Posts Tagged ‘mutliple access devices’

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

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Is the growth of Mobile Apps overhyped?

March 22, 2012

There are numerous statistics on the growth of mobile apps in the various stores, and also about the number of downloads. Apple claims over 500,000 apps in its store and Google claims over 450,000 (this time last year it had only 150,000). The number of apps, downloads and rate of growth is phenomenal.

Is this just a temporary fever or will this growth continue, and if so what will drive it?

I believe this growth has only just started and that there are two key trends that will drive this growth further.

Firstly, development for smartphones will get simpler. VisionMobile’s latest survey profiles over a hundred development tools for creating mobile apps. My guess is that is a very conservative estimate of the actual number of tools out there.

A common goal for many of these providers is to make programming simpler so that more people can code. For some, this goes further, to the extent that tools are being created for children to develop apps at school. So more developers will mean more apps!

Secondly and this for me is the more exciting aspect, is that phones will do more, which means that apps will get more innovative.

Today there are a wide variety of apps already, some of which use features of the phone itself like the camera, GPS or microphone. Coming down the line are many more features that will get embedded into phones, for example the ability to detect a user emotions and the ability to monitor a users health. Such features will drive yet more applications and innovations from personal healthcare to fraud detection.

Apart from new features, phones will start interact with other devices such as your TV. At a simple level, your smartphone can be already be used as a remote control for your TV or to join in with live TV quiz shows. Already phones are interacting with cars, and this integration will inevitably go further, so that your engine management system feeds your phone with data that an app can use.

Recent surveys from recruitment agencies highlight the growing demand for mobile developers, and more interestingly the re-skilling of developers to position themselves for this growth.

Exciting times are ahead for developers and entrepreneurs who will show that Angry Birds isn’t the only way to make big money in mobile.

Future of the mobile phone (part 1)

March 1, 2012

For a few months now I’ve been having conversations with colleagues, friends and family about the future of phones, sad I know but at heart I am still a geek ;o).

I see three possible futures for mobile form factors. Phablets, smartphones, phone jewellery (starting with watches and bracelets, then other jewellery).

The smartphone we all know and love. Multi-functional it is technologists answer to the swiss army knife. This is currently the most popular form and for many will continue for years to come. However, the downside to this is that screen estate is limited and the need to zoom and scroll detracts from any serious browsing.

This has brought an opportunity to try a new form factor, the “Phablet” (phone-tablet), a phone that is not as big as a tablet, but not as small as a phone. The Galaxy Note is a good example, with a 5.3 inch screen it’s a little big for a phone, and perhaps too small to be called a tablet.

What’s interesting though is that the screen resolution (1280×800) matches most current tablets, and is better than many of the earlier tablets, so what you get on the screen is the same amount of information as a tablet. This for some will solve the problem of having to carry a phone AND a tablet.

However for some people a phone needs to be a phone and nothing more. For my wife, for instance, ideally this would be not much bigger than the size of a lipstick and just as simple to use. Phone size and weight can place a burden in pockets so going smaller also makes sense. In addition to that there mobility makes them easier to lose, which can be a real issue for most people.

There are already phones in watches, and there are some great prototypes of bracelet style watches. As batteries improve I can see phones being embedded into other jewellery also such as pendants or earings. This is approach is great from a security perspective as people tend to lose more phones than their watch or bracelet, and with mobile payments this may become an important factor.

The smartphone itself may yet bite back, there have already been concepts of smartphones with projectors and ones with roll-out screens that solve the issue of screen estate. Other concepts include “flexible phones”, phones that are so thin that they can flex. In fact Nokia has taken this further so that the phone has “flex-gestures” for example bending the phone up or down scrolls pages.

Or will we become phones ourselves? Will we have bionic implants?

So what do you think? Will you wear you phone, carry it or will you be a phone?

HTML5 The proprietary standard

October 16, 2011

The good thing about standards is that they are uniform across different vendor implementation. Well that is at least the primary goal. So how does a vendor make a standard proprietary?

Well it’s quite easy really you provide extensions to the standard for features that are not yet implemented in the standard. Vendors wouldn’t be that unscrupulous would they? For example would they create application servers following standards but add their own extensions to “hook you in”, sorry I mean to add value beyond what the standards provide ;o)

I’m sure Microsoft’s announcement at Build to allow developers to create Windows 8 Metro applications using HTML5 and Javascript took many Microsoft developers by surprise. What is Microsoft’s game plan with this?

Optimists will cry that it opens Metro development out to the wider base of web developers rather than just to the closed Microsoft community. Cynic’s will argue that it is an evil ploy for Microsoft to play the open card whilst actually hooking you into their proprietary OS. In the cynics corner a good example is Microsoft’s defiant stance of Direct3D versus the open standard alternative OpenGL. This has lead to Google developing Angle, effectively allowing OpenGL calls to be translated into Direct3D ones so that the same programmes can be run on Microsoft platforms.

Whatever it is developers aiming for cross platform conformance will need to stay sharp to ensure that proprietary extensions do not make the application incompatible in different environments.

Adobe’s recent donation of CSS Shaders shows a more charitable approach whereby extensions are donated back to the standards bodies to make the “value added” features available to every platform. This is largely the approach in which standards evolve, with independent committee’s validating vendor contributions.

So what is Microsoft’s game? It’s too early to really say whether there is an altruistic angle on their support for HTML5 and JS, but history has shown us that the empire is not afraid to strike back. Look at their collaboration with IBM on OS/2 leading them to leave IBM in lurch with their own launch of Windows NT. A similar approach occurred not long after with with Sybase and Sql Server.

I maybe a cynic, but having been a Windows developer from Windows 1.0 to Windows NT and following a road of promises and U turns has made me that way when it comes to Microsoft. It’s great to see increasing support for HTML5 but I am always a little concerned with the motivations of the Redmond camp. However perhaps I myself need to be “open” to a different Microsoft, one that is embracing standards even though it may cannibalize it’s own Silverlight technology.

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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