Intelli-J makes Android Easy

On paper Android should have been a good fit for my previous experience in java and C#. I’m quite used to using the Eclipse development environment and, despite some of its more quirky configuration aspects, it has generally proven relatively painless. However, for much of the last couple of years, any involvement in Android has proven to be a bit of a heart-sink moment. Write the code…wait for the emulator…wait for the debugging to commence…wait…wait…wait. 

There is much to like about Android, as a developer, but somehow, compared to the slickness and immediacy of the iPhone emulator and debugging experience in Xcode, and the depth and sophistication of Microsoft’s Visual Studio, Eclipse has been the source of much heartache, cursing and premature ageing. Recently, however, I have moved from Eclipse to Intelli-J (IDEA 12 CE) – a free IDE from JetBrains that can be used for Android. This has revolutionised my Android experience – now I feel  like I can focus on the job at hand, and on the well-thought-out Android Framework – in short, I feel like a developer rather than a software trouble-shooter. Moreover, with sophisticated code-completion and all the other whistles and bells you’d expect from JetBrains, coding productivity shoots up.

Now we have the three major platforms with very pleasant and capable development environments, I am more convinced than ever that the advantages of quick-adoption offered by PhoneGap and other HTML-based cross-over frameworks are more than outweighed by the power of having direct access to the underlying frameworks and better performance. Indeed, my current experience of porting over a complex application framework from iOS to Android suggests to me that whilst code might not be shared directly, the platforms have enough in common to make the translation reasonably painless.

As the mobile development market matures further, we will no doubt continue to see steady advances in the ease and productivity of native code development – something no developer is going to be sorry about.

Why Google and Apple still have a lot to Learn from Microsoft

The Apple and Google brands dominate the modern digital communications landscape, between them seemingly shaping the future of mobile. Whilst they have shared a breathtaking run of success and growth, the two brands embody very different aspirations.  Despite their success, they still have a lot to learn from Microsoft.

Apple – Supporting Safe Early Adopting through Corporate Paranoia
For the would-be early adopters of technology who want to be sure that their early adoption will be a smooth experience that will signal both a forward-looking attitude, and a personal commitment to uncompromising design values, the latest and greatest gadgets from Apple are a perennial must-have. For the technologically savvy, not afraid to experiment, get their hands dirty, look under the bonnet and get fully involved in their technology, whilst seeing the latest developments even before they have been polished, the restless and even reckless genius of Google is source of ultimate satisfaction.

In order to make the end-to-end user-experience safe for consumers who want to be isolated from what’s under the bonnet, Apple have sought to control every aspect of their eco-system. There is the Apple way and no other if you want to get on board their band wagon – at no point can the experience of a user be allowed to bring the design judgements of Apple into question. At times this attitude of safeguarding the user from themselves has backfired – I challenge anyone to tell me honestly that moving files to your iPhone using iTunes is not a nightmarish process when you switch computers or just want to put a track on from a computer other than the one you are paired with. I know that Apple will be addressing this soon, but it is a clear example of where Apple’s paranoia about controlling user behaviour is made tangible.

Google – Trust the Users, Accept Rough Edge
At the other end of the spectrum, Google’s app market place trusts to user feedback and ratings – no review process except by users. It is undeniable that the overall quality of apps on iTunes is well above that on the Android Market. From Google’s perspective, everything should be driven by users, informed by users, open to users to use or not use, ignore or engage with. You have to be a bit braver to engage, but you can keep on digging with Android, or indeed any of Google’s web services, and finding new joys, excitements and, sometimes, rough edges. Google trusts its users more, and puts faith in the increasing technological savvy of younger generations, along with their cost consciousness, to gain long-term advantage over Apple.

Releasing Apps – Apple’s Big Brother v. Google’s Wild West
These divergent brand aspirations extend beyond the end-user facing aspects of their respective offerings and are even clearer when releasing an app. Want to put out an iPhone app – you won’t be able to guess exactly when your app will come out of the review process, or even exactly happens whilst its being inspected. If a major marketing campaign is slated to coincide with the launch of your company’s new app, then you better leave plenty of time for review, and don’t give a firm date for your campaign until your app is approved – you may even find that it isn’t permitted at all. By contrast, releasing an Android app is instant – no questions asked. At the same time, it’s a good bet that most of the users you really want – high spending, early adopters – will have an iPhone or iPad, so this is not even a choice.

