Thursday, July 28, 2011

Will mobile apps sing new tune? July 28th

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

Mobile commerce awaits a rural destiny in India July 21st

By G Krishna Kumar

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

Microsoft Partner conf -Is cloud the answer? July 14th

By Jari Saarhelo

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference Los Angeles – July 10th – 14th

The conference this year gathered a huge audience of 15 000 visitors to listen to the latest and greatest developments from Microsoft. A great line-up of executives from Microsoft, their partners and customers was present. It was all about cloud computing with Azure and succeeding together with the partners.

Migrating to cloud can bring huge productivity gains, whether it is Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon cloud or something else. Some of the key benefits are:

Instant access to a worldwide back-end infrastructure. Cloud computing removes the lead time required to setup a back-end system. The infrastructure is there and you can start leveraging that as soon as your software is ready to do that. A traditional up-front investment is replaced with operating costs, which occur only when you are already running a billable service.

Pay only for capacity used. There is no need to commit to a certain amount of back-end capacity in advance. Instead, you can instantly expand the capacity, if the need should occur, which means that you can respond much better to the real needs of your customers. The whole capacity planning problem of the traditional back-end systems is removed – before cloud if you reserved too much capacity you had an extra cost, if you reserved too little, you had dissatisfied customers.

Availability and scalability. You don’t need to organize and manage hosting and worry about availability and scalability of your system – it is there and works.

Cloud services reduce the barrier of entry and the cost for offering a global service, which means that there will be lots of new cloud enabled applications coming to the market. The small and medium sized enterprises will be able to enter a market, which was practically closed for them before.

And you? If you are not using cloud right now, I bet you are in a year from now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Inside to tablets and new technologies; QNX and more -July 1st

By Sergey Priporov

There was a “silent” event in Q1 2011 which was almost missed in press releases.
RIM announced the start of shipment of the Tablet device based on new Tablet OS (based on QNX). You can say that there are many new tablet devices are coming from different manufactures each quarter and this device is small part of this world. Of course in terms of numbers it's a small part. However I would like you to pay much more attention on this event.

The reason is that this tablet device introduces completely new technologies on mobile devices horizon. The new technologies are not new in IT domain in embedded systems but they are new for mobile devices. New staff is derived from QNX core OS components which can change mobile devices capabilities dramatically. It will not be applied to Tablet devices only. As we can guess RIM will move all mobile devices portfolio to this new core OS since RIM acquired QNX.

The key new QNX technologies for mobile devices are as follows:

- Micro-kernel design targeted for hard real-time execution environment support
- Transparent task to task communications based on universal SW messaging bus
- Fault tolerance support, embedded into the system based on address space isolation on threads level
- Real Time multitasking
- Incredible Scalability (from simple controllers to entire Airport Control system (London Heathrow Airport LHR)
- Transparent embedded SMP support for multi-core solutions
- Certified POSIX PSE52 Real-time Controller 1003.13-2003
- Certified IEC 61508 Safety Integrity Level 3 (SIL 3)
Let’s try to understand how it may impact future of mobile devices world.
- Micro kernel architecture and messaging bus provide very good scalability of core components and allow creating products in all diapasons of costs such as low-end, mid-tier cell phones, smart phones, and tablet devices.

- Hard Real-time support capabilities of QNX OS allow platform to provide real multitasking.

- Transparent task to task communications and SMP allow developers to create product for multi-core HW variants without code changes in system components

- Since QNX supports transparent task to task communications on kernel level, all devices under QNX can be considered as one cluster if devices has any type of connection into some network (cell network for example or Wi-Fi network or Ethernet)

- Transparent task to task communications allows developers to create new type of connectivity between devices when resources of one device can be shared with another one device transparently without code changes and extra protocol stacks using for communications.

