Posts Tagged ‘Multiple Access Devices’

Does HTML5 mean the end of Silverlight: Yes

March 31, 2011

If you’re like me, you might have a dream that surfers will soon not have to rely on plug-ins to enjoy browsing the web. For fellow dreamers, the forthcoming and latest round of browser wars might lead to a better web experience rather than yet another plug-in based nightmare.

Microsoft has recently had to grin and bear the pain, while its dominant Explorer browser has seen its market share attacked by a series of platforms, including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari – and most notably – Google Chrome. With market share now hovering at round 60% (see further reading, below), it’s almost as if the top guys at Redmond have suggested that enough is enough.

The result is a return of the browser wars, with Microsoft set to preview the final beta of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) in September. Chrome is clean, simple and fast – and expectations will be that IE9 provides a much quicker browsing experience.

Initial signs look good. Graphics performance is enhanced and hardware is accelerated. But the real story is the heavy use of HTML5, showing that researchers in Redmond also feel the next generation mark-up language is the best way forward for development.

“The future of the web is HTML5,” suggested Dean Hachamovitch, the general manager for Internet Explorer in a blog post earlier this year (see further reading). With Apple and Google also throwing their weight behind HTML5, much debate has rightly centred on the tricky situation facing Adobe’s video plug-in Flash.

But Microsoft’s support for HTML5 potentially creates another set of circumstances and another high profile conflict. This conflict surrounds Silverlight, a web framework that integrates multimedia and graphical elements in a single environment.

More intriguingly, it is Microsoft’s own framework – and, since April 2007, it has formed the backbone of the provider’s presentation framework. So, where does Microsoft’s support for HTML5 leave Silverlight? That, for web developers, is the key question.

Online publication The Register recently referred to the clash as “The Silverlight Paradox”, suggesting that a high quality and HTML5-ready IE9 will surely make many of the features of Silverlight and Flash redundant (see further reading).

Such a paradox, however, is fraught with complications. IE9 might look like it provides new fuel for Microsoft’s browser battle, but the true level of optimisation will not be clear until web developers get their hands on beta.

As The Register article suggests, legacy requirements mean the use of plug-ins will persist for many years – even if IE9 delivers everything it promises. But the move towards HTML5 shows that the captive strength of plug-ins is waning and businesses must develop web platforms with capability across all levels, from the desktop through to the mobile. The new web experience is emerging.

Further reading:

http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/03/firefox-may-never-hit-25-percent-market-share.ars

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2010/04/29/html5-video.aspx

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08/05/inside_ie9/

Does HTML5 mean the end of the road for Gears, HTA and Flash?

March 10, 2011

Web standard HTML5 contains loads of great features, from video playback to drag-and-drop. But the best bit, and currently one of the least talked about elements, might be the capability to run apps offline.

The normal web experience is hindered by connectivity. Users can typically access web apps while they have a connection to the internet. Once offline, individuals lose access to email, calendar or notes. There are, of course, workarounds. Google Gears, for example, allows users to navigate compatible sites offline and synchronise when back online.

Microsoft HTML Applications (HTA), meanwhile, is a Microsoft Windows formalisation that provides a web-like experience offline. And Adobe Flash can also be run offline, allowing users to run Flash-based content.

Such workarounds are OK but they are also a bit messy. People want the same experience online or offline; they want to get hold of – and manipulate content – regardless of location and they don’t want to be hindered by platform specific technologies or plug-ins.

HTML5 provides that standardisation. Its two–pronged approach re-connects the user through an SQL-based interface for storing data locally, and an offline cache that helps ensure apps are always available (see further reading, below).

With regards to availability, HTML5’s application cache mechanism provides the ability to have a fall back page for rendering pages when offline. It also provides a means to update cache dynamically. The key, here, is client-side management.

And without wanting to bang my own drum too loudly, it is a rhythm I have been hinting at for a long, long time. I blogged two years ago (see further reading) about client-side management as a method for keeping data in the browser, rather than the server, and as means to reducing memory and processing requirements.

“If only it was supported as standard by the browser rather than having to use hidden fields,” I concluded – and now that day is fast approaching. HTML5 creates a standards-based method for creating local apps that run offline.

