Posts Tagged ‘convergence’

Future of mobile: Part 3

May 13, 2012

Today I have 3 GPS devices, 4 Cameras, 3 Video cameras, 3 movie players, 5 music players and the list goes on. All of these are in a variety of devices that I use in different places for different purposes.

Drilling down into the detail what I actually have is a phone, a desktop home PC, a laptop, an iPod, a car stereo, in-car GPS, a TV+HD/DVD Player, a digital SLR, that’s just me and not including what the family has.

This presents a number of challenges, risks as well as a lot of cost…

Most of us want as little duplication of cost as possible. Already even though cars come with stereos many people are now plugging in their MP3 players, utilising the speakers in the car only. Many people will also use their phone’s GPS rather than the car’s. Newer TV’s have wireless access to browsing and social apps. I’m tempted by the hype of tablet computing, but have to ask myself, why? I have all the compute options I need?

More devices mean more synchronisation issues for personal settings and personal data. While cloud based services will resolve many of these issues, it is still early days to move everything into the cloud as users of MegaUpLoad found.

In 1999 I went to a tech show in Vegas, where I saw a potential solution to the problem from Sony. They were demonstrating the concept of “apps on sticks”. Basically these were memory sticks (max 32mb at the time) with other devices, like GPS, radio and even camera on the stick. The idea was simple you’d simply plug your GPS stick into your phone, laptop, car or any other device, rather than have that function in multiple devices. This approach would have required a lot of standardisation and clearly is a concept that never came to fruition.

More recently Asus have launched their PadFone, this is a smartphone that comes with a tablet screen. When you need to work with a bit more screen estate, you simply slot your phone into the back of the screen and hey presto you have a tablet that can use the 3G or wireless connection on your phone. Apart from being able to charge your phone, the tablet screen also integrates with the phone itself so voice and video calls can be made/received using the tablet screen.

This concept really works for me, and I could see myself buying into the family of products: TV, Car Stereo, projector. This with the ability to have my data in the cloud so losing the phone is not the end of the world, makes for a great solution. Whether the phone slots in, or connects wirelessly the ability to drive a different screen from my phone, either works for me as a concept. Maybe the idea could be taken even further so that the circuitry for the device could be slotted into the phone itself?

As I’ve discussed in my previous blogs there are many new avenues for phones, in shape, size and function. It would be difficult to predict the future with so many possibilities, but one thing for sure is that for gadget geeks like me, the phone is going to be the constant source of innovation we thrive on


HTML5 gets fun, without a plug-in in sight

June 16, 2011

I’ve still not finished covering all the new features of HTML5, but I do think it’s time for a bit of a break. One of the real measures of whether HTML5 will take off will be how well it will support the gaming industry, and indeed here some people have feared that it will not deliver and have continued to back plug-in based technologies like Flash, Java or Silverlight. Well after extensive research it’s time to dispel a few myths
Now it’s not true that there haven’t been some great HTML games already, remember Google’s re-incarnation of PacMan and recently Effect Game’s Crystal Galaxy which will work even in IE6 !

However a number of features like Canvas, HTML5 Audio and WebWorkers are changing people’s perception of what is possible on the web and all without plug-ins ! So here is my top 5.

In at number 5 is, well not a game, but nevertheless a nice use of the new canvas API’s, a remake of the popular windows desktop app, Paintbrush.

At number 4 is another remake of an old classic, Asteroids! Whilst not up to the standard of today’s modern graphics they are a vast improvement over the games original line art graphics, and offers smooth movement and responsive feedback.

Number 3 is Canvas Rider a simple yet strangely addictive game requiring skill and judgement to guide a motorcyclist across a number of different scenes.

Just missing the top spot is Torus a 3D cylindrical version of Tetris.

However in first place has to be Pixel Lab’s Agent 8 Ball, great graphics, fast smooth operation and sound make it hard to believe that this is a browser game without any plug-in support. In fact this video comparison of Flash vs HTML seems to have totally missed this great example too (see comparison of pool game 3mins in). There are many more great examples out there, even for those Silverlight enthusiasts Microsoft has assembled some great examples of HTML5 in action.

So what’s the future?  Well if Google’s demo last year of it’s web version of Quake is anything to go by things are certainly looking exciting ! The future is definitely not solo game play, as Game Closure showed last month when it demo’d a multiplay social game called Popstar Defense.

