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The Samsung Z is set to hit Russia in the third quarter of the year. This phone is powered by the open source Tizen operating system. For those who didn’t know, Samsung has been quietly developing Tizen in the background for three years (Tizen already powers the Samsung Gear watches).

I firmly believe Samsung is testing the Tizen waters to see if the platform could be a viable alternative to Google’s Android OS. If any company could pull off such a feat… it would be Samsung. But beyond the implications Tizen has to Android (the most used platform worldwide), what does this mean for the near vaporware status Ubuntu Phone?

Plenty.

While the Ubuntu Phone is still struggling to gain any serious momentum — anywhere — Samsung has already set a date for its open-source device. The latest worthwhile news from the Ubuntu Phone camp was March 19, 2014, stating that “big smartphone brands [are] looking ‘seriously’ at Ubuntu Phone.” Prior to that, the big news was that Spanish-based BQ and China-based Meizu announced they were set to release Ubuntu Phone devices “sometime in 2014.”

2014 is officially half over.

That silence is fairly damning in a world that demands a constant deluge of updates — especially when a powerhouse such as Samsung announces they are set to release the first, mass-produced, open source, Linux-based smartphone. Samsung beat Canonical to the punch, and if the Samsung Z does well in Russia, it’ll be released to the rest of the world. Should that happen, the likelihood of the Ubuntu Phone having a chance, in an already saturated market, is unlikely.

Think about it this way. The IDC reports:

  • Android powers nearly 80% of the world’s mobile devices
  • iOS powers just over 15% of the world’s mobile devices
  • Windows phone powers just over 3% of the world’s mobile devices
  • BlackBerry powers just under 2% of the world’s mobile devices

There is a scant 1% left over for “Other.”

Because Samsung already has such a strong presence in the Android market, and because their devices are found everywhere, they could chip away (even slightly) at both the Android and “Other” markets. The Ubuntu Phone will most likely be relegated to the “Other” market. That’s not much to pull from. Those low numbers will make it a huge challenge for Canonical and the Ubuntu Phone. To make matters worse, the longer it takes for the Ubuntu Phone to make its way to market, the smaller that user base will be. That’s the crux of the issue — time. Canonical announced its intention to create a Ubuntu Phone some time ago. Since then, it’s been nothing but promises and a failed fundraiser for Ubuntu Edge.

The tragedy of this is that the Ubuntu Phone could well be one of the finest mobile devices to date. But because Samsung is going to likely beat Canonical to the punch, that brilliant piece of tech might flounder… simply because it couldn’t get into the fight soon enough. And now, with Samsung delivering their own open-source smartphone, the chances they would join in on the Ubuntu Phone fun are pretty much nil.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Ubuntu Phone released and enjoy a massive success. I would personally drop my current device, without hesitation, for an Ubuntu Phone — but I don’t see that happening any time soon. In fact, the likelihood that I could get my hands on a Tizen-based phone seems exponentially greater than the Ubuntu Phone.

Canonical needs to understand that timing is everything in this light-speed paced world in which we live. You cannot announce a product one year and deliver it the next. By the time you release, everyone has already moved on to the next great shiny thing. At the moment, that shiny thing might be the Samsung Z.

At least for Russia.

Will the Samsung Z have a chance in a market that’s choked by two major players (Android and iOS)? Or is it already doomed before it hits the market? And does Samsung’s release of the Tizen-based phone sound a death knell for the Ubuntu Phone? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

 

Lina Deveikyte

Lina Deveikyte
Lina.Deveikyte@altabel.com 
Skype ID: lina_deveikyte
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development 

There exist a lot of mobile app development frameworks. Cross-platform tools reduce barriers to entry and democratise app development, by allowing developers from any language (HTML, Java, C++), any background (hobbyist, pros, agencies, corporates) and any skill level (visual designer to hard-core developer) to build mobile apps. Just imagine that by using a cross-platform tool and covering just two platforms such as Android and iOS, you will cover 91% of the whole smartphone market. Sounds appealing:)

PhoneGap and Sencha are the most widespread: they are used by 32% and 30% of cross-platform developers, irrespective of their primary tools. I`m suggesting to have a closer look at PhoneGap which turns to be the most popular tool.

