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For years Microsoft has been the de facto desktop operating system. Now Apple is using its mobile devices to steal market and mindshare.

Pundits have long expected Apple to integrate its desktop and mobile operating systems; however, recent announcements at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) show that the company is doing far more than borrowing user interface elements. After some tentative starts, Apple has embarked on a full-scale integration between the company’s phone and desktop devices. With new releases of the software powering each, your laptop will soon be answering phone calls, and your phone will share text messages with your desktop, allowing you to fire off a missive from your MacBook to a colleague’s Android smartphone using standard text messaging. While not totally unexpected, the depth of integration is fairly impressive, and doubly so since I couldn’t help wondering during the announcements: why hadn’t Microsoft done this?

A constantly unfinished puzzle

By nearly any metric, Microsoft was years ahead of Apple in the smartphone and tablet space. While Apple was restructuring a fractured business and “playing” with handheld devices in the form of the Newton, Microsoft had produced several generations of its own PDA, and eventually a full-fledged smartphone that was feature rich, but failed to build a compelling user interface around its advanced feature set. Over half a decade before the iPhone launched, a lifetime in mobile technology, Microsoft was introducing tablets, only to be wiped off the face of the map by the iPad. Microsoft’s most obvious advantage in the mobile space was its dominance of the desktop.

If anyone built a mobile device that integrated tightly with the desktop, it should have been Microsoft.

Technology versus usability

While Microsoft may have missed a historic opportunity, more recently the company has been touting its merging of significant portions of its mobile and desktop code. Even user interface elements have begun to cross-pollinate, with the “modern” user interface that first appeared in Windows Phone featuring prominently on desktops and tablets. However, this technical integration is indicative of Microsoft’s larger problem.

As a company, Microsoft’s Achilles’ heel has been an inability to fully integrate different elements of its computing empire, and to present a user experience tailored to the task at hand, not pounded into a contrived, pre-existing Windows metaphor. From the Start button and stylus on a mobile phone, to its most recent technical integration of its environments that completely lacks in end-user benefit, Microsoft is missing the boat on developing a holistic computing experience. Frankly, I don’t care if my desktop and smartphone are running completely incompatible code from totally different vendors, as long as they’ll share information and work seamlessly together.

The Switzerland of computing?

While Microsoft may have missed this opportunity for its own devices, it still represents a key player in the overall computing landscape, and the long-predicted “demise of Windows” is likely several years away, if it occurs at all. An integrated experience between Microsoft smartphones and Windows desktops won’t meet with much excitement, primarily due to the limited market penetration of Windows phones. What would be interesting, however, is if Microsoft were to use its desktop dominance to integrate tightly with devices from Apple, Google, and others.

Such integration might seem far-fetched, but Microsoft already does this to an extent, with its Exchange server happily sharing mail, contacts, and calendars between everything from phones and tablets to laptops and web apps. Microsoft also has decades of experience integrating diverse hardware, and producing operating systems that run well on millions of combinations of hardware is no small feat. Just as Apple’s original iPod hit its stride when the company made it available for PCs, Microsoft could accelerate its cloud services and desktop OS, and ultimately make a compelling case for Windows Phone by providing tight integration with several mobile vendors.

In the mid and long terms, “winning” the mobility wars is not going to be about who sells the most devices, especially as computing transitions away from single devices and into a multi-platform, multi-device world. Microsoft has a chance to regain lost ground by tightly integrating its desktop and cloud services with today’s devices, allowing it to define tomorrow’s computing experience.

 

Kristina Kozlova

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

When people want to start up a company they dream of having something like such global giants as Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. but it isn’t easy and a lot of factors should be taken into account, including the country traditions, the government general policy in the field of entrepreneurship, the public attitude towards the innovative ideas, the existence of the precise set of tools to stimulate innovation, human capital and research, infrastructure and many others. Why is it easy to set up new companies in one country and difficult in another? To answer this question I investigated the experience of Scandinavian states in this field. Why precisely Scandinavia?

Nordic countries seem to be in the forefront of this development. Having given us Ericsson, Skype and Spotify Scandinavia has become a global leader in IT, mobile and multimedia development, and the pace of innovation shows no sign of slowing. The list of prosperous start – up companies itself is inspiring: Spotify, iZettle, SoundCloud, Klarna, Uber, Fishbrain, Sticky Wrapp in Sweden.  I needn’t even mention such giants from Denmark as the app developer Podio and Unwire, a mobile platform provider which enables the hosting of TV content on mobile phone. Or let’s take Bird Step from Norway which continues to bring a raft of leading-edge mobile connectivity products to market. By the way, Sweden is currently No.1 in the world for IT, according to the latest Global Information Technology Report. In fact, all three Scandinavian countries are among the top 10.