All the credit for this new world of possibility can’t just go to HTML5/Javascript as technologies because it is the tremendous improvements in Javascript engines by all the main stream browser providers that is giving the games a useful performance boost.
I’ll be covering some of the HTML5 features that enable these games such as Canvas and HTML5 Audio in future posts, enough research for now…  time to get back to work !

Make sure you use a current browser supporting HTML5 features like Canvas to view / play these.

Another windows mobile launch…yawn !

January 23, 2011

The launch of Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft’s completely new mobile operating system has been and gone. Much of the media’s attention has been directed towards whether the system will provide a viable alternative platform to iPhone or Android. What the press should really be asking is why the technical gurus in Redmond are actually bothering with the launch at all.

 The world is going mobile and Microsoft, as the king of the desktop operating system, cannot afford to move to prince and possibly pauper in the mobile era. But the chances are that, despite more development money being lavished on another mobile platform, they might not have a choice.

 For a start, the market already looks sewn up (see further reading, below). Symbian remains the market leader but its market share continues to fall in relation to Android and Apple, the two software systems driving smarter mobile development and growth at the hardware level.

 Analyst Gartner recently reported that Android and Apple were the winners in the smart phone operating system market during the first quarter of 2010. Both were the only two platforms to increase market share year-on-year.

 For Windows Mobile, the picture was far less impressive. Android moved to the number four position, displacing Windows Mobile for the first time. But Windows Mobile 7 is coming; won’t the new system provide a significant challenge to the established market leaders?

 That, however, is not what the experts believe (see further reading). Gartner predicts Microsoft’s mobile market share will rise to just 5.2 per cent in 2011, up from the current 4.7 per cent, and will fall back to 3.9 per cent in 2014. Such trends suggest the experts are far from convinced about the prospects of Windows Mobile 7.

 Consumers are picking operating systems that help deliver a rich user experience, and the market for the delivery of that experience is likely to consolidate around a few key providers.

 Microsoft’s current Windows Mobile system user interface is problematic (see further reading): multitasking is difficult; moving between – and closing apps – is complicated. There has to be hope that Windows Mobile 7 will help remove many of these long-standing concerns.

 However, the supplier is playing catch-up. And worryingly for Microsoft – and despite the launch of Windows Mobile 7 – Gartner’s statistics suggest the supplier’s mobile strategy does not look set to attract new users.

 The desktop of the future is the mobile device but I would suggest the operating system of choice will not come from Microsoft.

Further reading:

The future is mass mobile and niche native apps

December 7, 2010

Design once and stop. That development strategy seems like a route to a software dead end, yet it is an approach that is representative of many apps created for mobile devices.

 Individuals and businesses are rushing to develop their specialist iPhone and Android apps, software that runs on one particular device and which fills a particular niche in the market. In the short-term, your development approach can afford to be based on point solutions.

 Such a development approach allows you to get used to the fast-developing market. For larger organisations, short-termism allows the IT team to dabble and create a marketing buzz. In many cases, the app is a means to show your company is cool, rather than a new and realistic revenue stream.

 In the long-term, that strategy will fail. Mobile devices will be the home of web- enabled work and play. Betting your strategy on one particular platform is not a realistic approach. After all, the market is fracturing across multiple smart phone operating systems, such as Apple, Research in Motion, Symbian and Windows.

 That fracturing cannot last. Native mobile apps constructed for a single platform might feel better and run faster. But to quote Google’s DeWitt Clinton (see further reading, below), such nativity is a bug and not a feature.

 Just as in the case of the desktop, developers have had to find ways to make their software run across multiple operating systems. And in the mobile era, you and your business will have to move towards an integrated point.

 Do you really want different sets of developers for each and every platform? Do not differentiate too much because at some point you are going to have to aim for convergence.

 Advancements in mobile web browsing continue to take place. Take jQuery Mobile, a recently announced web framework for smart phones that will provide a unified user interface system across all popular mobile device platforms.

 Further progress comes in the form of HTML5, which is currently under development as the next major revision of the hypertext markup language standard. The platform will promote deployment across multiple platforms and includes features that previously required third-party plug-ins, such as Flash.