How it works

The cross-platform capabilities of PhoneGap are reached this way: a native project is generated, distinctive for each platform, which includes a browser (a native webView component) as the main component. This browser is able to display HTML/JavaScript code as a usual web page. The file system of this project acts the part of a file server, which gives access to the page. Also there is an object that allows PhoneGap to standardize the access to native features of mobile devices running the supported operating systems, such as camera, compass, accelerometer, contacts etc.

Good moments

-The most obvious one is cross-platform capabilities. Currently PhoneGap supports the following platforms: iOS, Android, webOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian OS, Tizen.

-PhoneGap app is written upon HTML, JavaScript and CSS, with the opportunities of using numerous external libraries;

-Adjustments can be performed via browser; remote adjustments can be performed on a mobile device via “weinre”.

A blot on the landscape:)

-Many users complain of the irresponsiveness of PhoneGap apps. Here I`m talking about one of the specifics of the PhoneGap development: the 300 millisecond lag between touch and click event on touchscreens. The solution to this problem can be easily found around the Internet. There are several JavaScript libraries, and their work principle is the same – tracking such events as TouchStart and TouchEnd – and at the moment when the latter is done, runs a click event.

- Users feel uncomfortable when touching a button and it doesn`t work. This is one of the most widespread bugs in PhoneGap apps. This bug appears due to improperly created interface, and it raises the problem of touching. The fact is that we look at the touchscreen at an angle and the visual contact area between the finger and the screen differs from the real contact area. This can be corrected quite simply – proper layout of the app page. For example, the area of response can be made bigger than the button itself.

- On average, an app has 5 to 15 pages. But unfortunately, JavaScript apps have no mechanism to store and transmit data between the pages. One of the simplest ways to solve this problem is using one-page apps. These are apps that display the same page, which has changing content. This approach however causes lags in the app.

-Nevertheless this is a cross-platform tool, UI should be optimized for different platforms. But it’s much faster, than creating another native app from scratch;

As you can see, these drawbacks are not quite ‘drawbacks’ in their nature, but rather technical conditions of PhoneGap, which you should consider, like in a usual development process for any other platform.

Certainly, PhoneGap is not a “miracle cure” but can be a good way out if wisely used. And what are your thoughts on PhoneGap?

 

Anna Kozik

Anna Kozik
Anna.Kozik@altabel.com 
Skype ID: kozik_anna
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development 

 

Despite the fact that Sweden has not always been a welfare state, now it is quite a stable and prosperous country with a good standard of living, a country, which is constantly developing. Let’s see how this development influences IT market, for example.

 Sweden is making large annual investments in education and research and it is well-known for  its  good  education  level.  Development  has also come into information  and  communications  technology,  where  Sweden  is  one  of  the leading  countries  in  the  world.   However,  the current  problem  in  labor  market  is  that  there  is  not  enough  workforce in service companies, information technology, school system and health care sectors. Despite high technology level, Swedish people love their nature and concern for nature is playing a big role in future decisions. That is why Sweden is also putting a lot of effort to improve the environmental technology, which will be one of the most important industries in the future.

  • Swedish IT sector

is  strongly  bound  to the  development  of  society.  Sweden  has   many  successful  companies  in  IT and  telecommunication  sector  and  the  companies  have  a  great  capacity  of innovation. However from 34 000 of companies in Swedish ICT sector are micro enterprises  with  under  100  000€  turnover. 

IT sector  can be divided into four sub-sectors: Software and IT services,  Tele-and  data  communications,  manufacture  of  hardware  and  retail and services of computer . IT sector in Sweden is mostly dominated by the software market. Most of them have specialized in systems  software  for  communications,  business  systems  and  applications software for telecommunications.

Software products and IT services earn 32% of the turnover in IT-sector. The growth in the software products and IT services has been  very  strong.  The  turnover  has  increased  32.5%  between  the  year  2005 and 2009. The second in the IT-sector is Telecom and datacom services with 27.3%, manufacture of hardware comes next with 24.5% and the fourth largest is retail and servicing the hardware.

Swedish IT-  sector employs about 3.9% of the total Swedish work force. Despite  the economic recession, Swedish IT sector has stayed healthy. The main reason of IT sectors welfare is that the companies in Sweden believe that the  IT-services  and  IT-products  are  essential  for  survival  in  the  future.  IT solutions are the key factor when it comes to make the business more effective and  environmentally  friendly.  That  is  why  the  companies  are  putting  effort  to develop  the  IT  solutions. Especially environmentally friendly  solutions  are  the focus in the future in Sweden. Almost every  company  uses  computers (97%) and 96% of them have an access to Internet. Internet has increased its significance in  doing  business.

