Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
By Toni Nikkanen
Qt Developer Days, hosted by Nokia Qt Development Frameworks 24.-26th of October 2011 in Munich, Germany, was an event packed with developers, exhibitors and expectations.
The Tuesday morning keynote session was hosted by Alexandra Leisse, Qt's Web Community Manager. The first keynote speaker was Marco Argenti, Nokia's SVP of Developer Experience. His main message was that despite the strategic shift to Windows Phone, Qt continues to be important for Nokia and Nokia developers: over 100 million Qt phones have been shipped (Symbian, N9) with millions more still going to ship, and 90M apps are downloaded from the Nokia Store every day. What I would have liked to hear is how much money developers are making with Qt apps on Nokia Store right now.
"Qt for the next billion" was given as the reason why Qt will continue to matter for Nokia in the future: Nokia will make affordable phones that will have apps, and Qt is at the centre of this plan. Unfortunately this was not further elaborated. For the credibility of Qt, Nokia should communicate their future Qt plans more clearly. With Qt 4.8 being the last version of Qt for Symbian, some people even asked does this mean Qt 5 will be irrelevant for the mobile device sector? The answer was that Qt 5 will be very important for Nokia's mobile device plans, but they simply can't speak openly about it for now. My guess is that the planned release schedule (first half of 2012) for Qt 5 will coincide with product releases from Nokia.
Argenti also said Nokia has finally addressed the lack of Qt on Windows Phones, having released porting guides both from Qt to Windows Phone, but also from Windows Phone to Qt.
The major next steps for Qt will be the 1H 2012 release of Qt 5, and the move to Open Governance. Qt 5 will introduce several new features and improvements, such as increased modularity, small footprint, major upgrade of Qt Quick to version 2.0 with 10 major new features, an all-new graphics stack, and moving all platforms to use the QPA (Qt Platform Abstraction) system. On platforms with OpenGL (ES) support, the new graphics stack will perform about 2.5x fast as Qt 4.x, which could enable apps written using Qt to perform well on less powerful devices than currently possible. Open Governance means Qt is now developed entirely in the open, with collaboration and contributions welcomed.
Picture: Jari Saarhelo at Teleca being interviewed on NFC solutions.
After the keynotes it was time to head for the technical sessions. I gained lots of useful information on topics such as optimizing Qt Quick apps, Qt Quick 3D, persistent object storage for Qt Quick, and Qt on Android. It was intriguing to see how far the Qt for Android project has gotten to and that it is actually quite easy to make and sell a Qt app on the Android Market. And I was glad to find out how little rocket science or college math you need to remember in order to take advantage of 3D graphics using Qt Quick 3D.
I also browsed through the exhibitions and noted that while a lot of the exhibitors were Nokia subcontractors or partners, there were also many companies that have no other tie to Nokia other than that they use Qt, or offer services related to Qt. Qt wasn't an all-Nokia show before Nokia's acquisition of Trolltech in 2008, and today it still isn't. Qt always was, and still is, first and foremost a high-quality cross-platform application development framework with Nokia platforms being just one out of many possible platforms you can target with it.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Notably, a big topic at this year’s show is electromobility. As consumers are more and more looking for fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly cars, all major brands are showing either hybrid or electric models. Telematics services are considered to be of particular interest to owners of electric vehicles.
Next generation In-vehicle infotainment is also a big topic at the show and solutions range from fully integrated infotainment modules featuring internet access, maps, streaming media and innovative ways of interaction such as gesture control and head-up displays for the premium segment down to innovative solutions of using a tablet PC as center stack touch control and display, especially targeting the cost-sensitive IVI market for electric vehicles. Android is widely considered for aftermarket IVI solutions due to its superior functionality, but only plays a minor role for in-dash solutions.
Within our newly established Automotive Business Unit, Teleca is already engaged in building next generation In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems. Expect to see some of the products that have been enabled by Teleca at Frankfurt Motor Show 2013. See you there!
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
By Krishna Kumar
It is great to proudly announce that two of my articles have appeared today in The Economic Times, and Deccan Herald;
Article 1 - The new Telecom Policy lags practice [The Economic Times, Editorial page, page 16, Co-authored with Dr Sridhar]. The article discusses about issues of roaming in 3G and Broadband Wireless Access services for data services; benchmark initiatives in the European Union on data roaming regulation; recent market developments in this area; initiatives on spectrum re- farming and spectrum sharing without appropriate policies; hence the need to legitimize these initiatives. Link to article»
Article 2 - Take charge & go-ahead! It is your career [Deccan Herald, Avenues supplement]. This article tries to look at some of the beliefs and practical aspects of career planning. Organizations can only play a supportive role. Among other things, longevity in an organization and focusing on soft skills would certainly provide the right impetus for growth. Link to article»
I hope you enjoy reading!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
By G Krishna Kumar
Not too far in the future, HTML5 could share platform space in the mobile apps market.