Developing with Apple – Apple’s Way or the Highway
When developing code for these respective platforms, the divergence is even clearer. Apple’s XCode development tool is idiosyncratically Apple, using a language that only Apple cult members could really love – Objective C. At the same time, once you’ve paid for your Apple developer account, which you need to release apps, the development tools are free, and cover every aspect you need covering for developing and testing – even if the process is a little painful.

Want to use Apple’s standard design patterns – that’s fine, you will find more than adequate support, though it involves some fairly logic-defying steps to get things done. Want to do things your own way, or even in a way that is commonly established for lots of other platforms – well, you can do it, but you will find yourself on your own, fighting their tool all the way. Want to use another tool – well, there are permissible alternatives, but none deliver the same access to underlying behaviours and performance compared with Apple’s own tool – in part because Apple doesn’t want to open the development of its ecosystem up to interlopers.

Whatever the problems with developing apps for the iPhone or iPad, there is one thing that makes the idiosyncrasies of Apple easy to swallow – you know what kind of device your developing for, what it’s capabilities are and how you are going to test  your app to make sure it works properly on anything it’s going to be used on.

Developing with Android – Endless Possibilities, Endless Fragmentation
If you want to create apps for Android, there are a number of ways you can go, though the most standard is using the Eclipse IDE, which has been around quite a while as a java development tool. Unlike Apple’s XCode, in order to install the Android development tools, you require a number of downloads and a more involved set up. The fact that you create code for Android using a plugin for a tool not made by them speaks volumes about Google’s general approach – try to reuse the best of what’s already out there, add extra bits to make things easier, provide documentation and starting points and let everyone get on with it. Thankfully, Android is java based, which makes it easy for the majority of programmers – familiar with java or the very similar C# – to get stuck in.

The possibilities with Android are seemingly endless, there are no complete answers, but lots of starting points. The satisfaction of engaging in truly novel development is, however, tempered by the fact that you cannot be sure what kind of device you will be dealing with – screen resolution, memory, capabilities – vary massively. As has been acknowledged by many commentators, Android’s major problem is the fragmentation of the platform – so, you may test your app with a good many devices, but there is still the overarching, and realistic, worry that it won’t work on some device that is key to your target user market.

Indeed, fragmentation is the key phrase one would probably use for the whole Android experience – lots of different ways of doing things, lots of potential tools, lots of downloads to get you going, lots of reference sites and forums, lots of devices, formats and capabilities. No app can hope to work properly on every “Android” platform – and you may easily get caught out by phone features such as physical slide-out keyboards that require the phone to be used one way up rather than another.

Pining for Microsoft
In all honesty, I have no particular axe to grind here – there are many things that I like about developing for the iPhone / iPad, and there are many other things that I like about developing for Android. They are very distinct experiences with their own very well defined pro’s and con’s. However, the very fact that both have their clear drawbacks means that they have a long way to go in fully supporting their developer communities – regardless of what their fanatical partisan adherents would have you believe. Here, I think that both Apple and Google have a lot to learn from Microsoft, a company whose current, though likely temporary, absence as a significant figure in the mobile space is sorely missed by many developers.

Over the years, particularly while it’s dominance as the leader in software and technology was largely undisputed,  Microsoft received much criticism over its behaviour. Over the course of court cases on the bundling of Internet Explorer on Windows, amongst many others, it demonstrated a certain ruthlessness in pursuit of corporate advantage. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s heartland was always its development community – which it looked after in a way that no other company has been able to.

Take, for example, the current version of Visual Studio, and in particular its new scripting language for the web – RAZOR. It is, quite simply, a breathtakingly elegant and simple approach to creating highly interactive web applications, one that keeps coding and obscure development processes to a minimum. Microsoft really know how to make a developer’s life simple – and C#, in my opinion, is probably the best general purpose programming language, or certainly the most carefully elaborated – with well-structure libraries and tools, as well as a very active open-source community.

Over the course of a bumpy track record, Microsoft have got their development tools and frameworks just right – which is why it is such a shame that Microsoft largely missed the boat in mobile, at least until their Nokia deal pays dividends. Moreover, when developing for the B2B market, where the expertise and experience of corporate ICT, security and compliance departments is key, I sense that a lot of mobile and tablet developments are being held back for fear of using anything other than the familiar Microsoft platforms.