- Real multitasking and resource management will allow developers to create devices with multiple displays, cameras without heroic efforts to do it (such as present in Android / Linux space)

- Any SW component in QNX can be replaced on fly, includes drivers. (No changes and rebuild for kernel procedures required). It allows simplifying SW update procedures and new components adding in production devices shipped on the market already. New external peripherals support can be added easy. It means that device capabilities can be incrementally increased during life cycle. This process can be planned by marketing teams

- QNX can execute few Applications execution environment frameworks such as Android, AIR, QT, and QNX native Apps. It means that device can be as chameleon device with dynamic UI change on fly by user demand. It can be downloadable as a UI packages.

- QNX is certified to support critical Applications in many areas such as Medicine, Automotive, and Military etc. It means that QNX allows developers to cross reuse services. For example Android Apps can work safely in car controllers. The exercises with boot time optimization are not necessary for QNX as it is for Linux.

- SW development process and H/W bring up phases for manufactories can be simplified.
Target board can be shared between few developers to work on SW debugging. QNX deployed on PC work station, and PC will communicate with QNX deployed on Target board transparently in multi – user mode. Derivers can be reloaded on Target board as necessary on fly. QNX on target board will not have crashes due to SW component failure because it’s designed this way.

- No fragmentation on platform level

The list of new capabilities of the mobile devices under QNX is not limited by bullets above.

In case if RIM makes smooth transition of SW development environment from legacy
Technology to QNX for all devices in portfolio, it gives RIM huge advantage to become a winner in long term. The process of SW Development environment transition from legacy platform to the new one is not easy and it is not quick process. Main hidden stopper here from my point of view is the mind of SW development community at RIM to understand advantages of new capabilities. The direct reuse of legacy code from old platform will not give good result.
Architect team need to apply appropriate approach to SW Architecture redesign to use advantages of new technologies.

There is one more technology acquired by RIM is new UI conception and execution environment from TAT. The size of this blog is limited to discuss this component and its advantages for new platform

No one from big players list can support the capabilities of QNX going forward. I mean Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola etc. They missed this platform when selection.

The main task for RIM is to smartly map QNX capabilities to product portfolio creation in long term. If they do, than RIM will be a winner, no doubts!

What do you think?

P. S.

a) Teleca as service company has to help in eliminating the hidden stopper (defined above) to help to deploy new powerful RIM services based on QNX. It looks that the Android framework execution optimization on top of QNX is very promising thing for a start.

b) Apple will try to keep market and grow ecosystem but the company will do it different way which is not really innovation. It’s reuse of initial innovation and attempt to make stopper for competitors. Some indication is below.

Apple picks up key smart phone patent; cleared for Nortel bid reports that Apple has been granted a “long sought-after patent” which was said to be “so broad and far-reaching that the iPhone maker may be able to bully other smartphone manufacturers out of the US entirely.” While the details of the patent are complex, PCMag said that one legal source had said that it “essentially gives it ownership of the capacitive multitouch interface the company pioneered with its iPhone.” This could lead to lawsuits involving a range of smartphone vendors including HTC, Samsung, Motorola, RIM and Nokia. But it also cited Florian Mueller, an intellectual property activist, who said that an Apple action would only be successful if the alleged infringement implemented Apple’s patented technology wholesale – not if rivals are able to show demonstrable differences between user interfaces. The validity of the patent could also be challenged.
Separately, it was reported that the US Department of Justice has given approval to Apple to bid on the patent portfolio of failed networking giant Nortel Networks. The company is set to come up against tough competition for the intellectual property, which is set to take place next week, with Google, Ericsson and Intel also believed to be in the race.

c) Mobile devices core components were based on proprietary OSs. Since ~2005 Open Source conception started to change world here. But in reality Open Source conception didn’t introduce new technologies related to embedded systems such as configurability, reliability, real-time critical applications support, performance, fault tolerance. Open Source conception just introduced new technology to make money by Service companies to tailor “Free of cost” software for Manufactories to reach product quality in particular variant of (fragmented) platform.

So, the race is not over, it i more dynamic than ever and we will se innovation continue to be the competitive factor in this war.