Remember the frenzy created by the mobile phone game “Angry Birds”, which was first launched on Apple's mobile operating system, iOS? Not only is the game available on leading mobile platforms now, thanks to its popularity, but also, the usage of words “Angry” or “Birds” in other application names has increased manifold over the past one year, states Distimo, a company that studies the mobile applications market.
In general, every time ‘a cool application' is available on Apple's application store, the immediate response from a non-Apple smartphone or tablet user is to check whether the same application is available with the Android Market Place, OVI store or Windows Market Place.
Wouldn't it be great to see an application on all platforms at once? But before we look for answers, let's first take a quick look at the global business opportunity for mobile applications.
Is the market Big enough?
According to Gartner, globally, mobile application store revenue is projected to surpass $15.1 billion in 2011, both from end-users buying applications, and applications themselves generating advertising revenue for their developers. By 2014, the revenue is expected to touch over $58 billion.
Worldwide, mobile application store downloads are forecast to reach 17.7 billion downloads in 2011 and by the end of 2014, Gartner forecasts that over 185 billion applications will have been downloaded from mobile application stores. Free downloads are forecast to account for 81 per cent of total mobile application store downloads in 2011.
A study by Zokem, provider of mobile analytics, reveals that in smartphones, the share of application usage is overwhelming — it achieves almost six times more face time than web browsing.
In tablets, however, the difference is not so significant with 39 per cent of face time allocated to web browser and 61 per cent to applications. Studies have revealed that two-thirds of smartphone usage go into non-voice call-related activities.
With tablets gaining momentum and device users willing to pay for high-quality applications, the applications market will remain upbeat over the foreseeable future. Due to the opportunity size, developers and application stores are under pressure to create the best user experience and to provide quickest time-to-market.
Native Applications route
As of now, the traditional approach to application development for smartphones and tablet devices is to use the native Application Development route. This means applications are developed separately for iPhone, or on Google's Android platform.
Such custom-built applications utilise all the functionalities and capabilities of the device and provide excellent user experience. However, the biggest drawback is the cost involved due to extremely low reusability of software code.
Just imagine trying to develop the same application from scratch for four different platforms.
Zokem's March 2011 report indicates that email, gaming and music content are consumed more using native applications.
There are quite a few cloud-based application builders or application-creators that enable developers to create applications on multiple platforms/devices at once.
However, these app-creators don't exploit the platform-specific functionalities and are unable to match the rich user experience as compared with the native applications.
The app creator/builder market is nascent with many more trying to tap this space. This generic ‘create-once and run anywhere' is not hugely successful as yet. Is this going to change dramatically with the advent of HTML5?
HTML5 is the fifth generation of Hyper Text Markup Language, the popular web standard. Technology industry leaders such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and hardware manufacturers support it. There is expectation that HTML5 will be the “true” multi-platform application development technology.
HTML5 would enable browser-based applications and also stand-alone applications, including off-line applications. It supports multimedia content through video and audio tag, location-based information using Geo Location APIs (application program interface) and can also access the native platform.
With browser being the core of HTML5, applications can work on “any” platform or device, including PC, smartphone or tablet, with minimal device-specific changes for stand-alone applications. That would mean a huge cost saving, compared with the native applications.
Currently, Flash is the undisputed leader for multimedia support on browsers. However, the HTML5 ecosystem is gaining momentum.
For example, WebM, an open source project, has been created to provide rich multimedia user experience on the Web. YouTube supports WebM in addition to its existing formats as part of its HTML5 experiment. Among other aspects, WebM is aimed at supporting low computational footprint to enable playback on hand-held devices.
HTML5 would be welcomed by publishing companies. Financial Times, for instance, recently announced an HTML5-based application to attract digital subscribers.
Though, there are not many mobile applications based on it as yet, HTML5 is an evolving technology. McKinsey estimates that more than 50 per cent of all mobile applications will switch to HTML5 within three to five years.
HTML5 would be a clear winner in the web/cloud intensive mobile application space, while native applications would lead the computation-intensive contexts. Essentially, HTML5 and native applications are poised to co-exist over the foreseeable future!
(The author is Director – Engineering, Teleca Software Solutions India. Views are personal.)
Thursday, July 21, 2011
How do you like the idea of paying bus fare by just flashing your mobile phone before the Conductor? The mobile phone, using a technology called Near field communication (NFC), communicates with a device in the bus and the amount is debited from your bank account.