Apple, Google and Microsoft – a lot to learn from each other
This does not mean that I want Microsoft to suddenly steal a march on Apple and Google, to become dominant in mobile as they once were, and still largely are, in the desktop market. Far from it – but I think some healthy competition from Microsoft will not only free up forward-looking technological development in the corporate market – but it will also make Apple and Google alike up their game in supporting their developers.

I live in the vain hope that Apple will take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book and start loving their developers a little bit more, that Google will take a bit more care over polishing and integrating their disparate services and support, and that Microsoft learn what makes mobile devices tick. All three have massive amounts to offer by way of advancing mobile and other technology for corporates and consumers alike. All three have their distinct style and flavour – personally, I don’t think any one is better, at least in a general sense, than any of the others – but all of them are needed.

Mobile Apps for the Uninitiated

Last week I gave a presentation at the Web Managers group in London, giving a general overview of what is involved in getting into mobile apps, and some of the key considerations involved. I was a little surprised that of those who were not agency-side, none had yet created an app. Whilst this might be interpreted as a lack of appreciation of the importance of mobile, talking to the web managers it was also clear that this could be seen as a sensible caution over getting into a new platform just for the sake of it.

You can get the content of my presentation from here.

How mobile fits into a broader content strategy is a difficult question to answer – it depends on  the nature of the content that an organisation is providing. In order to have any kind of ongoing usefulness, a mobile app needs to be focussed on making commonly undertaken tasks more convenient to complete or on providing rich and entertaining interaction that has some possibility for progression. Given the propensity of users to offer feedback freely, creating an app with a contrived need runs the risk of negative reviews and damage to the corporate brand.

  • If your audience have a frequent engagement with your services, such as maintaining an account, ordering, obtaining guidelines or updated materials, or engaging in communication, then there is probably a case for creating an app.
  • If you provide regular content updates to your audience, but only in small volumes, then an RSS feed, or a mobile friendly site is more likely to be a good means of engaging your mobile users.
  • If you do not have regularly updated content, or news about your services or events, then a mobile friendly site is probably the answer.

Depending on the precise needs of your audience and your business, there are a whole range of options available for reaching out into the mobile space:

  • RSS feed
    not mobile specific, but can be consumed easily by smart phone users
  • Mobile friendly site
    a good starting place, but remember, just creating a mobile-skin for your site is not enough – your content and navigation must reflect the specific needs of mobile consumption – your content must be bite-sized and succinct
  • Site in an app
    brochure ware for the mobile – effectively a website wrapped up as an app – quick to produce, you can say it’s an app, but if you don’t do it well, your audience will be disappointed
  • Cross-platform HTML5 hybrid app
    implemented using a cross-mobile framework such as PhoneGap, AppCelerator, RhoMobile, AppMobi (and many more) – good for multi-platform, provides access to some of the phone’s underlying functionality, allows reuse of code – these frameworks keep getting better, but they are still not as slick as a native app
  • Native app
    created separately in the native language for each platform – provides the slickest experience, but at a price

There is no one-size fits all approach to success in mobile. The mobile space is fast changing, and there are lots of options for getting involved – mobile apps being only one form of engagement. The important thing is to be clear about your aims and your audience – reach out to them early, get user groups involved in appraising prototypes and get plenty of feedback before launching.

 

Divining the Future of Mobile Development – PhoneGap v. Native App Development

As with operating in any quickly changing fields, developing apps in the mobile space presents both opportunities and significant challenges for agencies and clients alike. Though clear trends are emerging that point towards an expansion of cross-platform frameworks, the decision is by no means clear and obvious – there are pro’s and con’s to each approach.

Native App Development

The first clear decision to make is whether to develop apps separately for each individual mobile operating system, or whether to use a cross-platform framework aimed at permitting the reuse of code across different mobile operating systems. There are quite a few frameworks out there, which operating in different ways – a good overview is available from  http://www.toolsjournal.com/tools-world/item/157-10-of-best-cross-platform-mobile-development-tools.

