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Archive for March 2012

Now that the initial iPad furor has died down a bit, it’s time to speculate about what comes next from Apple. Here is a round-up of the latest rumors and educated guesses about upcoming Apple tech products. No matter how many splashy product announcements Apple makes, there’s always the promise of something new and game-changing around the corner. Below there are a few of the latest whispers and speculation about pending versions of products and even brand new products.

MacBook Air
Rumors are flying about Apple finally releasing a 15″ MacBook Air (currently, 11.6″ and 13.3″ models are available). If true, then it might change the plans of those planning to buy a new 15″ MacBook Pro. There have also been rumors, off and on, about an even larger 17” model. Most of this speculation is fueled by “anonymous sources” that are affiliated with companies making Apple components. It’s pretty likely that we will see a 15″ Air as early as April.

MacBook Pro
Most of the speculation surrounding the Pro line is the probable plan to merge with Air at some point in the future. Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics whether the anticipated 15″ MacBook Air is, in fact, just a “slimmed down” Pro that loses its optical drive, but technically retains the “Pro” label. The picture is pretty blurry right now, and we may not know until the official announcement from Apple actually occurs this spring, but both lines are due for refreshes.

iPhone 5
The latest thing here is the speculation that the new iPhone will have a 4.6″ Retina Display (up from 3.5″) that will allow more room to update chips.

iWallet
The iWallet is pretty interesting — an e-commerce solution that would provide real-time authorization of transactions by the cardholder. There are also figures illustrating an iTunes MobilePay interface. Here is the description: Apple’s invention covers an electronic device that will be able to deliver real-time authorization of cardholder-not-present transactions. The electronic device may be a handheld device, such as an iPhone or iPod touch, or it may be a computer such as an iMac or MacBook Pro. Regardless of the form the electronic device takes, the device may run an application enabling a cardholder to approve or decline cardholder-not-present transactions in real time, near real-time, or after the transaction is initially authorized or settled. That is, in addition to a card transaction being sent to an issuing bank for approval, details of the transaction may be sent to the cardholder for approval before the transaction is authorized. If the cardholder doesn’t recognize the transaction, it may be declined immediately, thereby preventing the cardholder and the merchant from becoming victims of identity theft.

Have your heard something about Apple’s plans? Please, share below.

Kind Regards,
Lina Deveikyte
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

The real entrepreneur is usually viewed as “someone with a big vision, and a stubborn determination to charge straight ahead through any obstacle and make it happen”. Is that so in reality? The vision part looks fine, but stubbornness is of a specific kind. Mature and successful entrepreneurs know that due to the extreme uncertainty of a new product/service usually many corrections are required in the course of the project. The challenge “when to change your direction and when to persevere” is reiterated. Actually the start up runway is not money but how many pivots the start up can still make. Pivoting in the right direction as early as possible is what makes the product and project lean. Pivots come in many different flavors, each designed to test the viability of a different hypothesis about the product, customer, technology, business model and engine of growth. Here are the summary of top-10 pivots to take (by Eric Ries (c)):
- Zoom-in pivot: what previously was considered a single feature in a product becomes the whole product.

- Zoom-out pivot: sometimes a single feature is insufficient to support a customer set, and what was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.

- Customer segment pivot: the product attracts real customers, but not the ones originally supposed to. So repositioning and optimizing for a more appreciative segment are needed.

- Customer need pivot: the customer feedback indicates that the problem solved is not very important, or money isn’t available to buy. This requires repositioning, or a completely new product, to find a problem worth solving.

- Application-to-platform or vice versa pivot: many founders envision their solution as a platform for future products, but don’t have a single killer application yet. Most customers buy solutions, not platforms.

- Business architecture pivot: two major business architectures are: high margin, low volume (complex systems model), or low margin, high volume (volume operations model). Both can’t be operated at the same time.

- Value capture pivot: changes to the way a startup captures value (i.e. monetization or revenue model) can have far-reaching consequences for business, product, and marketing strategies. The “free” model doesn’t capture much value.

- Engine of growth pivot: the most popular primary growth engines are: the viral, sticky, and paid growth models. The right model picked can dramatically affect the speed and profitability of growth.

- Distribution channel pivot: these pivots usually require unique pricing, feature, and competitive positioning adjustments.