NFC is gaining popularity across the world and is set to revolutionise mobile commerce. Though NFC is in nascent stages in India, it may hold the key to make mobile commerce popular in the country.
Early this year Bharti Airtel launched prepaid cash cards in India, the Airtel Money service. The service, which allows customers to use their mobile phones to make payments, is now available in Gurgaon and Airtel plans to launch it across the country.
Mobile commerce is quite popular in the West and research shows that 91 per cent of UK consumers use it. But in India it is yet to take off. Debit cards, which the mobile money can potentially replace, are easier to carry and help you draw cash. Mobile money providers typically charge transaction and subscription fee and face the challenging task of ensuring universal acceptability of their ‘money’. The law also limits the amount of money which can be transacted through mobiles.
A recent Forrester report expects global m-commerce to reach $31 billion by 2016. For that to happen rural areas may have to step in, in a big way.
Approximately 72 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to be “unbanked”. The mobile phone, which is becoming ubiquitous even in the developing countries, offers an excellent platform to take banking to them. Studies suggest that an increase in the banked population has a direct correlation to increased GDP and reduced poverty.
Kenya has emerged as a leader in mobile banking system with M-PESA, which was launched in 2007 by Safaricom, a mobile Operator. M-PESA is an SMS based, branch-less system that allows individuals to deposit, send and withdraw money using their mobile phone. M-PESA has over 14 Million customers, representing 60 per cent of the adult population.
Pakistan’s Easy Paisa, Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank’s Mobile money are among other initiatives trying to replicate M-PESA’s success.
In India, regulators like RBI and TRAI, several banks, mobile service providers and phone makers are joining hands to take m-commerce to the “unbanked” population.
Eko, a mobile banking technology provider, has tied up with SBI and ICICI banks. It helps people create a bank account and perform basic transactions at local Kirana shops.
Idea Cellular has a similar partnership with Axis Bank. Subscribers would be able to open ‘No-frills savings bank accounts’ at Idea’s retail outlets and avail basic banking services such as cash deposit, withdrawal and transfer. Idea is currently offering the remittance facility in the Dharavi-Allahabad corridor. There have been similar initiatives from Vodafone and Bharti Airtel as well.
Fifty-two per cent of India’s adult population does not have access to any form of formal financial services. With the rising tele-density there is good potential for business.
According to the latest BCG report, the projected fee-based revenue from mobile commerce could exceed $4.5 billion by 2015 in India. This revenue would be shared by banks, mobile service providers and device manufacturers.
A major bottle-neck in mobile commerce in rural areas lies in meeting the Know-your-customer (KYC) norms. Kenya’s National ID system, eliminated the need for KYC norms and played a key role in M-PESA’s success. That is precisely the role India’s Aadhar project is planning to play. If it succeeds, mobile commerce would get a big boost. But to really make it happen banks and telcos have to build awareness among people by promoting it aggressively.
(The writer is Director-Engineering at Teleca Software Solutions India. Views expressed are personal)
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
By Robert Kempf
The hope for the 3rd ecosystem and partnering for success.
This year’s Open Mobile Summit in London at June 10th was an exciting event with a great line-up of executives from the mobile devices, operator, publishing, banking and content industry. It was again all about the very dynamic changes in the value chain and the implications on monetization points and strategies.
With companies who made a winning bet given the changing industry dynamics, through emerging players trying to find their spot and highly challenged established players a broad range of different perspectives were given. Some of the highlights and trends are summarized below:
Operators: success through partnering. Though there is still high focus on a branded service experience, leveraging and customizing existing solutions including the content is seen as the most promising route forward. This partnering model will allow for a better risk and reward model creating a win:win for operators and service/content providers and will at the same time increase the ability to not only act as a bit pipe for operators .
Nokia: It is all about creating the 3rd ecosystem. Stephen Elop was evangelizing that besides Apple and Android, Nokia sees space for a 3rd major ecosystem called Windows Phone. Though the presentation was excellent and all key ingredients for creating a successful ecosystem where addressed, the analyst community present at Open Mobile Summit was quite pessimistic about the success changes given the planned timing for the first phone launches and the trends in the other major ecosystems around Apple and Android. Also the rumors of Nokia being acquired by Microsoft, Samsung or other players was a discussion point again.
Mobile Payment: Mobile wallet is coming. There was no doubt about mobile wallet being now adopted on a larger scale though there were different estimations in terms of adoption rate. With major operators, financial institutions and core technology providers backing and pushing mobile payment using NFC and other technologies the year 2012 is seen as the inflection point of mass adoption.