I think, the reasons why start ups are so popular in Scandinavia are the following:

-political and economic factors play a key role.  Scandinavian strong welfare system makes people feel safer and enables them to take risk to start their own company. Government support for tech innovation is evident in basic conveniences such as free Wi-Fi, and each administration has introduced specific measures to encourage tech development;

-clustering– the pooling of ideas by a group of organisations for common gain. Vivid example of this is creation of the Movation innovation partnership by 7 Norwegian tech companies in 2006 and the Nordic Tech Five linking universities in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. It has become possible due to the compact nature of the region which encourages a shared sense of purpose and a willingness to help each other out.

 - tech culture and general positive attitude of Scandinavians to innovation is the biggest factor in Scandinavian supremacy.  Scandinavian people pick up trends quickly. The same goes for new markets and technology. Common people are willing to embrace new technology, specifically regarding IT and communication. In 2009, a survey in Denmark found 72% of the population used the internet every day, people are not afraid of the internet in Scandinavia, everyone buys online. Isn’t it a dream for any country when old Nordic grannies surf the net, school children use laptops in exams and parents allow their kids online without fearing for their safety? It is a nation embracing IT.

- history and tradition play a crucial part in start-up trends, too. This enthusiasm for innovation, particularly mobile innovation, goes back decades. Sweden, for example, is very strong in engineering, from building the first telephones, to the global expansion of Nokia. Engineering has always been sought after, and tech is just the latest manifestation of that.

- strong support of tech talents and fierce competition for talents. All top-ranked Nordic universities enclose student incubators that offer everything from free working space to specific courses and mentor programs to encourage and foster virtuous entrepreneurship. To start a company Scandinavian entrepreneurs could find world class engineers and designers.

 - scale advantage. The small scale of the Scandinavian market is used by Nordic start-ups to their advantage. They are more organized, disciplined and mobile.

- nation’s infrastructure – telecommunications, education and institutions – has helped deliver high broadband and mobile penetration and a tech-savvy population. The Internet in Scandinavian countries is pretty ubiquitous, affordable, and the average speed for both down- and upload is good.

- rapid globalization of Scandinavian start-ups. Nordic people have got more international quickly which makes it an advantage. Moreover, most Swedes, Norwegians and Danes are skilled English speakers which is a big advantage for start-ups to become international.

- great informal network which unites experienced and new entrepreneurs. The amount of knowledge sharing among community members is huge. The advice websites for start-up businesses are really popular. People help each other and share best practice information.

- availability of Venture capital helps start-ups make a good start, too. The amount of Venture capital available in relation to the GDP is higher in Scandinavia than in the rest of Europe. 

-  accelerator programmes for startups developed in Scandinavian countries are a relatively new, ‘modern’ breed of business incubators which attract small teams and provide a number of technology companies with seed funding, mentoring, training like SICS and Bonnier’s Accelerator in Sweden, beta FACTORY in Norway, Startup boot camp Mobility and Accelerace in Denmark.

-  long, dark, and cold Scandinavian  winters encourage people to stay inside and noodle away at creative endeavors, such as programming or gaming. So, when Scandinavians don’t chop wood they sit in front of the internet and consume. :)

As a conclusion, I’d like to say that there are probably many more aspects. And we don’t deny that Scandinavia has its challenges as well. Not everything is perfect, and there are exceptions to every rule. But simply judging from the quantity (and quality) of its entrepreneurial outcome the climate for starting your own company seems to be pretty good there in the north. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s why Scandinavia is winning. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

 

Katerina Kviatkovskaya

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

iOS7 has been the greatest change to Apple`s iOS almost since its introduction. And iOS 7 differs quite a lot from its previous version. It`s easier, brighter, bolder and flows better than its predecessors. It has not only the updated user interface but also it`s packed with a great deal of new features.Let`s take a look at iOS7 and compare its major changes to iOS6.

Lock screen: One of the nicest features of iOS 7 is parallax effect: when you move the phone, wallpaper appears to move as well. iOS 7 gets rid of the black bars and becomes lighter. At first this may seem unusual but you get used to it quickly and won`t move back to the old look and feel. Also iOS 7 has four swipeable bits: unlocking, Camera, swiping down from the top of the screen to see notifications, and swiping up from the bottom to bring up Control Center.