  • Mobile services

Are an  increasing  trend  in  business  life.  Already 60% of all companies are using mobile Internet connections in 2010. Swedish  people  are  interested  in  a  product  which  can  increase  their customers’  competitiveness and  increase  the  company’s  value  for  its  owners, customers and another interest groups.

Swedish people are open-minded to test new services and products. The good thing is that they might accept the new product or service very easily, but the challenge is to keep the product or service updated. People in Sweden are well educated  and  they  are  looking  all  the  time  new  innovative  ways  to  run  the business.

  • Conclusions:

- The majority of companies cost  are spent on software research and development. So they are willing to invest on software if they can see the product useful for the business. The most favorable applications  are  such  as  ERP,  CRM,  financial  management  and  information software, on which the companies are spending about 60% of their founds.

-The environmental study concentrated more on macro indicators which means background  forces  behind  the  company’s  activities  such  as  social, technological,  economical  and  political  environment.

-Sweden’s lifestyle  and  culture  form  an  ideal  market place, because they are open-minded to test new services and products. The people  are  well  educated  and  they  are  all  the  time  searching  for new  innovation solutions  to  run  their  business.  The positive point is that the customers are willing to  accept  new  innovation,  but  they  can  also  replace  it  when  they  can  find  a better  solution.  So the  major  challenge  is  to  keep  the  product development up.

- Sweden  is  one  of  the  leading  countries  in the development  of  information  and  communications  technology.  Almost every company has computer and Internet access and already 60% of all companies had  a  mobile  Internet  connection  in  2010.  So, mobile  phones  are  becoming more and more important on daily business.

- Swedish  people  are putting  a  lot  of  effort  to  improve  the  environmental  technology,  so  this  “eco” thinking has a strong position in Swedish culture.

- Sweden is making a lot effort to software research and development and they want to be the top leaders in the software markets by 2020.

-The global software leaders Microsoft, International Business Machines (IBM), Oracle and SAP are also leading the Swedish software markets, but they are controlling particular areas of software branch which is why the local companies have also  acquired  a  good  position  on  the  market.

-Swedish software and IT services have a larger number of companies than the other sub-sectors,  but  most  of  them  are  small  companies.

- IT outsourcing has been a steadily growing part of the Swedish IT market, which is considered to be the largest market within the Nordic region and the 3rd largest in Europe. Every year more Swedish companies decide to outsource. The majority of Swedish companies decide to outsource due to conditions such as a shortage of IT domestic skills and high costs of performing in-house solutions, or a need to re-focus on core competencies. In order to avoid multiplied risks associated to outsourcing.

And what tendencies in Swedish IT market would you like to point out? It is interesting to know your opinion!

 

Katerina Kviatkovskaya

Katerina Kviatkovskaya
Kate.Kviatkovskaya@altabel.com
Skype ID: kate.kviatkovskaya
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Blacklisted apps and password protection issues remain a top security concern for organizations with a mobile workforce.

Password protection and application security are high on the list of security concerns as more organizations move to mobile first and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies.

Creating app blacklists and whitelists

File sharing apps are the most common blacklisted apps in the enterprise. The top five blacklisted apps include Dropbox, SugarSync, Box, Facebook, and Google Drive. Figure A shows the top 10 list of blacklisted iOS and Android apps amongst Fiberlink customers:

Figure A

Figure A

The top concern for most corporations is knowing that their data is safe and always in the right hands. Blacklisting can play a role, but we find that there are both right and wrong times to restrict apps. For instance, restricting an app for no reason is a quick way to get your BYOD deployment to backfire. Even corporate-owned devices with blacklisting apps can make employees unhappy.

Right now, blacklisting occurs on 10% of the devices, prohibiting a specific app or apps from running. This means that IT is trying to ensure the intended use of the device and prevent the loss of corporate data, which is considered a major security risk.  It’s recommended blacklisting and even whitelisting where appropriate.

