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.

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

Don’t Write Off Microsoft – they Know How to Keep Developers Happy

Like many others, my team now feels liberated from platform specific ways of working, due in no small part to the flourishing of open source frameworks for just about anything you can think of, from user interface to middleware, security and beyond. We have just gone through a major explosion in it’s use of different platforms, in no small part due to mobile. We used to be exclusively Microsoft, but now we also use Java for Android, php on lamp for web and last, but not least, Objective C for iPhone development.

I remember the bad old days before the widespread use of the web, when a developer spent most of their time with their heads in their hand guessing the meaning of cryptic error messages and log entries. How much easier it is now than then to focus on the job in hand rather than the pure mechanics of getting it done. Despite all of this, it is still easier to use some platforms than others. Even though I constantly try out new things, have a secret geeky affection for things like regular expressions, and am an enthusiastic user of Linux, there is still something very definite to be said in favour of the much maligned Microsoft.

While some market analysts are busy writing Microsoft’s ultimate obituary, and comparing them unfavourably with Google or Apple, they often miss the unique capacity Microsoft has for looking after their developers: Visual Studio is unmatched as a development tool – everything fits together beautifully and works wonderfully. Unlike days gone by, Microsoft now have strong open source communities surrounding key technologies like MVC, which help move things in the right direction, whilst the MS teams keep it tidy. By comparison, Eclipse, for writing java, seems quite fragmented whilst XCode for Objective C feels quite awkward and basic.

I am in no way an ideologue or cheerleader for any given technology, they all have their pros and cons, they all have appropriate contexts for use. Nevertheless, if you want to make predictions about the future of mobile or other platforms, you would be wise to remember that application ecosystems require a development community – and that is one thing that Microsoft excels at supporting.

Roundup of the Week (w/e 06/02/2011)

Web

  • Microsoft and Google trade blows over the ownership of search results after Google leave a “honey trap” for Microsoft
    but was this a smokescreen to draw attention from Google’s legal proceedings in Europe over the alleged manipulation of search results? http://www.techmeme.com/110201/p22#a110201p22
  • Hotmail Add Alternative Emails – up to five aliases
    A relief for those who use hotmail addresses for testing, or junkmail, or just for specific sign-up purposes
  • RSS central to easy-access Cloud Data?
    Cloud hosting and data is a hot topic, but does it concern the everyman? Dave Winer – creator of RSS introduces thinks it does. He introduces his vision of a more accessible paradigm for backend storage and functionality on the web, glued together using RSS – enticingly named EC2 for Poets project – http://www.webmonkey.com/2011/02/take-back-the-tubes/
  • IPv4 addresses running out
    For all you geeks out there (and me too) – a significant milestone is the allotment of the last available IPv4 blocks – with IPv6 to receive a publicised promotional day of its own in June.

Android

  • Google displaces Nokia as number 1 seller of smartphones (by OS on phones sold)
    For anyone, particularly in the corporate sector, who has been trying to ignore it – Android is now officially impossible to ignore – as number one OS on new smartphones. This very success, however, is the main challenge to Google – the sheer diversity of suppliers and device formats involved means that Google will have to work very hard to avoid the obvious danger of fragmentation of its market – a problem that Apple clearly does not face.
  • Android 2.1 and above now on 90% of Android devices
    Which means that developers are unlikely to be losing too much sleep over older versions, focussing on the capabilities of the newer OS versions.

iPhone / iPad

  • Apple Enforcing Rules on e-Book Publishers
    Hard to avoid the big Apple story of the week – namely its enforcement of its policy that if you sell items used in an app outside of the app, they must allow them to purchase through app as well. This seemed focussed at eBook providers like Sony, and could well be a key mechanism for ensuring Apple’s dominance over the iOS platform as a commercial money maker. However, I wonder how long it is likely to be before we see a case brought in the European Court on the basis of anti-trust legislation – as Microsoft faced a while ago over its packaging of Internet Explorer with windows.

Tablets

  • Android takes 22% of Tablet Market
    So far, with the exception of the Galaxy Tab, there has yet been a compelling Android based rival to the iPad – despite this, Android already has a 22% share of the tablet market – which is sure to rocket when the next generation of Android pads, like the Motorola Zoom, become widely available – see http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/content/android-takes-22-cent-tablet-market
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab – disputes over reliability and sales
    Over the last week there have been stories claiming that the return rate on the Galaxy Tab has been 13% (according to ITG Investment Research), whilst Samsung have claimed only 2% – comparable to the return rate of the iPad. At the same time, Samsung claimed a massive rise in sales of the Galaxy Tab whilst then later ‘clarifying’ that the sales quoted were to distributors rather than end-users. A case of lies, damned lies and statistics?

