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Posts Tagged ‘Windows 8

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

Unity as a company has one mission: help games developers be more successful. Unity is one of the top game development platforms, routinely seen powering the biggest games on a multitude of platforms such as Castle Warriors, Battle Bears, Max & the Magic Marker, CSR Racing, Temple Run and Shadowgun and now it is the turn of Windows Phone to get in on the Unity action!

The decision to bring Unity to Windows Phone was driven by an upwelling of requests from developers and gamers alike. Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason has announced during the opening keynote of the Unite 12 in Amsterdam the 6th Annual Developer Conference that its game creation platform Unity will be supporting Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 after the update to Unity 4 version.

“Our mission at Unity has always been to provide solutions for developers to effortlessly bring their work to as many different platforms as possible,” said David Helgason.
Microsft senior director of Windows app marketing John Richards added: “We are excited that the Unity community will now be given the opportunity to develop world class titles for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Let’s try to see why it is a big deal for game development world to support and bring game development on windows 8 and windows phone 8 !

Helgason claims that 53 per cent of mobile developers have made use of the Unity engine, with 300,000 of them active on a monthly basis.
Unity licenses are available for almost all other modern gaming platforms — including iOS, Android, Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 — and the engine has been used to create popular mobile games such as Shadowgun.
Now the developers community is ready and willing to bring their games to the new versions of Windows. While do we have guarantee that developers will do it painless and not taking too much time and efforts?

It is the known fact that Windows Phone 7 never really got off the ground as a gaming platform, but its successor got an early boost today in the shape of Unity support. Windows Phone (like iOS and Android) has some heavy and understandable restrictions on how things can be done. Helgason previously said that Unity didn’t support Windows Phone 7 due to its “relatively closed” nature, but expressed hope that Windows 8 would prove easier to work with. David was keen to point out that it’s no more a problem of Windows Phone 8 than any other mobile OS. Only in the last few months has the project reached the level where they are confident they are able to deliver the goods.

Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 are to share the same core so it was of interest to hear David’s thoughts on just how similar the two are platforms really are. He thinks that the two resemble more closely how Apples iOS and OSX look in terms of game development. The desktop OS naturally gives up huge amounts of resources whilst the mobile OS is far more restricted. Whilst the cores are the same, the amount that can be achieved on each platform varies greatly.

When it comes to Windows Phone 8, we’re going to see an entirely new base specification, improved GFX handling and dual core CPU. David’s feeling is that Microsoft are putting out sensible guidelines for their next gen hardware. It’s a well-known problem with Android that often times the superior hardware can’t be utilized properly or devices simply aren’t capable of rendering 3D at all. In this regard, Microsoft is making the right move by ensuring the spec of the devices remains a known constant.
But to my point of view it is hard to say either way if Microsoft have done enough with their next OS to ensure it’s a rock solid gaming platform, it’s still too early to tell.

Personally me along with many developers and just game lovers have a really good sense that Windows Phone 8 is going to work really well as a gaming platform.

There had been invested so much into the platform and to be honest it is designed very well. The Unity lovers have a good feeling that Windows Phone 8 is going to be big.
For developers using Unity and the company itself, the prospects for mobile games sales are huge. Even if the platform remains the third of fourth eco system, it will still present a valuable extra market for developers to target. For a game developer, once they have made a game in Unity, porting it to another platform is very straightforward. The economics of porting the games to other platforms like Windows Phone are actually very attractive. That should bode very well for future games releases on WP8. With little or no work in actually porting, there is almost nothing to lose in releasing to the Marketplace.

To show a positive perspective I would give the example of Microsoft’s Build developer conference held at the company’s campus in Redmond, WA, where Tony Garcia, Unity EVP of Business Development, took the stage during the mobile keynote to talk about Unity’s commitment to Windows Phone 8 by demonstrating just how empowering development for the platform can be for new and existing Unity-authored games and apps.
Tony spoke while Field Engineer Corey Johnson toured the Unity development environment, using a level from Madfinger’s Shadowgun as the example project. The short demonstration provided onlookers (both on-site and online) unfamiliar with Unity a good idea of the power, versatility, and efficiency of the tools. As Tony talked, Corey demonstrated how easily projects can be changed between platforms and built for Windows Phone 8 in Unity.

