight.

Fun fact: Before latching on to Greek mythology, Pandora used to be known as Savage Beast. Rawr!