Beijing based Truth Soft makes a series of a very cool iPhone App on Travel, such as tour guide for Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Shanghai French Concession, Beijing subway map, etc. A total of 17 – under the brand name of TouchChina or WildChinaTouch.  Most of them selling for US$0.99 – 2.99.  About half of them are in English, catering for foreigners visiting China.

The company is founded by Joey Shen, James Sit and Byford Zhang last year.  Joey was a Java evangelist at Sun Micro.  James, a graphic designer at Yahoo and Byford was working for Apple on on iPhone project at that time.   Recently, a former Sohu Travel channel editor, Xian Wenmin also joined them.

“When I was working for Sun Micro.  I got to travel a lot around the world for Sun’s conferences.  Each time I would take a few days off, and visit places nearby.  I love travel, especially as a backpacker,” said Joey.

When Joey visited many of the museums, e.g. the Louvre in Paris, he discovered they were still using very old technology for audio tour guide.  “I found out this can be easily change to an iPhone App.  In fact, I am the person who can do it.”

His first attempt is the Forbidden City in Beijing.  Joey might know the technology involved, he still need a good graphical map for Forbidden City.  He searched the internet, and found a blog written by James.  James did a project for Forbidden City sometime ago and had produced a very good map for the tourist spot.

So, that is it.  Together with Joey’s classmate at Tsinghua University, Byford, who was working for Apple at that time, responsible for marketing iPhone, the three formed their own company.

Their first apps, tour guide for Forbidden City, took almost a year to finish.  But it is so well produced that it was featured in Apple’s TV ad when it launched iPhone in March this year.  Their other apps are also well received.  Many of them are among the top 20 of iPhone Travel App in China.

Nevertheless, the problem of piracy is serious in China.  “Our apps for Shanghai Expo is download 40,000 times from us, through the official Apple store.  But the jail-break version is downloaded 110,000 times through 91,” said Byford.  91 Assistant is a mobile to PC software offered by NetDragon.  It also allows user to access 20,000 jail-break iPhone app, including True Soft’s tour guide apps.

If you cannot fight it, you better join it.  True Soft is thinking of changing business model.  In future, True Soft want to have their Chinese apps for local tourist attractions free for users to download.  “Once our user base is large enough, we can start selling advertisements, tickets, coupons, etc,” said Byford.