- Technology pivot: a way to achieve the same solution by using a completely different technology. This is most relevant if the new technology can provide superior price and/or performance to improve competitive posture.

Also, an interesting observation: “Ask most entrepreneurs who have decided to pivot and they will tell you that they wish they had made the decision sooner.” So the valuable guideline of thinking and acting for all the start-ups is to design a product with the smallest set of features to please a customer base, move it into the marketplace quickly, test and measure the reaction, detect the pivot spot and iterate on this basis.

What’s your interesting experience in making pivots? You are welcome to share your stories here.

Kind regards,
Helen Boyarchuk – Business Development Manager (LI page)
Helen.Boyarchuk@altabel.com | Skype ID: helen_boyarchuk
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Often the development of the iPhone and the iPad are in many ways intertwined. Mostly new features for Apple’s mobile products usually appear in the iPhone before they make it to the iPad, but that’s not the case with this latest release of the tablet.Support for LTE mobile phone networks and a new processor, the A5X, are two features found solely in the new iPad. That’s why some analysts believe they’re certainly headed for the next iPhone, expected to be released this summer. What new advances in the latest iPad will we see in the next version of Apple’s Smartphone?

Maintaining Battery Life
Battery life may have been an issue influencing Apple’s decision to introduce LTE in the iPad before it did it with the iPhone. It allows Apple to get better battery performance out of its LTE implementation. The iPad is a larger device so it can accommodate a larger battery, which helps with battery life. Battery life has been a bane for LTE. The fact that the new iPad has a nine-hour battery life with LTE enabled bodes well for the next iPhone. It shows they’re resolving the power drain issue with LTE. That suggests the next iPhone will support LTE without any battery life tradeoffs.

Keeping a Trim Figure
While the battery in the new iPad has the chops to support LTE, it does it without significantly increasing the device’s thickness, also good news for an LTE-enabled iPhone. It shows companies no longer have to forfeit thickness or industrial design in order to accommodate LTE.
Early introduction of LTE into the Apple ecosystem through the new iPad could also be designed to show the technology on an optimal device. LTE is the best cellular network technology for the kinds of media-rich activities that consumers are more likely to do on an iPad, like watching movies and Web surfing.

Dialing Down the A5X
Another innovation in the new iPad that may pop up in the next iPhone is the A5X processor. However, Apple may decide to reduce the clock speed of that chip, which has two processing cores and four graphic cores, if it does move it to the next iPhone. They might do what they did with the iPhone 4S. They’ll take the A5X and throttle it down so it works at 800MHz. The new iPhone won’t need all the horsepower that the tablet does. The iPad, for example, needs to power a much larger display than the iPhone and at a greater pixel density, 326 pixels per inch compared to 264 ppi.

Goodbye Numbers
Although it’s not a technological change, the iPad introduction also revealed a change in Apple’s naming conventions. The third generation iPad is just “the new iPad,” and when the next generation iPhone arrives, it will be “the new iPhone.” Apple has products like the MacBook and the iPod that don’t have numbers. They want to get away from the expectation that it has to have a number on the end to know if it’s a really big refresh or just a little refresh.

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Almost the first word coming to one’s mind in relation to “start up” notion is risk. The sad reality is that very few products are successful, despite of all the perseverance, hard work and creativity of their producers. At the same time, some start-ups’ stories sound like modern-time rags-to-riches stories. What’s the formula for success then?

Many say: “They have been in the right place at the right time”. In this way it sounds like a pure good luck or a ready-made excuse for those who haven’t succeeded. Mature entrepreneurs reject this line of thinking. They say: “ Success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.” Here “process” doesn’t mean a blueprint to follow but thinking in the right way.

Wrong thinking produces wrong acting. Based on entrepreneurs experience stories let’s try to define these wrong beliefs and fears having place while releasing the first product version:

Belief # 1. Brilliant business plan. The first questions to answer before starting building the product are: what should we build and for whom? Usually a thorough business plan is created answering these questions but not limited. After weeks /months of implementation and ardent arguments about bugs and features the first version goes live and… Nothing happens – the fears were unfounded because nobody even tried it.
Lesson to be learned: The idea is only then brilliant when customers say it’s so: not a well-known domain guru or results of whiteboard exercises performed by the marketing dept. Resort to talking to customers as early as possible.