 The result is that the dream of building once and deploying everywhere could soon become a reality. The future of development is the mobile web.

Further reading


Mobile User Experience Matters…

November 8, 2010

I don’t want to just knock mobile phones. I might, at times, seem like I’m picking on handheld devices – but nothing could be further from the truth.

 Looking back on my blog posts during the past year-or-so, it’s notable how many times I’ve written about mobile phones. It’s not that surprising. Mobility, after all, has changed consumer and business life – the mobile interface is fast-becoming the new desktop.

 Yet while I appreciate the potential positive nature of this trend, it’s also clear to see that I loathe media and vendor hype. Just because people are using smart devices doesn’t mean we all need to jump on the same bandwagon.

 Sometimes my stance seems strangely isolated. From iPhones to iPads, commentators are queuing up to pay homage to the latest Apple device. While Apple has undoubtedly created a tectonic shift in the traditional geography of computing, some semblance of moderation is always required.

 First, the mobile market is actually fragmented. Rather than being simply dominated by the iPhone, Symbian and Research in Motion are able to command a larger proportion of market share – in fact, almost 50% of phones sold in 2009 included the Symbian operating system, according to analyst Gartner (see further reading, below).

 Second, many businesses are designing the wrong kinds of apps. Just as in the case of cloud computing and social media, the technology associated to smart phones is over-hyped. The result of such hype is that the business starts to become interested.

 Just as an executive might read a feature in a business magazine on the cloud or Twitter, they’re also going to be aware of consumerisation and mobility. The result is an over-enthusiastic and technology-illiterate FD or CEO knocking on your door and asking when the firm is going to release an Apple-ready app.

 You need to be prepared for such a conversation; if you’re not, you’ll repeat some of the mistakes of other leading organisations. Take smart phone banking, which research suggests is one of the fastest growing categories in mobile applications.

 Yet as much as 40% of banking customers are not satisfied at all by their smart phone banking app, according to software firm Work Light (see further reading).

 Most worryingly, almost a quarter of users indicate that a poor user experience is the main reason they do not use their app. Such figures illustrate quite clearly that there is absolutely no point designing an app without careful consideration.

 By all means, be swayed by the call for marketing and create a smart phone app. But don’t be platform specific, not everyone has an iPhone. And don’t – above everything else – forget the customer experience.

 Fail to create a great user interface and you will be left with yet another poorly supported IT project that still needs to be maintained. There is another way, so think before you develop.

Further reading:


Ditch your mobile strategy…for a multi-device one !

November 1, 2010

Blue-chip enterprises are doing it, technology providers are doing it and networking giants are preparing for it: the smart guys are already moving from a mobile strategy to a multi-device strategy.

 Long gone are the days when you would expect your development team to create a single application for a single device. Rather than converge on to one device, the world – both in the consumer and enterprise space – is going multi-device and multi-screen.

 Let’s take three recent examples (see further reading for more details). First, media company Blockbuster has announced it is using APIs to deliver movies, product reviews and real-time inventory availability to customers on various devices including phones, set top boxes and gaming consoles.

 Second, technology provider AT&T has launched U-verse Online, part of a strategy to make content available to consumers across multiple screens, including the TV, PC and mobile devices. Finally, network giant Verizon has announced plans to charge for a block of data and the allowance to share it across as many devices as the user owns.

 Such broader developments help to show that the media’s skewed attention towards individual device launches is misguided. The media would have us believe that the nature of a single device is all-important; that a new device is crucial because it provides a new platform to receive and view information.

 Apple’s iPad and new iPhone, for example, are beautifully thought-through computers. But while the launch of such devices is important, they are simply stepping stones towards a multi-device future.

 What is important – rather than the device itself – is the wider approach being taken by companies like Apple, which is demonstrating how applications and data can be accessed in a similar format on different devices.

 Apple’s iBook application – which is coming to the iPhone and iPod Touch – received more than five million book downloads in the first 65 days since its iPad launch (see further reading). For it’s part, Amazon is also pursuing a multi-device strategy and is releasing free Kindle apps for Apple devices, PCs, BlackBerrys and Google Android.

 Access to data, then, is becoming significant across different kinds of devices. And that importance will only increase. What is perhaps perplexing is that the media is not dedicating more time to the importance of the multi-device strategy.