Shadowgun was then demonstrated running on a Windows Phone 8 mobile device and it looked mighty fantastic.
It’s clear that Unity is going to play a big role in the early months of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 device availability with games like Shadowgun, Ski Safari, and Temple Run headlining a number of other amazing Unity-authored titles. And as the Shadowgun level demonstrates, things are looking good!
“The number of high-quality Unity-authored games for the PC, Xbox, and mobile devices already created is staggering and we’re looking forward to seeing these products appear in the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Marketplace,” senior director of Windows app marketing at Microsoft John Richards said.

To summarize all said above I would say that I am both excited and positive about Windows Phone 8’s gaming future. Unity should help light up Windows Phone 8 as a gaming platform. With Unity, Porting games to and from Windows Phone should take only a couple of days isn’t it great?!
While we couldn’t learn about future games coming to Windows Phone 8, I were assured that we are going to be very excited to see what’s coming. It is really interesting to observe who and how many developers are switching to developing for Windows Phone now that Unity is coming to the platform? How quickly people will be following it? What thoughts and “forecast” do you have in mind? I have a strong feeling that Things are about to change :) .. And you?

Polina Mikhan

Polina Mikhan
Polina.Mikhan@altabel.com
Skype ID: poly1020
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Lots of companies think about developing mobile clients for their services for Widows Phone and Windows 8. In most cases mobile clients for iOS/Android have already been created and company’s objective is to port them to Windows mobile platforms. In this article I’d like to talk about questions/problems/peculiarities companies and developers can face porting their apps to WP and Win8.

What’s important to know about Modern UI interface?

Windows Phone and Windows 8, unlike iOS for instance, are authentically digital platforms. What it means can be easily explained on the example of a bookshelf for iOS, where human’s behavior while reading a magazine or a book is imitated from the real life – we go to the bookshelf, take a magazine, open it and flip it through. The same process for Windows Phone looks absolutely separated from the real life and is initially oriented to the digital world, where the concept of “bookshelf” is missing at all.

A second distinction from iOS/Android is an emphasis on content and action orientation. In Windows Phone and Windows 8 phone numbers and e-mail addresses are written in small fonts, while actions like “call” or” “send e-mail” in the big ones. Large fonts and shifts is another Metro feature. It should be definitely taken into account while designing interfaces.

Other peculiarities of the platforms

1) Mostly, Android is tied to Google eco-system, iOS – to Apple, Windows Phone and Windows 8 – to Microsoft eco-system accordingly. This can be both an advantage and a drawback. For example, it will be easier to work with office documents, but instead of tight integration with Dropbox you will be proposed to use SkyDrive.

2) Platform limitations. Windows Phone is a rather strict platform. There are clear limits for application start time, sizes of downloaded files depending on the kind of Internet connection, quantity of background operations etc. Due to such limitations even “native” for Windows Phone Skype doesn’t always work as it is expected from a proper messenger.

3) Specific requirements for Windows 8 scenarios. There are so called contracts in Windows 8 – Search, Share etc., with the help of which such scenarios as “search in application”, “repost smth in social networks” or “open the file in another application” are performed. It should be separately said about Settings and Share – in Windows 8 they should be only in the sidebar. Duplication of functionality inside the application is highly undesirable.

Navigation bar in Windows Phone and Windows 8 differ. Windows Phone has mostly linear navigation (non-linear navigation is allowed only in exceptional cases and thoroughly tested), while Windows 8 is more loyal to the navigation model. Moreover, you will have to think over the possibility of a quick access to the application main screens from any screen.

4) Windows Phone 7.5 vs. Widows Phone 8. You should remember that at the moment there are several main Windows Phone versions:

• Mango — Windows Phone 7.5 (512 MB of memory);
• Mango — Windows Phone 7.8 (512 MB of memory) — the update has not been released yet;
• Tango — Windows Phone 7.5 (256 MB of memory);
• Apollo — Windows Phone 8.

If you’ve decided to support 7.x platform, you need to think whether the application will support Tango devices (budget ones) that are more sensitive to the memory used by the applications. In case you need NFC or in-app purchases (IAP), you should straightway focus on Windows Phone 8.0 or support two versions of the application (7.x and 8.x).

