By Ajay Singh
Published Jul 1, 2008 8:00 AM
Copyright ©Photo Courtesy of Jirbo
Jonathan Zweig was 7 years old when he had an Einstein moment. One day he spotted an Atari gaming system in the trash. Zweig reacted to the battered machine with the same wonder that Einstein famously experienced when, at age 5, he saw his first magnetic compass.
"I would play computer games after school and dream about making them," recalls Zweig '00, who majored in computer science and engineering. He did eventually make casual entertainment games — from brain teasers to mobile arcade games — and posted them on his Web site, Jirbo.com, where they could be downloaded for free. But he never imagined that his creations would change his whole life.
In August 2007, he got an e-mail from a representative at Apple Inc., which had unveiled its revolutionary iPhone two months earlier. Aware that many iPhone users were playing Zweig's games on the device, the caller asked if Zweig wanted to put one of his games on Apple.com.
Ecstatic, Zweig began submitting games to Apple. "I had built all these games and Apple was promoting them for me," he says. "Now only about 5 percent of the people go to Apple for my games — the rest come directly to Jirbo.com."
Zweig's games have been played on one in five iPhones and are among the top 10 iPhone products on Apple.com worldwide. In fact, Zweig's games are so popular that Apple has called Jirbo "the YouTube of mobile gaming."
Since Apple launched its much-anticipated SDK, or software development kit, for the iPhone and the iPod this past March, Zweig has been looking forward to designing games for the system. Games run faster with the kit and users can enrich their experience by accessing iPhone's facilities such as 3-D graphics, multi-touch screen and a microphone through which games can be guided hands-free.
In January, Zweig established Jirbo's headquarters in a sleek office building on Wilshire Boulevard, where he works with an energetic group of twenty-somethings. The office is only a mile away from Westwood and what he fondly refers to as "one of the world's greatest computer science departments ... I've learned a lot at UCLA about how to do things the right way."