Figure B shows the top 10 list of whitelisted iOS and Android apps:

Figure B

Figure B

First, define the purpose for creating the blacklist. Many assume that blacklisting is a practice predominantly utilized for security purposes, but businesses also blacklist time-wasting applications — such as Angry Birds — to manage employee productivity. Blacklisting can also help with those apps that dramatically increase data-transfer demands on the network, such as Netflix.

Second, create a rubric for scoring apps or criteria for deciding which apps should be blacklisted. Once it has been decided whether the focus is to compliment security or to decrease distraction among employees, define success criteria and establish the rubric. For example, if the concern is employee productivity, one may want to allow (not blacklist) file-transfer apps similar to Dropbox. But if security is the key driver, Dropbox would typically be blacklisted.

Third, consider whitelisting instead of blacklisting. If security is the main concern, whitelisting is the better option, as it allows businesses to have absolute control over which apps employees are approved to use. With blacklisting, all apps are allowed, except a few that are specifically forbidden — thus, there is more room for employees to work around restrictions and simply utilize apps that aren’t on the blacklist. In that sense, blacklisting is the Maginot line of app security. With whitelisting, on the other hand, only approved apps are allowed to be used and all others are forbidden, which makes for a more secure position, but can be politically difficult to manage in the enterprise.

It is also recommended that the policies must be communicated to the enterprise. In particular, employees need to know why the restrictions have been put in place and how they will benefit the company. Clearly communicating these policies is key to making employees feel comfortable with the restrictions.

Improving password protection over mobile devices

Bellow your may find the following best practices for employee passwords:

  • Require employees to create passwords that are at least 10 characters in length and to use the widest character set possible, including alphabetic (upper and lower case), numeric, and special characters (punctuation)
  • Mandate that employee passwords not include words or names, because anything that can be found in a dictionary can be cracked in minutes (even when the word is part of the password — like “James123” — it’s easily discovered with modern computing power)

Manage and protect passwords by employing salted password hashing. Hash algorithms are one-way functions that turn passwords into irreversible, randomized letter combinations. The passwords are stored in a form, which is impossible to reverse. When employees create an account and a password, the password is hashed, the hashed result is stored, and the original plain text version of the password is never stored in the system.

When the employee tries to login, the hash of the password they entered is compared to the hash of their password in the database. To further protect the password, the hash is salted. Salt is additional complexity added to the hashing process, so that if two people have created the same password, the two hashed versions stored in the database will be different. With salting, if a hacker figures out one employees’ password, they can’t determine other passwords by looking for matches in the database. Salting also makes the process of reversing a hash much more complicated and time consuming for hackers.

Here are some of best practices for passwords on employee mobile devices:

  • Limit the amount of time an employees’ password can exist
  • Require users to have different passwords on different devices, accounts, or systems
  • Create and enforce a corporate policy that sanctions employees for sharing their passwords with others

Here are best practices for governing passwords:

  • Encourage employees to have device-level passcodes. Even if this is for personal benefit and not mandated by IT, employees should have some protection for the personal information on their devices. On some operating systems, creating a passcode also enables encryption.
  • Require a passcode to access corporate information, such as corporate e-mail and documents. These passcodes can be more complex than the basic four-digit pin at the device level.
  • Enforce advanced passwords when accessing very important information. If an employee is accessing a network resource, like SharePoint or their network folder to access a Word document, you should prompt them for their Active Directory credentials. This goes beyond the security level of a four-digit pin.
  • The combined approach of these passcodes and passwords will help ensure the device, data, and apps are protected without being overbearing to the employees.

Conclusion

Hope here you’ve found some good, actionable advice for enterprises of all sizes about implementing application blacklists and whitelists, plus improving password protection over corporate and BYOD mobile devices.

Does your organization have a passcode requirement, or has it implemented mobile app blacklists and whitelists? Describe your experience in the discussion thread below.

 

Kristina Kozlova

Kristina Kozlova
Kristina.Kozlova@altabel.com
Skype ID: kristinakozlova
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

There is no doubt that mobile industry is one of the most intensely growing nowadays. Any product that earlier used to be desktop or web is moving towards going mobile. Everyone is taking designing experiences for smaller screens seriously. As for the web, we’re seeing swarms of recently updated sites that are employing responsive design or more mobile-friendly layouts. This is quite critical, especially when you consider that accessing the web from mobile devices is on track to surpass desktop usage in a just a year or two.