Thanks for consideration. In case you have some thoughts to add on the topic or even have already ported some app from iOS/Android to WP or Win8, I’d be glad to see your comments here.

Thank you,

Nadya Klim

Nadya Klim
Nadya.Klim@altabel.com
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

As you may know, the main thing which Windows 8 has adopted from Windows Phone is live tiles; a user can see them right after the computer starts. The more popularity Windows 8 will gain, the more people will wonder: what are the tiles for? What’s the use of them?

Potential customers are already a bit familiar with live tiles conception, for example, from the Nokia Lumia advertisement. Hence, they imagine what kind of information is displayed on them. Nevertheless, the number of those who are familiar with live tiles is negligible in comparison with the number of potential Windows 8 users. In the next two years Modern interface in Windows 8 is expected to cause confusion.

People will either love or hate these live tiles. But anyway Windows Phone 8 interface will seem familiar for Windows 8 users, even if they’ve never seen those smartphones. The same is with Windows Phone users – Windows 8 interface should be known to them.

Huge attention has been given to cloud integration in Windows 8. The same thing is for Windows Phone: products for these platforms and for Xbox 360 as well will be able to interact through SkyDrive and Xbox services tied up to Microsoft account (former Live ID).

Office and OneNote products for Windows Phone have already stored documents in SkyDrive, and now Office 2013 applications can do the same. It means you can create a document on one platform and continue your work on another one, and the application automatically determines where you’ve stopped your work last time. Photos made with WP-smartphone can be automatically uploaded to SkyDrive, and then they are automatically displayed in Windows 8 gallery. The same is with Facebook.

Also, Microsoft is going to implement tablets and phones interaction with Xbox 360 console. For this purpose SmartGlass application is to be released. The application will allow mobile devices to work as a console remote control and will display context information on the screen. Thus, smartphone or tablet may be used as a secondary screen in the games. Let me remind you that Xbox Live achievements are already synchronized among games versions for different platforms. Xbox Music service will provide an access to the music store and free broadcast from any device. Microsoft is not forcing to use Windows Phone, company’s service integration is available for other platforms as well, although in Windows Phone 7 and 8 it is more fully implemented. SkyDrive and OneNote clients are available for Symbian (only uploading files to the services), Android and iOS (with full functionality). According to Microsoft, next year service Xbox Music will become available for Android and iOS users. Microsoft has shown an excellent example of respectable attitude to its users.

For some time computer and mobile OSes resemblance will be only external. Although porting from Windows to Windows Phone is a quite simple process, users will have to buy separately the same application for different platforms.

It is the first time we see common interface in mobile and computer OSes. Earlier Microsoft was trying to port desktop Windows interface to smartphones on Windows Mobile. While now the company ports mobile sensor interface into computer operating system. Even Apple haven’t ventured on this.

The decision to use 2 kinds of interface in Windows 8 –desktop and Modern- is certainly rather controversial. The company risks encounter users’ complaint, who will confuse these interfaces and spend their time to find where the needed program starts from.

The situation can change only if lots of blue-chip Windows 8 applications appear in Windows Store. In this case users will be able to give up traditional desktop mode and switch fully to the Modern one.

For starting most of the applications desktop mode is needed, but in prospect more and more applications will start in Modern interface. Popularity and demand for Modern interface fully depends on applications developers. Currently there are relatively few applications in Windows Store – only 8,5 thousand. In case the quantity of applications for Windows 8 grows the same as for Windows Phone, in a couple of years there will be more than 100 thousand of them. By the way, many Windows Phone applications can be installed as trials version, which do not go separately from full versions. Let’s compare it with Android and iOS, where trial and full versions are two different applications.

After users start switching from Windows 7 to Windows 8, the number of Windows Phone 8 users will grow, opening huge perspectives in front of applications developers. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 work on the common core, which allows easily porting from one platform to another one. Huge amount of Windows8 users will inevitably pay their attention to the mobile version of this platform – Windows Phone 8. The interface will be familiar to them, applications will be the same, why not buy such a smartphone?

Thank you for consideration. I know there are still lots of opponents of the OSes discussed, but I’m eager to learn your thoughts on Windows 8 and WP 8, and first impressions as well.