Multiscreen: Content portability across screens. The evolution of modern user interface and application frameworks, not only limited to Flash technology or HTML5, will make multi-screen experience a commodity in the near futures. Content will not be optimized for a single screen size, but will support all types of screens and form factors. Support of different MMI methodologies for different types of devices and specifics on screen layout to adopt for the multitude of form factors will required education of developers and further invest in the operating systems.
Mobile Advertising: Going to the next level. As for private TV, advertising is and will remain one of the main monetization points in the connected devices space. The key trend is from a rather dumb placement of ads in applications and web to an increasingly tailored and customized approach of placing ads meeting end user demand. Besides preferences, behavior and position also the dimension of time will be used more and more to trigger commerce.
Operating systems: Apple, Android – that’s it? Surprisingly the discussions outside the Apple camp did focus only on Android and there was not much discussion around QNX/RIM, Symbian, WebOS or Windows Phone. OEMs seem to be quite satisfied with the freedom they have with Android based on the panel discussion with SonyEricsson, Motorola and LGE participation. There was no sense of fears in the OEM community that Google will significantly change the Android licensing model or will restrict OEMs in their freedom to differentiate. Also interesting to note that no other rising star in the mobile operating space was identified – so seems Android will be around for some time still.
Applications: Native versus WebApps again. The native versus Web application discussion will be ongoing forever, as there are many pros and cons for both which should lead to the conclusion that both are needed. Also at the Open Mobile Summit the discussions were along these lines. Though HTML5 and other technologies enrich the capabilities for Web applications and extend the number of native applications that can now be implemented as Web applications, there is still a large space for native implementations especially when it comes to performance and security critical use cases. The trend towards WebApps will continue at the cost of native applications, but there is no sign that native apps will go away soon.
Outside of these main trends the Angry Birds success story presented by their Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka was an entertaining as well as very insightful experience. Besides the very long way they had to go before coding this number one hit, their ability to monetize on Angry Birds outside the mobile games field got quite some attention. Besides t-shirts and toys we will see other gadgets, comics and animated movies for the Angry Birds fans. So it is all about building and monetizing on a brand…
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
By Harsha Bagur
The hottest news item doing the rounds for the past couple of weeks has been the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft. There have been quite a few suitors and after a lot of speculations, Skype has finally a new home in Microsoft.
Most of the concerns raised by the users about this acquisition have been about what Microsoft is going to do with Skype in future. Skype has, for long, embodied the ethos of the free communication by allowing free voice and video calls, which has benefitted quite a few small-medium sized business setups as well. The future of Skype at the hands of Microsoft is indeed a story worth following over the next few months to come. Another concern has been the multi-platform support of Skype in the coming days to come. Skype has for long been providing regular updates for the Windows, MAC and the Linux platforms. Windows has been the preferred platform to receive the latest updates which would then be provide to the MAC and the Linux platforms. It would be interesting to see whether we would see as active a support as we were used to for the MAC and Linux platforms in the days to come.
Google has been one of the suitors vying for Skype even though it already had Google voice. Facebook was also one of the suitors but was not considered as a serious buyer. Facebook would have indeed benefitted with an integrated Voice and Video service to its more than 600 million users. A conventional approach to provide such an integrated service to such an overwhelming number of users would have incurred a huge cost and an overhead of operating infrastructure.
Microsoft has its own reasons in aggressively pursuing Skype. Starting from the Gingerbread versions of Android, Google has been supporting SIP enabled Voice and Video telephony and moreover, Google has Google Voice at its disposal which can be brought over to the Mobile OS space as well. Apple has Facetime. Microsoft desperately wanted Skype to bridge this gap in its Mobile OS Windows Phone 7. We could also see Microsoft going the Android way and announcing a minimum set of hardware specifications for the Windows Phone 7 devices. We could see the front facing cameras becoming a norm in the coming future for the Smart phones. Windows Phone 7 does definitely seem to hold the potential of pole vaulting the MS mobile OS towards the top of the heap and this deal will definitely give a firm push towards that direction.
Skype deal will also give Microsoft a more direct tie-in to the operator for both the Packet switched voice and video calls. There were early indications already last year with the operators approaching Skype for the Voice calls and we could see more of such deals with the widespread adoption of LTE in the coming future. This would definitely be a revenue generator as well as value add services for both the company as well as the operator. There can also be a flip side with Microsoft beginning to eliminate support for the other mobile platforms and target the future features and value-add services exclusively only for the Windows Phone platform.
Nevertheless, the future of Skype with Microsoft is worth following!