Blackberry

  • RIM release BlackBerry AppWorld 2.1
    Which features in-app payments, allowing developers to create ‘lite’  versions with in-App upgrades. Could this provide a significant stimulus to the BlackBerry app market?
  • RIM India Ban Unlikely
    India still wants access to messages through Blackberry platform but now look unlikely to introduce a ban. Interesting to see how the issue of privacy is shaping up not just in developing economies, but around the world more generally.

Mobile Market

  • Mobile Web Traffic doubled in 2010
    According to Mobile Marketing Magazine, although a Cisco’s study suggested a massive 150% increase over the same period. There is no doubt about it, mobile is likely to be the preferred option for accessing the web outside of work, where the choice of platform is likely to be out of the users’ hands. Over the same period, the consumer expenditure on online entertainment was up 23% – which only goes to show that early adopters must be disproportionately high consumers compared to later adopters.  See http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/content/mobile-web-traffic-doubles-2010
  • Nokia and Microsoft Up a Tree?
    Now deposed as top seller of smartphones, and with Symbian effectively being declared dead, though on temporary life support, Nokia is realigning strategy apparently, with an announcement due regarding a tie up with Microsoft next week, possibly involving Windows 7. Could be a good tie-up for Microsoft who have had quite poor initial market share – Q4 2010 only 2%.
  • Marie Curie and Salvation Army with firsts for Charities in mobile
    Whilst Marie Curie were the first to release a virtual collection tin,  allowing their volunteers to encourage donations via SMS to contacts. The Salvation Army enjoyed 190,000 downloads of its Virtual Cup app, highlighting issues of health and social inequality. Interestingly, for the iPhone, the Virtual Cup has been implemented as an advanced web app to get around Apple’s ban on in-app donations – although it is available as a native app on other platforms.

Social Media

Social networks for corporates seems to be flavour of the week, if not the entire year. A lot of action to be seen in this area over the coming year, both as add-ons for Enterprise platforms, and for third-party SAAS providers:

  • Salesforce release Chatter.com
    a free social network that can be used by anyone with a business address
  • Microsoft Dyamics CRM acquires Vibe as Option in Market Place
    Enterprises implementing Dynamics now have social networking option
  • BranchOut Grew 2500% In January
    The LinkedIn style corporate networking Facebook app is experiencing a meteoric rise in traffic,  going From 10K To 250K Monthly Users

Web Standards

  • Microsoft offers H.264 plug-in for Chrome
    interesting Microsoft play which undermines Google’s own choice to not adopt H.264. Could plugins and add-ons provide a useful mechanism for platform providers to wrong-foot each other’s strategic plays on standards adoption?
  • W3C addresses touch screens and semantic web
    The consortium release a rough draft of specs targeting touch screens and tables, and announce the formation of a working group to update the foundations of the semantic web

What I got Excited About this Week

In no particular order:

  • Yahoo Pipes (Feed Aggregation and Filtering on Steroids)
    if you like to use the web as an active research tool, then you’ve got to see this to believe this – an easy online interface for clever aggregating, filtering, translation and coding of feeds and web content, which you can then publish as another feed!http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
  • Yojimbo – Personal Knowledge Manager
    I’m trying out this personal knowledge management app for the Mac – I’ve tried PersonalBrain, but I wanted something quick and easier – which it seems to be http://www.barebones.com/products/yojimbo/
  • Ubuntu – OS OS (Open Source Operating System)
    having been mainly PC and Mac based, I thought it high time that I tried out Ubuntu properly – given one of my colleagues is a bit of an evangelist. Now I have Ubuntu, Windows 7 and Mac Snow Leopard on one box – the world is my oyster! Ubuntu is great – once past the apprehension about geeky command lines, it is actually a breeze to use and fantastically easy to set up new software! www.ubuntu.com

Roundup of the Week (w/e 30/01/2011)

I have decided to try to do a weekly round-up of key themes across mobile, desktop apps, software, design, project management and anything else that affects my working life.