 At the time of writing, a Google News search for “multi-device strategy” returns just 12 results. Expect that to change and quickly. After all, the smart guys are already preparing for a multi-device future.

Further reading


Some screens are better than others…

October 5, 2010

What’s your most important screen? Which device – regardless of application and information – is most important?

 Your business has probably spent years developing multi-channel strategies that allow customers to interact with your firm online, offline and by phone. But now, the level of online interaction is changing and organisations need to prepare multi-screen strategies.

 Microsoft has clearly been considering such strategies and started talking about a three-screen strategy towards the end of last year (see further reading, below).

 The company’s “three screens and a cloud” vision concentrates on how software experiences will be delivered through cloud-based services across PCs, phones and TVs.

 The software giant believes the approach will lead to a programming model that helps create a new generation of applications for businesses and consumers. That belief is spot on.

 Non-believers only have to think about how providers have worked to ensure the new generation of social apps – Facebook, LinkedIn, Spotify – are accessible online through various platforms with different screens.

 As I have mentioned elsewhere, the message for developers is clear: do not make the mistake of creating an application for a single platform. In the future, successful developers will have to accommodate applications to fit more than one screen size.

 In fact, the multiplicity of variable screen sizes is such that Microsoft’s three-screen strategy might be a few screens short. While the underlying sentiment behind the theory is right, big name providers are creating new ways to present information.

 Apple’s iPad is an obvious example, a device that sits somewhere between the pocket size smart phone and the laptop computer. Other less-hyped innovations are always entering the market.

 Take Intel’s recently announced Classmate PC, a hybrid device for education that offers the capabilities of a touch screen tablet and the usability of a netbook (see further reading).

 Some developments leave me to conclude that it’s too early to state that the three screens of PCs, phones and TVs will dominate our lives. Information is being provided in a series of ways across a range of forms.

 Convergence of screens is still far from a reality. Personally, I think we will be using far more than three screens – and the way that most people use a screen will vary depending on the device, location and a range of other contexts. As I have regularly suggested, context awareness is going to be a crucial element in the ongoing development of devices.

 While some people will like the option of having a phone on their watch, other individuals will want a different type of portable device that offers the option of a high quality, rollout screen.

 The end point, of course, will be convergence. Think forward and you can begin to imagine a situation where information on various screen forms is holographically projected. For now, however, such concepts remain dreams for the next generation.

Further reading


Back to the future with clicks without bricks business

September 13, 2010

Back at the time of the dot com boom, there was a great deal of debate about the future mix of business operations.

 It was the turn of the millennium and there was a naïve belief that the business world was about to become electronically enabled. Terms like e-business and e-commerce were as over-used and over-hyped hyped as today’s equivalent buzz phrases, such as cloud computing and social media.

 The thing is, the naïve spin masters were inevitably right – the business world has become electronically enabled. Phrases like e-business and e-commerce no longer matter because being electronic is a given; every company – large or small – is expected to have an online trading platform.

 Back in the dot com boom, experts debated how traditional “bricks and mortar” firms would compete with online-only businesses. Would traditional companies create an online channel to become “bricks and clicks”?

 The answer is “yes”, but in a form that is more complex than might have been imagined. Online only giants, like and, proved that having a high street presence no longer mattered.

 A just-in-time supply chain and smooth web sites meant such businesses could offer competitive deals. The success of such firms meant that consumers started seeing the web as their first port of call, using price comparison to search out cheap deals.

 High street stores have quickly become showrooms, where consumers will simply view products in-store before returning to the desktop and buying from the best-priced online business.

 As a result, the dominance of online has matured to such a point that some firms are considering online-only provision. More than “bricks and clicks”, what has started to develop is “just clicks”.

 Take insurance giant Allianz, which is considering the remodelling of its Cornhill Direct business into an online-only provider (see further reading, below). The traditional model of direct selling has proved costly in an age where many customers search online via aggregators.

 By creating a well-designed web site, companies quickly realise – from manufacturers to media organisations (see further reading) – that online-only can helps cut costs without damaging customer service.

 Even former, which emerged from the demise of former high street stalwart Woolworths, has taken the route to web-only selling. It seems that getting ahead for many businesses is all about being online-only.