Belief # 2. Low quality sucks. Entrepreneurs care about reputation so much. This originates the fear of releasing a low quality product which would tarnish the reputation as an engineer: “People would think I didn’t know how to build a quality product.”
Lesson to be learned: Mistakes are almost inevitable, they are in the very nature of start ups as in a start-up who the customer is and what the customer might find valuable are often unknown. So the tip is: fail often but fail quietly. Build a minimum viable product and test it empirically on a small fraction of potential customers. Even if your first product sucks, at least not too many people will know about it.

Belief # 3. Hurry to become big. Entrepreneurs tend to think big – it seems if the product is complex and has heaps of features it will definitely win customers’ hearts. As the result, thousands of lines of the code, endless arguments about which bugs to fix and which to tolerate, which features to cut and which to cram in, for the first product version which may mean just waste for customers.
Lesson to be learned: Don’t be in a rush to get big, be in a rush to have a great product. When you launch development try to firstly figure out how “minimal viable product” for your customers should function and look like; what you need to build in order to test your product idea assumptions.

The thing is that the first version is the best time to make mistakes. Each version serves as a basis to learning and then making a vital pivot in order to adopt some part of the vision to reality. The whole process looks like “build-measure-learn” loop (Eric Ries (c)). Going throughout this cycle reputedly implies another threat:

Belief # 4. Preconception towards some “build-measure-learn” element. It means thinking of this or that element of the cycle to be more important. For engineers it’s learning to build things as efficiently as possible. Plenty of entrepreneurs obsess over data and metrics. The guts speak…
Lesson to be learned: None of these activities by itself is of paramount importance. The aim should be to minimize the total time through this loop as the core sense of Lean Startup method is to recognize asap that it’s time to pivot.

That’s pretty much it. Think big, start small, pivot fast, scale actively :)

Kind regards,
Helen Boyarchuk – Business Development Manager (LI page)
Helen.Boyarchuk@altabel.com | Skype ID: helen_boyarchuk
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

We all use cloud services in one way or another. When you access your Gmail, use Facebook and store photos online, you are actually leveraging cloud services. For small businesses, saving money, increasing productivity and enhancing uptime are some of the major reasons why a move toward the cloud computing platforms available today should be given priority. Regardless of what industry you are in, there are enough cloud computing tools to help you run your company in the cloud.

1. Harvest
Harvest is a time-tracking and online invoicing cloud service. It offers users the ability to see a distributed visual report of a company’s resources. With Harvest, you can create online invoices, bill clients, get paid online and view employee and contractor timesheets. Harvest also offers detailed data reports that can be filtered by project, staff and in other ways. You can then determine how time is being spent, which easily helps to manage projects. The time-tracking feature is especially handy when working on time-sensitive projects or projects that are paid on an hourly basis. Time tracking using Harvest can be done anytime and anywhere. You can even track time via your mobile device, widgets, Twitter or Gmail.

2. Carbonite
If you deal with large amounts of data that need to be backed up frequently, then Carbonite is a handy cloud platform to easily manage your backups. It works for multiple computers within a small organization and keeps track of each computer that is running the application. Once installed, Carbonite does all the backing up in the background for each computer every time it detects an Internet connection. Restoring backed up files is as easy as backing them up. With a few mouse clicks, files are restored to their original computers or to another designated drive. A browser-based dashboard lets you monitor the backup status of each computer in your organization.

3. ZenDesk
ZenDesk is a customer help cloud platform that lets you centralize your customer conversations making it easy to offer support services. It offers ticket management, reporting and analytics tools, self service, branding & integration services and tools to make the customer experience quick, efficient and more manageable. Ticket management is especially critical to a business since it helps to quickly identify high-priority issues and respond to them, automate certain responses and collaborate with others. ZenDesk allows a user to monitor support trends, ticket volume metrics and analyze customer satisfaction ratings to better provide support to clients. ZenDesk also integrates with other products to provide a seamless experience across your organization.

In addition to the above platforms, Google and Microsoft have created their own cloud tools and services, and integrated them with their already existing services. When selecting a cloud computing platform, determine your industry, customers and employees and choose a platform that will result into a smooth seamless transition and that will most effectively serve the needs of all three.

Kind Regards,
Lina Deveikyte
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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