Regardless of the framework in question, there is a tradeoff to be made. By developing native apps, you get:

  • Access to everything in the Operating System (OS)
  • An interface that is more likely to match the expectations of the OS users (Android Users, for instance, don’t want their apps to look like iPhone apps)
  • Performance can be optimised for the environment

So far so good, if you have an app that is guaranteed only for iOS and / or Android, and if you have time for the native development process. What if your app needs to be available at the same time on iOS / Android / Windows / Blackberry / Web OS and you need to release it in the next week to beat the competition to market? What if you don’t have the money to support internal teams or suppliers with an expert capacity to deliver natively in each of the platforms required?

PhoneGap

What your cross platform framework will deliver depends on the platform itself. Following evaluation of the specific needs of our clients, and in consideration of how to best compliment the skills of our team, we have chosen PhoneGap (http://www.phonegap.com/), for the following reasons:

  • HTML5 based – can reuse web skills whilst also hooking into the undelrying OS
  • Lots of momentum behind it – for instance, Adobe include native support for PhoneGap in DreamWeaver CS 5.5
  • Clear signals from Apple that they won’t be outlawing the use of this particular platform later on down the line
  • Easy to use with a big user community to ask, and lots of excellent documentation

By developing PhoneGap apps, you get:

  • Ability to create your app for up to 6 mobile operating systems
  • Rapid prototyping – build your prototype as an HTML5 web site, continually previewable within your target mobile platforms
  • Reuse of code and design assets – don’t have to rewrite everything from scratch for each platform
  • Reuse of existing skills – web skills are easier to find and less costly than native app development skills
  • Easy deployment – you can use PhoneGaps submission service to allow you to build and distribute apps without having any of the mobile OS development software on your machine

Because PhoneGap apps run as standalone HTML5 apps within an invisible browser window, they do run the risk of feeling more like web sites and less like mobile apps unless implemented with sufficient care and attention. Perhaps the biggest question marks are over:

  • Lack of interface “flow” – the directness of coupling between gesture and response that makes good smartphones such a joy to use – without careful attention, HTML5 based apps run the risk of feeling jerky
  • User interface could easily feel inappropriate for the specific target platform, with insufficient use made of expected elements, such as tab bars
  • Poor performance – particularly where functionality that makes lots of calls to the OS is used – such as geo location
  • Patchy support for changing phone orientation, from portrait to landscape and back again
  • CSS – potential compatibility issues on some devices
  • Lack of access to some native functionality
Though requiring careful attention, these are not show stoppers. For instance, where there is lack of support for particular native functionality, it is possible to create plugins – sets of platform specific functionality wrapped up in a way that makes it accessible to the framework. However, the emphasis is always likely to be on solving the genreral problem for all platforms rather than the specific problem for a particular platform.
Which is Best – Native or PhoneGap?
As with any commercial decision, there is no absolute right or wrong answers – just strategies that are better suited to some situations rather than others. As an agency, we will be using a mix of approaches – native, PhoneGap, and other frameworks as well (such as Corona for Game App development). However, broadly speaking the advantages split out as:
PhoneGap (Cross Platform)
  • More cost effective for cross platform development
  • Faster to market
  • Easier to repurpose (e.g. for co-branding or white-labelling)
  • Relies on less-costly less-specialist skills for implementation
  • Better suited to existing work flows in design / technology agencies
Native Development
  • If you have the right budget, you get exactly what you want (if the OS permits it)
  • Users will naturally see the kind of interface they expect
  • Performance is likely to be better
Future Trends
Although I don’t have a personal crystal ball, I think it is clear that the mobile OS wars are not over yet by any means. If Gartner and other pundits are to be believed, over the next few years we will continue to see Android and iOS dominating, but with Microsoft/Nokia becoming a major smartphone player, and Blackberry retaining a significant market share. It is hard to say yet whether Web OS will really take off, despite the best efforts of HP.
Most likely then we will be looking at a market with four or five major mobile OS platforms. With so many platforms in existence, I would say for any business or initiative that doesn’t have access to major budgets, but which requires reach across diverse audiences, cross-platform frameworks such as PhoneGap will prove an attractive development strategy.

What should you expect from your CMS?

Content is key to raising your profile on the web, and having good quality, relevant, accessible content is essential to attract good search ratings. Good quality content is time consuming to author and approve – so being able to reuse it is important for increasing the returns, in terms of visits, revenue and long term interaction, that it can help to generate.