 Further reading


The new King is “Context”

July 12, 2010

It’s good to be one of the first to have an opinion on a fast-developing scene. At the turn of the year, I offered my thoughts on context-aware computing (CAC), an area of technological development that is beginning to be hyped as the next big thing in IT.

 I had an early stab at a definition in that blog posting, saying CAC is associated to the concept that technology can sense, and then react to, the environment. Since then, the cacophony of hype surrounding CAC has continued to swell. 

 Analyst Gartner has continued to develop its thought leadership in the area. Leading publications have also started to write at-length about CAC, including a Computer Business Review feature that drew on my experiences and feelings.

 In that article, I offered an opinion that I will develop below – that context-aware computing, which is closely related to location-based services, can help with the creation of a single user experience. Sounds great, but at the moment the technology is not ready for such a giant leap.

 Location-based services (LBS) are the popular, media-friendly side of CAC. Users of Twitter and Google will be well aware of the proliferation of data feeds and apps, such as Foursquare, that provide information in relation to a user’s location.

 Smart firms are beginning to think about how they can use LBS to push relevant offers and opportunities. So, as you hit a certain part of a town, a restaurant chain or coffee shop could push special deals to your mobile device.

 Gartner predicts the LBS user base will grow globally from 96 million in 2009 to more than 526 million in 2012. For business, then, LBS is an area well worth exploring.

 Being able to target the customer at the right time is a tempting concept; what company wouldn’t want to increase customer loyalty through increased collaboration? But there’s a snag – and that’s where true CAC comes in.

 The key word is context. More than just being about location-based services and presence on mobile devices, true CAC is social – it understands you, your needs, and relates those desires to time and location. The right information/offer, at the right time, in the right place, on the right device !

 Train delays are automatically connected to your morning alarm; offers at your popular lunchtime haunts are pushed to your mobile location; and nearby friends are identified for a post-work pint. True context-aware computing, therefore, is about the provision of many different types of information on any device.

 There’s a lot of room for innovation and businesses must spend more time analysing the potential of CAC, rather than the hyped area of mobile apps. Context, after all, is much more powerful.

In the online world I expect Context to usurp Content as the next King.

Further Reading:


Mobile Delusions Part Two

June 21, 2010

Lest you forget, 2010 is the year of the mobile device. It’s a subject I blogged earlier this month, and it’s a subject I’m returning to now in order to add further clarity.

That first blog on mobile delusions tackled the thorny issue of return on investment (ROI). In that posting, I suggested that busineses must think carefully before rushing head first into mobile development.

Well thought-out business plans, I suggested, will always win in the long run. That statement remains as true as ever; in fact, its resonance has increased as the proliferation of different smart phones continues to rise.

 If you’re asked to think about handheld devices, it’s more than likely you’ll think of one specific phone and operating platform. That selection might be pushed by your personal preference for a BlackBerry or Nexus One, but the vast majority of people will immediately think of an Apple iPhone.

 Why is the iPhone so all consuming? Consumer and media hype certainly helps: you don’t see national TV news coverage of people queuing round the block to get hold of a new BlackBerry device. For Apple, every new device is a national – no, global – event (see earlier blog on the iPad).

 Apple has been smart. It’s beautifully designed gadgets appeal to a ‘fanboy’ mentality, where the ‘Twittering’ elite will have you believe that each new Apple device is representative of a new era of social and technical development.

 To be fair, some of Apple’s devices are great. The iPod helped make digital music a portable reality. It’s continual development through the iPhone showed how openness can spawn great application development.

 But the iPhone is just one device in an increasingly crowded marketplace. According to analyst Gartner, Apple’s iPhone represents just under 15% of the global smart phone operating system market.

 The proportion, although significant, lags well behind Research in Motion and Symbian, the latter of which still accounts for almost half of the smart phone market. The conclusion is simple: developers will have to look beyond the Apple ‘fanboy’.

 An app designed for an iPhone should be easily portable across all mobile operating systems. Considerable market fragmentation means an app that has limited appeal for one group might be more attractive on another platform, particularly for BlackBerry users that desire enterprise interactivity.

 Which brings me back to the difficulties of getting an ROI from mobile development. Fragmentation and differentiation means you need to be learning about how you can make mobile pay.

 And the best way to create an ROI is through web-based apps that can easily cross platforms, rather than platform-specific software.