Thursday, May 26, 2011
By Krishna Kumar
Eight of the world’s top 10 most innovative companies of 2011 are in the ICT domain, reports a US based magazine Fast Company. Not surprisingly, all of these are product companies. While India is the largest exporter of ICT services, generating revenue of $76 billion from the IT sector, but products contribute to less than 2%. India’s contribution to technology innovation is negligible.The product companies witness non-linear growth (not proportionate to the head count)—the revenue per employee or profit per employee of Google or Microsoft is over 20 times that of India’s top services companies. Also, these technology giants serve as a beacon and are the undisputed trendsetters on the world technology road map.
Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE are the world’s leading telecom equipment providers. A report states that 45 of the world’s top 50 telecom companies use Huawei products. What more recognition is needed? These companies have full backing from the Chinese government and the government also supports R&D initiatives—for example, the TD-SCDMA technology that competes with the global wireless 3G standards. Is there an Indian company that can compete with Huawei/ZTE? India has lagged behind China and Taiwan in the capital-intensive electronics hardware manufacturing industry also. But the recent policy push from the department of IT to encourage semiconductor wafer fabrication, electronics and telecom product manufacturing is a welcome move. Also, Trai recently made a recommendation for promoting domestic manufacturing of telecom products.
The loss-making PSU Indian Telephone Industries, once the flagship telecom switch and telephone maker in the country, failed miserably during the telecom boom due to lack of vision from the government. But the case is different with ISRO, whose success could be attributed to the autonomy it enjoys. Another example of a tech-savvy initiative is the UID programme Aadhar, which, though far from fully implemented, has proved that India can implement large-scale technological projects.
Although the domestic demand for IT products is increasing, most Indian product companies are yet to penetrate the market. The only exception is the banking software industry where India has emerged as a leader in core banking solutions offered by Infosys and Oracle-India. Yet Infosys’s products business generates only about 5% of the overall revenue. In general, Indian companies are risk averse and prefer to enjoy the safety of services business, hence have not been able to succeed in creating product offerings.
But some Indian IT companies are successful in the outsourced product development (OPD) model, a pseudo ownership model, wherein the independent software vendors (ISVs) are involved in end-to-end product development for the customer but the ISV does not ‘own’ the product. Cloud computing can be a cost-effective and disruptive technology for further growth in OPD and pure-play product development companies. Nasscom indicates that delivery model innovations such as SaaS and innovative revenue models could fuel IT product adoption in future.
BERD (business expenditure on R&D) and patents/IP management are key indicators of a country’s technology innovation capability. An EU commission report on ICT 2011 indicates that India lags behind China and other emerging economies in terms of BERD/GDP. While China has seen a 10-fold increase in the number of patent applications over the past decade, India’s contribution is insignificant. Generating IPs and protecting them is just one part of the story. Realising value from the IP is a different ball game. Appropriateness of the solution is the key.
It must be said that Indian education system lacks an environment that fosters active partnerships between industry and universities. In the advanced countries, research in universities is given high priority and is supported by industry in the form of grants. As per the recent Anil Kakodkar Committee report, India lags way behind China in terms of university research in engineering and technology. The report also emphasises the need for improvement needed in research infrastructure. An OECD report indicates that India has less than one researcher per thousand employed, much below the global average.
Availability of risk capital is a key constraint for product companies to flourish but Nasscom sees an improving trend. Venture capital/angel investor ecosystem has improved significantly. There are 38 incubation centres across the country aimed at encouraging product development initiatives. India has seen 30% CAGR in start-ups over the past 10 years. The product market in India is expected to touch over $15 billion by 2015. The government’s plan to invest R25,000 crore for setting up semiconductor fabs will provide an impetus for hardware-oriented product development.
The government can play a key role in helping start-ups and other companies engaged in software or hardware product development. There are many examples of how government intervention has yielded good results. Tax benefits for software export revolutionised IT industry in India. Israel supported companies working on networking technologies that helped Israel take a leading position in security. Taiwan supported electronic hardware that resulted in the emergence of the original design manufacturer market.
India has been a ‘follower’ in the ICT space and its product development capability has been patchy. It needs to move towards full-fledged product development in order to be a dominant player in the ICT arena. India’s domestic market by itself will offer sizeable opportunities. However, for made-in-India to be a reality, it is imperative that the government aggressively drives a clear road map for technology innovation, encourages product initiatives, supports hardware and semiconductor industry and, most importantly, inculcates ‘product culture’ right at the universities.
Contributed by G Krishna Kumar, Director – Engineering, Teleca Software Solutions India. These are his personal views and published in Financial Express Thursday 26th.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
By Scott Muske
Yesterday's Mobile Northwest UI panel
At yesterday's Mobile Northwest conference I had the priviledge of presenting on a panel on UI/UX with experts from Frog Design, AT&T, UI Evolution, Blink Interactive and Zaaz. Combined, we touch most of the major brands and media companies deploying, building and researching mobile applictions today. Unlike many panels which meet on-stage or moments before the panel starts, we also had the opportunity to have dinner together the night before and really discuss our differing perspectives. Blink Interactive is purely research and Frog design does research and industrial as well as UI design so there was some additional information represented.