Implementing a web site using a Content Management System (CMS) is a major undertaking. The end result should be a platform that will facilitate the growth of relevant services and channels of communication for your key target audiences. A good CMS should make it both quick & easy to author content and to reuse it.

Adapting to new online behaviour

In the digital age, users expect content to be up-to-date and relevant to their needs. What is relevant at one point in time may not be relevant at another. Patterns of engaging with content are also changing rapidly with the explosion of mobile internet. The market for smartphones and tablets has already surpassed the sales of PCs[1]. Already 90% of mobile phone subscribers have phones that can browse the web[2] – but the actual use of mobile internet will eclipse that of the fixed internet within the next couple of years[3].

With mobile internet rapidly becoming the primary means of accessing the web, users will naturally expect content to be provided in a form that is appropriate for mobile devices. More and more users will be accessing your content directly from search, or from links in recommendations in social media.

In order to maximize the returns from your online presence, your strategy will need to adapt to accommodate these changing patterns of usage. Your online strategy will need to support these changes in patterns of usage and your CMS platform should enable you to easily adapt your existing content, with little modification, to use in these new channels.

The end result of a successful CMS implementation is a platform that enables you to keep up with your users by providing these key benefits:

  • Easy to author and maintain content
  • Easy to reuse and repackage content across different site areas and web browsing platforms
  • Easy to re-theme content where required, keeping content but changing its appearance
  • Easy to make content searchable and findable
  • Easy to set up new data captures and communication channels with your users
  • Clear APIs extending CMS and storing data within CMS structures
  • Easy to upgrade your platform and take advantage of new features

There are no doubt many CMS systems that can offer these benefits – but the best ones are those created by a development team that are focussed on their clients with a clear roadmap and vision for the future. Fortunately for my agency, these are things that have been abundantly provided by our chosen CMS supplier – Kentico.

Some key considerations for achieving a successful intranet

Perhaps I should do myself a big favour and keep a set of generic documents to stuff into proposals – but I don’t! However much I try to copy and paste what has gone before, I still end up refreshing my thoughts for each new proposal. The following are some thoughts I put together for a recent intranet proposal – top level project issues that I think merit attention at the beginning of each new intranet I get involved in.

Informing and engaging users
There are key elements of an intranet that must be realised in order to achieve core business objectives, such as document repositories, content searching, user permissions management, news and so on. At the same time, the users should want to come back, the intranet should become the “go-to” application of choice for many of their key daily tasks. In other words, there must be a balance between informing users and engaging users.

Intranet is a process, not a system
Clearly an intranet is a system, but it is also more than that – a vehicle for changing the way that people work, for making their lives easier and the company more effective and efficient. As users start to engage with the intranet, they will find new ways of engaging with the knowledge provided by the organization. The ultimate goal of a good intranet is to become an effective knowledge sharing platform – not just between the company and the users, but also between users.

You can’t know what will work in advance
Some ideas that seem excellent on the face of it don’t work in practice due to unforeseen or unforeseeable circumstances. Often ideas that we seek to translate from other settings – such as social media – fail in a corporate environment. For instance, my agency have implemented highly engaging attractive features such as noticeboards for car sharing, which have failed to take off. On the other hand, small elements of functionality such as ‘Who’s locking up’ and ‘Who’s out of the office’ add an unexpected value, and are picked up with enthusiasm by users.

Early involvement = happy users
Because an intranet is a system that impacts upon users’ everyday lives, they need to have confidence that it will work for them. If the system feels imposed from above, it is likely to meet resistance in rollout. If, on the other hand, users are involved early and often, it is easier to identify what works and what doesn’t work.

Ideally the development process should include a product owner from the client, as well as representatives from key user groups. By so doing, it becomes possible to identify what works and what doesn’t work early on, as well as creating a group of enthusiastic advocates who will help smooth the way for eventual buy in by the user base as a whole.