With so many mobile apps/sites out there you have to do all it takes to deliver a good mobile product that will be competitive on the market. The key input for success here often is conditioned by the convenience of mobile services. You have to start predicting what the customer wants to see when they try a mobile application or website. The use of mobile context in delivering mobile experience is just one of the big challenges that application developers face. Here’s a number of the most important challenges we see.

1. Mobile Context

There has always been emphasis on context – the idea of being sensitive to where users might be and what they might be doing at the same time that they’re using your app/site. Is a user in line at the grocery store or on the living-room couch? Is a user connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi access, with fast page loads, or an infuriatingly weak Internet connection? Are both of the user’s hands holding the device in landscape orientation, or is the user using only the right thumb to navigate the interface in portrait mode? We have to think about all of this. Basically the customer’s mobile context consists of:

Preferences: the history and personal decisions the customer has shared with you or with social networks.
Situation: the current location, of course, but other relevant factors could include the altitude, environmental conditions and even speed the customer is experiencing.
Attitude: the feelings or emotions implied by the customer’s actions and logistics.

Getting a good contextual awareness will require collecting information from many sources. For instance it could be mobile device itself, the local context of devices and sensors around them an extended network of things they care about and the historical context of their preferences. Gathering this data is a major challenge because it will be stored on multiple systems of record to which your app will need to connect.

2. Device Proliferation

Another challenge facing mobile developers is device proliferation. It looked like mobile app development process was pretty well defined: build your app, make sure it looks pretty on a 4-inch smartphone and a 10-inch tablet, then submit it to an app store. Most app developers prioritized a few popular devices, such as the iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPad.

It’s not quite that easy now, and it’ll be much tougher in the near future. Picking the most popular devices will become more of a challenge as device types and platforms proliferate. Google and Apple already support tablets of different sizes and, with Windows 8 now shipping, developers can expect to find a whole range of larger touch-sensitive devices, such as Hewlett-Packard’s Envy series.

3. Voice rather than Touch

There are a lot of situations where you would want to build voice input into your app today. For a running or fitness app, a phone is likely to be strapped to a person’s sweaty arm. The same is true while driving. Modern applications are to let people use their devices while keeping their eyes and hands off it.

4. Hybrid Applications

With each release, popular mobile operating systems get better at supporting HTML5 and its attendant APIs. That capability will let companies reuse more code across multiple devices, which will be important in keeping app development costs down taking into account the proliferation of connected devices and form factors.

As a result we could expect that more companies will turn to web technologies with a centralized code base for core components of their connected applications. That centralized code is likely to be a combination of HTML, JavaScript and CSS, because the vast majority of devices will support it. Much of this HTML5 will be delivered as hybrid apps, which mix HTML code into a native container and use native code for navigation and platform specific integration. These hybrid apps will get more sophisticated and capable as a result. We’re already seeing compelling enterprise applications built with the hybrid approach.

5. Cloud Powered Mobile Applications

With the power of the cloud, the mobile application market is about to change radically. Several industry analysts predict that mobile applications will gradually move to the cloud and move away from being installed and run directly from the handsets themselves. Instead, cloud powered mobile applications are accessed and executed directly from the cloud through a mobile web browser interface and several technologies facilitating this change are already available. HTML5, for example, is necessary for enabling caching on the handset, so that users will experience uninterrupted service levels despite fluctuations in network service delivery.

Cloud powered mobile applications are not limiting their choice to one platform. Application developers also have real advantages from mobile cloud computing. The largest benefit is that it allows them to have access to a larger market. This means developers will have a much wider market which means they can bypass the restrictions created by mobile operating systems. But with greater developers’ power comes greater responsibility for security and performance. Expect more developers to be on call for application support in the new model, using triage to handle defects and investigate degradation to production services. Those tasks have traditional been the domain of systems administrators. Expect IT operations personnel to become integrated into development teams and to start their work at the inception of an idea.

I think the challenges mentioned are some of the most important ones. What are the challenges you have already faced in the mobile development? Even more interesting to hear about the challenges you are envisaging for the near future! As usual many thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Aliona Kavalevich

Aliona Kavalevich
Aliona.Kavalevich@altabel.com
Skype ID: aliona_kavalevich
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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