As expected, the press had an article up that afternoon quoting Frog Design and AT&T's conclusions that HTML5 "ain't all that". (Duh!!!) They seized on it because it had a big buzzword (HTML5) and it was uttered by two big names. Anyone who's worked with HTML5 knows this, yet the debate on HTML5 replacing applications rages on. I also find it humorous when customers ask me if we have "HTML5 experts." Um, did you ask web designers before if they had HTML3 "experts" or HTML4 "experts?". I think that Ted Woodburry of AT&T said it best when he said that "We'll look back and realize that HTML5 was a step and not a panacea."
There was a divided and healthy debate over whether tablets are "mobile devices". There was no consensus and my summary is that it depends on how you define a "mobile device". What I paid attention to but that most missed was that every company had its own reasons for saying a device was or was not "mobile". One of the more persistent, cross-panel ideas was that after Starbucks said that people will forget their wallet at home and not return to get it but will always return to get their mobile phone, others extrapolated that theme and said that one would not "lend" their phone to a family member or friend for several days but they would a tablet, which says that it's not a mobile device. Hmmmm... I'm not a big fan of trying to define everything into specific "buckets" unless you have a business or technical reason to do so. All of the panel's comments on the topic can be found Here:
I found Hans Gerwitz from Frog Design to be an exceptionally intelligent and insightful expert. When we were asked about "predictions," he made an interesting prediction that some major provider will fork Android (I had to replay that in my mind several times to make sure I heard him right and it made sense once he finished his thought) much in the way that IBM wrested control of Java from Sun and became the leading proponent and developer of Java. I made a more far reaching prediction. I am always perplexed at how technology companies shove technology down users' throats, when all they want is cool, easy and useful. I asked, "why do I, as a user have to know that I'm in an application, on the web or on my desktop? Why do I have to see windows spawn all over the place and "launch" applications?" I predicted that the OS will be a hybrid of "launchers". Users will, some day, be able to choose content, an address or a function or tool and the best experience will be presented to them for their device. No longer will a user have to "launch a browser" or "launch an application" and then go from there.
Some of the questions seemed non-UI related but definitely were. Should designers still consider feature phones, was one? Heck yeah!!!! Once we get out of our bubble and stop drinking our own Kool-Aide we have to realize that most of the world still uses feature phones and even here in the US, most people use feature phones. However, it depends on your target audience. Gilt Group and Blue Nile don't need to worry about feature phones. We also discussed the role that the "Cloud" will play in mobile. There were many insightful and technical analysis provided of the role cloud plays and Hans pointed out the "Cloud-Network". I pointed out that the "Cloud" has always existed and it's another example of marketing people trying to turn technical jargon or slang into a marketing term and it's yet another example of the perennial "Year's Most Over-Used, Over-Hyped Terms" that we'll be sick of next year. At the end of the day, what people care about with regards to the "Cloud" is the ability to get THEIR content and services anywhere, anytiime on any device.
As a panel, we were all in agreement that 3D, Augmented Reality and other new user experiences were coming and that there would be a market for them. However, the hardware is still not quite there and (more importantly) the system as a whole must be improved to make sure that all of the back-end components (the data, the feeds, the quantity of information) are up to speed with the device and application as it is the entire user experience and not just the device or application that determine success or irritation. More importantly, we (as designers) must take care not to shock our users and to "nudge" them into new experiences.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to reall dig deep into User Interface and so some that may have attended the panel looking for design ideas came away disappointed. Heck, initally I was hoping we'd dig into my recent design philosophy of using the "Z" axis and active screens to provide more information to users without sacraficing readability. However, in hindsight I think that this was a good thing. We in technology have a tendancy to focus on the small components. Designers will always come up with cool looking designs....but NEVER is that what makes an application successful. One must always consider the entire experience and that's what the panel focused on. Steve Jobs has a single rule, "If it requires an instruction manual, it's too complicated". Jobs and his disciples (like Guy Kawasaki) always preach simplicity and usefulness. They adhere to user paradigms and performance standards that make up an advanced, yet familiar and useful product. Analyze all of their business and complex, moving parts and you can boil Apple's success to that. Above all, successful UI and UX achieves those same goals.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Today is the second day of the 4th annual Google I/O developer event which opened with another fact filled keynote focusing on the progress of Chrome and HTML5.