Key themes from last week that caught my eye:

CONTACTLESS MOBILE PAYMENTS – people will soon be able to pay for things direct from their mobile, eventually including things like tube fairs – Orange and T-Mobile to release tariffs to support this in summer. The next generation of iPhones and iPads will natively support mobile payments. This could be a small yet profound change to the lives of anyone who, like me, finds it easier to keep hold of their mobile than their wallet when out and about.
 
DESKTOP APP STORES– looks like we will soon have the mobile apps model on desktops – first to go looks like it will be Linux, can’t imagine we won’t have a Windows one soon though. Lets face it – the whole mobile app experience is so much better than going through a whole series of installation stages on a laptop or desktop – what will be interesting to see is whether the low-cost high-volume pricing model will spread into personal computing. Will the convergence in devices be matched by a convergence in methods of purchasing?
 
ENTERPRISE CMS – this year’s big themes in enterprise CMS likely to be social media and cloud-computing – EU will be laying down guidelines for provision of cloud computing.  Some larger corporates are moving their testing and approval platforms into the cloud – but questions still remain about privacy and security. At the same time, being able to keep up with the latest software and hardware as soon as it is available without fear of compatibility issues and expensive rollouts is surely attractive. A key issue here might be the way that legal developments in the US and other places may require Cloud Hosting providers to disclose sensitive personal or corporate information for legal or political reasons.
 
IPAD – use of iPads by corporates is growing rapidly. Appointment of new security chief at Apple seems aimed at RIM (Blackberry), much of whose success is based on secure communications. The snapping of Apple at RIM’s heels in the corporate market seems set to become more and more insistent. In a symbolic, and commercially significant development, last week saw Apple announce the release of the iPad in India even while political developments are making it look pretty certain that RIM will have to abandon the Indian market.
  
BLACKBERRY BIGGEST IN UK 2010 – The Blackberry range was the biggest selling smart phone platform in the UK in 2010! Everybody is focussing on the iOS and Android as key platforms for consumer development, but the Blackberry remains hugely popular amongst corporates. Who knows what impact the RIM Playbook will have on the tablet market when it is in the next couple of months. On the other hand, Apple have decided to release the iPad2 at roughly the same time (no coincidence of course).
  
MOBILE LOCATION SERVICES  – location based services that permit use of services / advertising / offers based on  user’s location will take off massively this year, although issues of personal privacy will be a major issue. Most of us are probably used to enjoying the benefits of map related location services on iOS or Android. However, the key concern here is that we may start to be tracked in space and time generally and not just through our buying habits or points of contact with corporates on the net. It seems almost inevitably that information, once collected, ends up being used for purposes other than those first proposed…caution will need to be the watchword here, along with clear opt-ins.
 
ANDROID HONEYCOMB – new tablet-OS emulator released (to Ben’s delight) last week – pundits have also found traces of mobile phone specific functionality – so maybe for phones as well as tablets – functionality warmly received despite emulator being very slow. Our Android guru is almost beside himself with excitement over Honeycomb – especially now that it seems it has been designed for phones as well as tablets. Whilst they seem to be hitting all the right notes with Android itself, even Google have admitted disappointment with the growth of the market for Android apps – they need to spend a significant fraction of this development time on tidying up the wild-west feel of their marketplace. 
 
SEARCH / SEO – Google will be cracking down on content farms (providers of content for SEO purposes), and auto-complete results for P2P. Google exists in an ongoing cat and mouse game with SEO specialists. Content farming in general seeks to use relatively reputable content for the specific aim of promoting SEO – Google will have its work cut out differentiating between content farming and legitimate corporate on-line marketing – and they seem set to involve some kind of content rating or qualitative feedback from users in order to improve the quality of its search results.
  
SOCIAL MEDIA – Malware controllers are using social network apps to coordinate malware attacks. US courts granting lots of orders for opening up private Facebook areas – reminder of how software as a service (SAAS) generally may be affected by local legislation. It comes as no surprise really that social media is the focus of malware creators, as much as it has become the focus of legitimate corporate interest. We can see a simultaneous encroachment on the ‘public space’ of social media from hackers, organised crime, marketeers and legislators alike. I guess that simply means that these virtual spaces are becoming as contested as real public spaces. Just like in real public spaces, our actions, our disclosure of information and our relationships are beginning to have potentially unintended consequences. The problem is that for many users, this reality is not clear…but it needs to be.
  
  More next week…
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