80% of value from 20% of functionality
With intranets, as with many any other kind of technology, 80% of the value is realised using 20% of the functionality. By releasing key functionality early in the development cycle, it becomes possible to:

  • achieve early wins
  • demonstrate successful progress
  • build user confidence in the solution
  • ensure the most critical functionality is the best tested

In Conclusion
If pushed, I will always prefer a methodology that involves frequent releases and lots of user input. For reasons of internal politics, as well as the paperwork required for formal budget applications, it is often not possible to wholeheartedly adopt an agile approach in full. However, I think it is a matter of focus here – are you more bothered about ticking boxes, or about maximizing the amount the business objectives achieved with your budget? An agile mindset is all about getting useful work done as soon as possible, about satisfying pressing business needs, building confidence, and flushing out issues so they don’t stack up at the end of the project. Agile does not mean chaos – despite prejudices to the contrary. Agile to me means acting in light of the facts, and illuminating the facts through action – once the research has been done and the groundwork has been laid.

Roundup of the Week (w/e 27/02/2011)

Without a doubt the key market development over the last week or so has been the major change in Google’s search algorithm. Taken together with Google’s commitment to take greater account of social media, this signals a profound change in the terrain of SEO and online marketing more generally. Organisations that already use social media in concert with websites other channels to pursue genuinely useful content-based marketing will have little to fear. Content farms and organisations who play the game more cynically will have to change tack pretty sharpish.

Search

  • Google Announces Massive Search Algorithm Change
    Google just changed its search algorithm and effectively declared war on Content Farms like Demand Media. The change has only taken effect so far in the US, but will be shortly rolled out across all of its search domains. Google aims to filter out sites that are simply there to capture traffic and sell premium ad-space whilst promoting sites with genuine original content.
    Given Google’s recent spat with Bing over the quality and reuse of search results, as well as Google’s overall dependence on primacy in the search market, they simply couldn’t afford to allow the quality of search results to continue to decline.
    Silicon Alley Insider
  • Google Social Search Integrates Twitter, Quora and Flickr
    Internet users are relying more and more on location based services and peer recommendations than general search results. Accordingly, Google has updated their social search to feature three new levels of integration, including Twitter, Quora and Flickr.
    The general search landscape is being transformed rapidly by the inclusion of social media. This will present a challenge for SEO-conscious enterprises, who will need to depend more on the genuine provision of useful content across social media as well as more traditional web-based content outlets, rather than simply producing content to feed the SEO-machine.
    CMSWire

CMS

  • Apache Chemistry Official
    The Apache Chemistry project, the open source implementation of the Content Management Interoperability Specification (CMIS) standard, left the incubator stage and was promoted to a full Apache Software Foundation project.
    Though many commercial vendors have offerings permitting the repurposing of CMS based content, this open source project heralds the mass adoption of more formal content reuse techniques. Technology only offers the fulfilment of cross-platform content – the bigger question is how to intelligently manage the different contexts of information use across desktop, smartphone, tablet and in-app content re-use.
    CMSWire

Mobile

  • 20% of Employees Use Smartphone at Work
    Almost 20 per cent of employees use a smartphone for work, up sharply from 13 per cent just a year ago, according to new research from Forrester.
    Corporates need to start acting in order to take advantage of their staff use of smartphone through a sensible knowledge and content management strategy, rather than simply reacting to the threat such expansion in use might present.
    Mobile Marketing News
  • 140 Million Android Portable Devices by End of 2011
    There will be an installed base of 140m Android portable devices, including smartphones and tablets, by the end of 2011, according to IMS Research forecasts. The market intelligence firm says the recent unveiling of Google’s Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system for tablets, along with enhancements to Android Market, will do much to enhance growth prospects for this segment.
    Apple may be in the driving seat at the moment in the tablet market, but Google are almost certain to dominate in the longer term – the main question is how well they can tie together that base with their undoubted flair for open exchange of content and information.
    Mobile Marketing News
  • Apple Subscriptions for Publishing Apps not SAAS
    Apple’s new subscription rules, which take a 30% cut of all subscriptions done through the app, apply to content publishing apps and not SaaS apps, Steve Jobs has said in a new email. Whilst this does, on the face of it, seem like good news, the lack of definition between publishing apps and SAAS still leaves a very significant room for commercial interpretation on the part of Apple
    Given Apple’s track record for frequently changing tack on Apple Store guidelines, one wonders whether this ‘clarification’ really makes anything very clear. Apple seem to operate very much in the moment when it comes to guidelines, so this conceptual ambiguity only serves to leave yet more guideline gerrymandering on the cards.
    Silicon Alley Insider
  • Windows Phone 7 Update a Disaster
    Microsoft just rolled out an update to Windows Phone 7, and what should be routine has turned into a fiasco. For some phones, the update just fails and you have to reboot the phone (without the update) — for other phones, the update “bricks” the phone, i.e. turns it into a paperweight.
    Following so close on the heels of the contraversial link up with Nokia, it would seem that a disastrous mobile OS update is about the last thing that Microsoft needs right now
    Silicon Alley Insider