With more than 100% YoY growth, new releases every 6 weeks, a user base exceeding 160M worldwide, 70M+ installed apps, Chrome Web store availability globally and in 41 languages the traction for Chrome is continuously increasing bringing the possibilities of HTML5 to a fastly growing community.
At Google I/O we experienced some impressive examples of the Chrome capabilities showcasing speech support, hardware acceleration support, high performance 2D Canvas rendering for sprites as well as high performance WebGL rendering and 3D CAD modeling capabilities using HTML5 based web applications.
It was nice to hear that application purchases are now a simple one click solution, but much more important for developers was the announcement that Google will only take a flat fee of 5% transaction cost for application purchases on the web. This was a key talking point outside the keynote and certainly seems be a move that resonates well with developers and lays down a marker to industry that Google is serious about Chrome.
However, there were more important things to announce – at least for the Angry Birds fans amongst us: Angry Birds is now available as a Web App!
Though it is not the game with the richest and most demanding graphical experience it shows nonetheless the new possibilities enabled with HTML5. The experience showcased was very smooth and I’m looking forward to trying out the Chrome specific levels soon…
That’s it about the Chrome browser and HTML5, but wasn’t there something else planned beyond the browser? Yes, there was and in fact the Chrome OS was the next big topic of the keynote. Finally the first commercial Chromebooks a ready to launch offering an web centric, instant on, automatically updated and all day battery life experience. It was nice to see what improvements were made in terms of file browser support, media player and web services but the big wow effect was missing. With the first Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung being priced in the range of $350-$450 there was not a real unique selling point presented that would motivate people to go with Chromebooks instead of a standard Netbook that are equally priced. Moreover the ability of Android to support Notebooks as depicted in the day one keynote leaves a big question mark on the Chrome OS future. Having said that I’m very keen to try them out and I hope that the actual hands-on experience will provide that spark of excitement.
Talking about Chrome OS I was surprised to see that Google will enter a new business area by offering an enterprise and educational use managed service for $28 and $20 per month and user respectively which covers hardware, software support and device replacement services. Google stated that their research indicated that up to 75% of existing enterprise users could be switched to Chromebooks without reducing their productivity. Given that more and more of the enterprise applications are cloud based and knowing about the still horrendous IT cost for enterprises this might turn into a successful business moving forward. In announcing this Google stated that the average PC support cost is $3,000-5,000 per year so this is clearly a very aggressive move and one that could for many companies provide significant cost savings.
Some interesting technical sessions also took place after the keynote covering the comparison of HTML5 and native applications, game development, Android for enterprise use, updates on Android market, … But as one might expect, no further groundbreaking news were presented in these – though I’m still a bit disappointed that I did not know about the game development session after which every participant got a Xperia Play for free. Better luck next time ;-)
Overall Google I/O was again a great conference to be at and when I’m looking back it is incredible to see what happened in the last 2 years – the evolution of HTML5, the global success of Android and its shiny future, new Google services like movie and music and many more make this an very exciting journey to be part of. Will be back in 2012….
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
By Andrew Till
Yesterday was the first day of the 4th annual Google I/O developer event and what a day it was. Google opened the event with a fact filled keynote showing the progress of Android such as:
· 36 OEMs
· 312 device models
· 100M devices activated
· 200,000 apps now available
· 4.5 b apps downloads
· 500m apps downloaded per month
· 112 countries shipping Android devices
And when they had let us pause for breath they hit us with news of the new upcoming releases. The first was the announcement of Honeycomb 3.1 which will be shipping in a few weeks time and includes a number of much sought after features such as a more advanced task switcher, USB Host support so that you will be able to connect standard USB peripherals to you Android device, Scalable widgets and support for GoogleTV (2.0) with a free upgrade for existing Google TV subscribers. And just to be clear Google also confirmed that Honeycomb will not be open sourced but this is not standard policy for future releases.
Following this was the formal announcement of IceCream Sandwich (ICS) which included, to loud applause, the unveiling of a new logo and confirmation of key features such as new apps framework APIs, significant improvements to the video and camera functionality including face tracking and speaker recognition for video conferencing. But perhaps the most significant announcement was that ICS will be used as the single OS and UI platform for all Android device form factors moving forwards.
This was followed up by two key service announcements the availability of Google Movies for Movie Rentals and Music Beta. Both are full cloud based solutions and underline the importance of the GMS services as a platform differentiator for Android. With a similar announcement expected from Apple on cloud based Music services in June Google was clearly laying down a marker that it fully intends to take on Apple and iOS head to head (which was also clear from much of the artwork used in the keynote).