As mentioned earlier, HTML5 also provides the ability to store data locally through a client-side SQL database. A series of apps could potentially work with this database, providing a new level of accessibility and integration.

The total approach represents a huge step forwards for web development. It also signals that the end is nigh for proprietary workarounds like Gears, HTA and Flash. HTML5 is the future and web developers simply must get with the program.

Further reading:

http://www.w3.org/TR/offline-webapps/

http://blogs.computerworlduk.com/facing-up-to-it/2008/07/client-side-session-management/index.htm

AppInventor to drop out of school

February 3, 2011

Something odd is happening. While children have never been more involved in computing, fewer and fewer young people are studying technology.

 Any parent of young children will be able to regale you with tales of their offspring multitasking with various devices and apps. The modern, younger generation has grown up only knowing a technology-enabled world and they are a product of that interaction.

 However, that high level of interactivity has not created a rise in interest in the academic side of IT. Just 4,065 students were awarded computing A-levels this year, compared with 4,710 this time last year – a drop of 13.7% (see further reading, below).

 The jury is out on what such developments mean for the UK: while companies continue to offshore certain technology tasks, a core of highly-skilled technicians must exist in the UK. So, how can we get kids interested in the behind-the-scenes coding that supports their multi-tasking lifestyle?

 One possibility comes in the form of Google’s App Inventor, a system that claims to enable non-coders to develop Android software. Instead of writing code, interested individuals visually design the way an app looks and use blocks to specify software behaviour.

 The plus point, at least as far as getting junior programmers on board, is that App Inventor is easy to use. Code is simply snapped together to allow basic events to take place.

 That, however, is also part of the problem. As developers become more adept, the limitations of snapping blocks together – in comparison to being able to write code – become exposed.

 As Darien Graham-Smith concluded in a recent review of App Inventor for PC Pro (see further reading: “Anyone with the programming nous to make full use of App Inventor’s abilities will surely prefer a language that doesn’t force you to pedantically assemble every function, procedure and event out of multicoloured blocks.”

 Google acknowledges App Inventors’ educational route, paying deference to MIT’s Scratch project. But while the system is driven by an educational perspective, it remains restricted by its approach. In fact, Graham-Smith believes App Inventor could actually drive people away from programming unless the Blocks Editor improves.

 The system is, in short, a nice attempt to get people interested in the finer elements of programming. But successful apps are inherently much more complex than pushing Lego together.

Further reading:

 http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2010/08/19/242454/A-level-results-mark-39worrying-trend39-for-IT.htm

 http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2010/09/07/googles-app-inventor/

 http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/about/

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:

 http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1372013

 http://www.pcr-online.biz/news/34555/Android-to-Become-No-2-worldwide-mobile-OS

 http://gizmodo.com/333536/whats-wrong-with-windows-mobile-and-how-wm7-and-wm8-are-going-to-fix-it

Make sure your UI is not lipstick on a pig

December 13, 2010

Are you working on the next generation user interface? If you are, are you designing for multiple devices or are you simply putting lipstick on a pig?

 There is a lot of development work underway with regards to handheld and tablet devices. There needs to be, too – everything that has happened during 2010 continues to point to the long-term dominance of mobile computing.

 Apple pushes more and more new devices, Google’s Android has become an operating mainstay and Microsoft – probably the first company to really suggest that the future of computing would be tablet-based a decade ago – want to muscle back into the action.

 Attention in the media has recently been directed to Microsoft’s move into the mobile space. The firm is likely to have a busy end to the year, with the buzz surrounding the anticipated release of Windows 7 Mobile and a possible tablet device (see further reading, below).

 For now, Windows users will have to be content with development around the margins. One such development is UI Centric’s custom Windows 7 tablet user interface, codenamed Macallan. An article analysing the UI (see further reading) claimed the results were “pretty incredible”.

 The custom interface is still to be released, so claims of yet another “iPad killer” are very much up for debate. But the UI Centric development – and other potential Windows 7 Mobile devices from manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and HTC – shows that the mobile market continues to evolve and grow.

 What UI designers must avoid as the mobile market emerges is to “put lipstick on a pig”, as one anonymous poster commented with regards to the UI Centric Windows 7 tablet. That seems harsh with regards to “Macallan”, which at least demonstrates the strength in potential of UI designs that are created with a particular device in-mind.