Tablets

  • HP Touchpad on Sale in April?
    As with other tablet suppliers, the rumour mills are put into full operation to maximise marketing message in advance of launch, so any announcement should be accepted with caution. Current noises-off suggest an April launch for the HP Touchpad, with its Palm-derived WebOS.
    If there is one thing that Apple is good at, it is the creation of desire and its subsequent prompt fulfilment – when they have a product launch, they have stacks of product ready to buy. Other tablet suppliers who are yet to release their big product are suffering from prolonged pre-release rumour mongering – the boy who cried wolf syndrome. Nevertheless, HP’s release of the Touchpad and its subsequent progress are sure to be of significant interest – will they steal a march on Microsoft given the latter’s late entry into the tablet market.
    Engadget

Apps

  • Chrome Browser Becoming OS within an OS
    Little by little, iteration by iteration, the Chrome browser is quietly morphing into a full-fledged multitasking operating system in its own right. The release of functionality this week shows an aggressive policy aimed at eventually supplanting Microsoft’s Office suite and eventually Windows itself. The announcements included support for new file types in Google Docs, the ability to run background apps and, perhaps most significantly, Google Cloud Connect, which allows users to sync Office documents to Google Docs. Chrome browser is slowly becoming Chrome OS on another OS.
    Perhaps the biggest attraction of Google’s Chrome model is the sheer mobility it encourages. You could move between totally different machines in different locations, with a different OS and hardware and still be confident that provided you can install the browser, you can do whatever you need to without the headache of installing apps and ensuring versions match up. As very fast broadband becomes more widely adopted, its hard to see how this proposition won’t be attractive to many users. Others may talk about the cloud, but Google is still the only company who define what that means to everyday users.
    Tech Crunch
  • Google is Getting Strict About Android App Payments
    Google has suddenly pulled the popular Visual VoiceMail app from the Android Marketplace, seemingly because of a dispute over in-app payments, according to GigaOm. After two years with no problems, Google notified PhoneFusion on Tuesday that it was pulling the app for a violation of section 3.3 of the distribution agreement for the Android Marketplace, which requires developers to use Google’s payment system for in-app payments. Visual VoiceMail is free, but the company sells add-on services like transcription through its Web site.
    Although Google have made their own subscription platform a lot cheaper – only a 1/3 of the cost – of Apple’s. However, by beginning to act publicly on subscription rule enforcement, Google run the risk of validating Apple’s model and thereby strengthening its hand. This risk seems to be outweighed by Google’s desire to capitalise on the the runaway success of Visual VoiceMail.
    Silicon Alley Insider

Hardware

  • 2011: Year of the Solid State Device (SSD)
    Disk manufacturers are putting a new spin on an old product: Solid State Drives. New technology, increased power costs, space limitation, and new business requirements are driving advances in storage. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are part of that new technological push toward more efficiency, increased agility, and higher demand.
    Solid State Devices (SSD) based systems offer rapid startup and reduced mechanical complexity compared with hard drive based systems. With the continuing long-term downward trend in the cost of memory, it is hardly surprising that offerings like the MacBook Air appear attractive. Will this year be the year of the SSD?
    Dzone.com

This Week’s Excitement

  • More Evernote
    I got my API key through for Evernote this week, now I can start playing around with its Edam API, to create some more interesting ways to interact with the content.
    www.evernote.com/about/developer/
  • More MVC and Razor
    Microsoft’s new version of their MVC framework (MVC3), including a new way of including dynamic functionality, called “Razor”, hits all the right notes. They have basically been watching what their development  community has been doing and then adopting all the best practices – which is as it should be.
    www.asp.net/mvc/mvc3
  • Google Trends
    I’m sure most of you have tried out Google Trends – it had only grabbed my passing attention – but there is no doubt that it is a tool of major importance in trying to gauge interest in particular issues over time – it is also a brilliant way of assessing the likely effectiveness of your keyword alternatives in SEO.
    www.google.com/trends
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