While much of the above had been expected the next announcement was much more of a surprise. This was the news that ICS will support a new set of APIs for supporting HW accessories what can be controlled by your Android device or can interact intelligently with your Android device. Thus this brings in to the Android community a whole new development community that is much more familiar with building HW than SW. Google is also providing an open source reference HW design for developers and for those of us who went to the breakout sessions we were able to get our hands on the first version. Full Android source and firmware for the reference HW will be made available from Android.accessories.com from today.
Google demonstrated a couple of interesting use cases the first being intelligent control of the home lighting system while playing a game to really enhance the mood and the second being a smart exercise bike that when you connect your Android phone was able to control a game on the phone (the speed of the rider controlled the higher of a character in the game). This is certainly an exciting development especially when combined with the USB Host support and will open up a lot of new use cases and vertical markets to the benefit of Android. It also has the potential to position Google strong in the home and work environments in a much broader way with your device able to fully interact with its surroundings.
Of course there were then many more updates and announcements in the break out groups but for the ask of brevity I will focus on just one here NFC. NFC was pushed as a key enabling technology that further builds on theme of interacting with your surrounds (via NFC tags) as well as enabling new consumer use cases around content sharing. Of particular focus was using NFC to set up Bluetooth connectivity between devices by just touching them together and thus removing the need for complex BT pairing sessions. Google also disclosed that ICS will focus strongly on leveraging NFC to deliver Zero Click sharing of contact information, URLs and Youtube/web videos with some very nice features such as call back support (so when you share a web video you can also share the play point) and ground dispatch to enable an application to capture all incoming NFC tags.
And perhaps the most important question that was answered during the day was “will Google still provide us with great giveaways” which was the source of much debate before the show opened. The simple answer is YES and I think Samsung for my pre-release Galaxy Tab 10.1 and am eagerly looking forward to the 3.1 upgrade due in a couple of weeks.
That’s all for day one. Come back tomorrow for another update.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
By James Salter
Teleca wrapped up an interesting week in Detroit for the annual SAE 2011 World Congress (Society of Automotive Engineers) conference April 12-14. While the automotive industry and the Detroit area have both taken their lumps in the past few years, there is renewed optimism on all fronts. SAE 2011 was better attended than last year and most of the big automakers were present with large booths.
The main focus of the event was on new technologies: hybrid and electric vehicles and new dashboard displays dominated many of the booths. Most of the big automakers will be releasing pure electric cars in the next year or so if they already don’t offer one. A good number of engineers who visited the Teleca booth were very interested in our talents with the Android platform as proprietary closed systems are getting replaced. This will pose some interesting opportunities for the industry as it demands a set of standards for in-vehicle technologies.
How will start-up times be met with increasing functionalities added over time for these dashboard systems? Will the OEMs allow for mobile applications onto their own infotainment units or set up their own Android storefronts? Whatever the answers, it is clear that the industry requires partnering with new players that understand the industry, the hardware to software connectivity issues and the different open source or standardized platforms to choose from.
A final thanks to the GENIVI Alliance. Teleca team members had a great time at the dinner networking event hosted by GENIVI on April 13th. The event allowed members to showcase their demos and discuss the alliance's achievements and membership benefits. Teleca was able to demonstrate Meego on a Freescale unit with touchscreen functionality. Look for more exciting demonstrations of Teleca’s expertise in automotive at the upcoming GENIVI all members meeting in Dublin, Ireland on May 4-6 and at the Telematics Update 2011 on June 8-9 in Novi, MI.
Monday, April 18, 2011
In October 2010 I have announced within this blog that the Incremental Scenario Testing Tool (ISTT) will be published as Open Source.
Since November the IST tool can be downloaded on SourceForge: http://sourceforge.net/projects/istt.
To advertise this great methodology I have published an article in the Testing Experience magazine (http://www.testingexperience.com) in the December issue about Open Source projects. Listing IST on opensourcetesting.org pushed the public interest even more. And the results are amazing: Almost 500 downloads from 57 countries so far! Almost every day ISTT is downloaded. India seems to be most interested in the tool – 113 downloads until now means rank #1. US (52 downloads), Germany (46 downloads) and UK (24 downloads) are following. Even some people from New Zealand, South Africa and Panama have tried it!
However the feedback could be more verbose: 9 users on SourceForge like the project, but unfortunately nobody has written a review so far.
On the other hand the recognition of IST in Teleca is increasing. Couple of projects are investigating the usage or are already testing with the IST approach.
And the community is growing, I’m not the only one anymore developing ISTT further. Some colleagues from Lodz are implementing features needed in their project!
As you see, the methodology and the tool are continuously improved, we have published already 6 updates and the 7th including cool new features is in preparation.
So just stay tuned or try it, use it, love it ;-)