 One of the key principles of a successful “multi-device strategy” must be to design for the device. The mobile market remains extremely fragmented and UI developers will have to think of how users will get the best of a particular device with a specific operating system.

 As I have mentioned in my blog before, the smart guys are already moving from a mobile strategy to a multi-device strategy. What is important – rather than the device itself – is the wider approach being taken, which demonstrates how applications and data must be accessed in a similar format on different devices.

 Design for the device but always think of a multi-device strategy and how elements can be ported and re-used. Fail to think in such a manner and you could find that you’ve even managed to put the wrong lipstick on the wrong pig.

Further reading:

 http://www.rethink-wireless.com/2010/08/25/lg-c900-windows-phone-7-approved-fcc.htm

 http://thenextweb.com/mobile/2010/08/01/ui-centric-proves-a-windows-7-tablet-could-beat-the-ipad-at-its-own-game/


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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

 http://www.infoq.com/news/2010/08/future-native-apps


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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:

 http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1306513

 http://www.finextra.com/news/announcement.aspx?pressreleaseid=34183


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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

 http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Blockbuster-Selects-Sonoa-Systems-to-Power-Multi-Device-Strategy-1160292.htm

 http://www.von.com/news/2010/05/at-t-debuts-u-verse-online-touts-multi-device-str.aspx

 http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/05/27/verizon.4g.may.cost.for.bandwidth.not.devices/

 http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/06/apple_brings_ibooks_to_iphone_stepping_up_competiton_with_amazon.html


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Fat client / Rich client / Mobile client

October 8, 2010

It’s a given that you’d better get online if you want to reach out to your customers. With more and more people having mobile access to the internet, firms need software that can help clients to interact on the move.

Step forward web-based rich internet applications (RIAs), which are online tools that have many of the features of their desktop counterparts. The use of RIAs date back a decade but their use continues to evolve.

As analyst Gartner concludes in respect to enterprise-level adoption (see further reading, below), RIA platforms are still in a dynamic and early adopter phase of market evolution. What is certain is that the RIA market is highly competitive.

 As well as the most distinct and prominent flavours, Apple pushes the use of its own software. Such divisions are inherent to the RIA market and competition is now taking a specific route.

 Most RIAs are splitting into two distinct groups: client technology, where a specific app – such as Silverlight or Flex – is installed into the client; or the server-based and Ajax route, where users only need a browser and no other client requirements.

 The distinction between the two approaches is such that Gartner considers Ajax and client-based RIAs as similar but separate technologies. Many firms choose to opt for the client approach – but for me, going with the client approach seems like a backwards step. It like we’re re-inventing the battle between desktop and browser apps, only this time both options are in the browser.

 First, users normally need to install a specific framework that executes the RIA before an application can launch. In Java-based alternatives like Ajax, there is no installation requirement – built-in browser functionality means required components are kept server-side.

 Second, the line between the desktop and the browser is blurring (see further reading). The browser is increasingly seen as the operating system, with individuals able to securely access social networking, music streaming and enterprise applications via the browser.

 Take note, however, that going for development via the browser is not a standalone decision. Businesses must also consider mobile development – and must avoid relying on a specific toolset for mobile development.

 Get the decision wrong and you can find your business in a similar platform-specific cul-de-sac, this time on the mobile rather than the desktop. By going with a mix of HTML/Javascript and Ajax-server based technologies, your business can use the same developers on desktop and mobile environments.

 HTML/Javascript and server-based Ajax is the route that will allow you to reach out to an increasingly mobile and browser-based audience. And in the future, it’s a combination that will help your business cope with the increasing range of screen sizes.

 Open source development frameworks like Rhodes and PhoneGap allow skilled web specialists to write once and deploy anywhere, creating mobile apps that have access to local device functions like camera, contacts and GPS.

 If you want to give your software the greatest reach, make sure your web-based developments take a direction that allows you to serve your savvy customers.

Further reading

 http://www.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?doc_cd=164266

 http://www.computerworlduk.com/TOOLBOX/OPEN-SOURCE/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=2389&blogid=22&tsb=comment


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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

 http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/nov09/11-17pdc1pr.mspx

 http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/intel-launches-new-tablet-netbook-classmate-pc-hybrid-685842


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