Best regards,

Nadya Klim

Nadya Klim
Nadya.Klim@altabel.com
Business Development Manager
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Much was written and heard about Windows 8 before its release and there were many rumors around it. Finally October 26, it has arrived. Microsoft announced that the cost for online upgrade will be only $39.99 and approves that it will be compatible with previous operating systems: Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. In stores, the price will be quite a bit higher: $69.99. However, the question still remains whether it is really worth upgrade to Windows 8? First of all let see what the advantages offer Windows 8 and if there any hidden rocks.

The advantages of Windows 8:

- It’s faster, quicker in comparison with previous versions of Microsoft and either with Apple’s new Mac OS X Mountain Lion.
Innovative Interface – Microsoft has brought the Metro-style, so much criticized by many users, has an entirely new layout and interface, which is highly touch-optimized as well.
Loads of apps – recently launched Windows Store that has many programs and apps to download.
SkyDrive integration – Cloud Storage is going to be an essential element nowadays on PCs, tablets and smart phones. With SkyDrive cloud service will be easy for users to sync docs, music, video and other content with cloud and they can be easily accessed from all PCs across the world.
– First-class touch feature – Microsoft has designed Windows 8 both for tablets and for regular computers with keyboard and mouse.

There’s always a but…

Users remain significantly less enthused about Windows 8. Many of them think that it is unstable and the first version of a new operating system is bound to have bugs and issues. As the result, they don’t find anything attractive in new software as the priority feature remains the confidence. The absence of common Start Screen and Start Button is the other reason why the users not interested with Windows 8.

According the last survey that was held in US among 1,200 adults; it was found that 52 per cent hadn’t even heard of the release of Windows 8.

“Among the people who knew something about the new operating system, 61 per cent had little or no interest in buying a new laptop or desktop computer running on Windows 8, according to the poll. And only about a third of people who’ve heard about the new system believe it will be an improvement (35 per cent)”.

“I am not real thrilled they are changing things around,” Dionne said. “Windows 7 does everything I want it to. Where is the return on my investment to learn a new OS?”

“I like something I am used to and can get around on without too much trouble. Sometimes when you get these new (systems), you wish you could go back to the old one.” said Sweeten.

The proverb says how many people so many opinions. So for those who is keen to push towards innovation and ready to the upgrade primary Microsoft recommend to make sure that currently running OS will be compatible with Windows 8 and in this connection prepared sort of instruction of commonly asked questions and answers. Below you may find some of them in order to find out whether your computer is ready for the Windows 8 upgrade.

Can your computer run Windows 8?

The minimum system requirements for Windows 8 are fairly accommodating. Microsoft says that if your computer can run Windows 7, it should be able to run Windows 8.

Among the basic requirements for Windows 8 are:
• Processor: 1GHz or faster
• Memory: 2GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit) RAM
• Hard disk space: 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
• Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Besides the basic ones, Windows 8 has the specific features. To use touch options, obviously you’ll need a tablet or monitor that supports multitouch, though some laptops will get extra trackpad gestures through the new OS. Windows Store apps (which include most of the new ‘Modern’ interface options) require a screen resolution of at least 1024 by 768, and app snapping requires at least 1366 by 768. This can be a problem for netbooks, which typically have a resolution of lower resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. There’s a somewhat clunky registry hack to fix that, and you can still install Windows 8 on netbooks if you’re happy to only use the conventional desktop mode.

Are your programs and devises are Windows 8 compatible?

Most apps and devices that work on Windows 7 should be fine on Windows 8. To check specific programs, visit Microsoft’s Compatibility Center or run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, which scans your computer and checks for software and hardware compatibility.

Besides, on Microsoft.com you can also find the guidelines for how to install Windows 8, apps on your computer and further technical support.

For sure Windows 8 is quite different from previous Microsoft versions and other operating systems; it represents new approach towards computing. There are many positive and inspire opinions as well as the hostile ones. As everyone makes decision according to his own preference it’s hard to predict the real impact of Microsoft windows 8 in the market. So let’s wait –and-see how the things go on.

Thank you for your attention and you are welcome to leave the comments and share your advice and experience on Windows 8.

Best regards,
Katerina Bulavskaya
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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