Control Center: iOS users have been waiting for it for agesJ now there is no need to jump through endless Settings screen. Control Center is the answer: it provides quick access to the most important key features: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Rotation Lock and Do Not Disturb. It also provides media playback controls, Airdrop file sharing, and quick access to the phone’s LED light and the Clock, Calculator and Camera apps.

Notification Center:  Last year iOS 6 introduced the Notification Centre – offering little gobbets of information from your email, or stocks, or Twitter, or games. It was pretty basic. Now it’s split into three elements – Today (a calendar and weather update), All (the things you used to find in the old Notifications) and Missed (appointments, calls). The calendar element is like Windows Phone, though more useful (you get a day view). You can decide what is visible in the lock screen – it won’t show all your notifications if you don’t want.

AirDrop: Thanks to AirDrop it became easier to share files from iOS devices. Now a “sharing” icon in an app lets you send your data to those willing to receive it. You choose AirDrop and you get a list of people in the vicinity. Press their icon, and it’s done. Nice, isn`t it?

If you don’t plan to use this feature in iOS 7 then turn it off to safe battery life.

Camera and Photos : Have also experienced great changes. Camera app now four kinds of shooting: video, photo, square (for Instagram-style shots) and Pano (for panoramas) and a number of pleasant new features.. As for Photos app, it`s became easier to search for photos as they are organized into collections. Your photos can be sorted by date or by location (when using GPS)

Safari/Search: It has also been updated: interface became simpler : it disappears completely when scrolling through pages, and the interface for switching tabs became more visual.

Mail: Mail application got some great new features: mail management became easier. There appeared gesture control for messages and smart mailboxes

Multitasking:  Now you can double-click the home button in iOS to get you to a number of recently used apps. What is more iOS 7  learns when you like to use your apps and can update your content before you launch them. So if you tend to check your favorite social app at 9:00 every morning, your feed will be ready and waiting for you.

That was an overview of the main updates  that experienced iOS7. Many things have changed and many users that updated to iOS 7 say that they will never return to iOS 6 :)

And what about you: have you already updated to iOS 7 and can share your experience?

Interesting to know your thoughts.

Anna Kozik

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

After Apple slammed Microsoft for gouging customers and designing tablets that nobody wants, Microsoft has fired back, saying that you can’t get real work done with iPads or its anemic iWorks productivity suite, and that iPads are little more than toys. Who’s right in the increasingly nasty war of words?

At Apple’s iPad launch, CEO Tim Cook and others zinged Microsoft for charging $99 a year for Office, charging $199 for people to upgrade to Windows 8, and for having a confused tablet strategy. CEO Tim Cook said about Microsoft:

“They’re confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they’ll do next? I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you that we’re focused.”

Microsoft is striking back, and striking back hard, esssentially claiming that you can’t get serious work done on an iPad, and that the only reason Apple is now giving away its iWorks suite is that no one wants to buy it. On the Official Microsoft Blog, Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft noted the criticisms that Apple had aimed at Microsoft, and shot back:

“Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino.”

And then he took off the kid gloves, criticizing Apple’s new iPads as overpriced, iWork as a pointless piece of software, and saying they don’t stack up against Surface tablets when it comes to productivity. He wrote:

“Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world’s most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively. Making Apple’s decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal.”

He said iPads were not suitable for getting real work done, and that the reason Apple is giving away iWork for free is that no one wants them, as shown by their $10 price for iOS, or $20 for Mac OS X. He wrote:

“…it’s not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much ‘work’ you can get done on their devices. Adding watered down productivity apps. Bolting on aftermarket input devices. All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines.

“In that spirit, Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their ‘iWork’ suite of apps. Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move. And it doesn’t change the fact that it’s much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking.”

And he concluded that when it comes to getting real work done, Apple is far behind Microsoft:

“So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up.”

Who’s right here? When it comes to the productivity argument, Microsoft is. There’s absolutely no doubt that a Surface Pro 2 tablet equipped with a Touch Type 2 keyboard and a free version of Office is a far more effective tool for getting serious work done than an iPad with iWork. In essence, the Surface Pro with the Touch Type 2 keyboard is an ultrabook. An iPad with iWork is…well, an iPad with iWork. In other words, fine for light work. Not well-suited for serious work.

But when it comes to the tablet market and to sales, Apple is right. For now, tablet buyers don’t care about doing heavy-duty work on them. Checking email, browsing the Web, running apps, and light memo writing, are all well-suited for tablets. And that’s all many people need to do for their work.

So in the tablet battle, Microsoft’s Surface may be on top for productivity. But when it comes to the bottom line and sales, Apple is still cleaning up.

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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