February 2014

Who’s betting on BlackBerry?

by Joey deVilla on February 17, 2014

who's betting on blackberry

I can’t name any techies who are betting on BlackBerry, but I can point to a few investors on Seeking Alpha who are:

I shouldn’t have to remind you that the bets an investor makes and the bets that a mobile technologist makes are very different creatures. These Seeking Alpha analysts are in the business of getting as much bang out of their investment buck as possible, while readers of this blog are in the business of getting as much functionality out of their tech as possible. These rumbling from the investment community are worth noting because they give some hints as to what BlackBerry may do in the future, which the investors seem to hope is to give up hardware and concentrate on mobile device management and security, which are sure to be a big deal over the next few years.

Nor should I have to remind you that none of this should be construed as investment advice: you pays your money and you takes your chances, and nowhere did we didn’t tell you what to bet on.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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Enterprise mobile roundup

by Joey deVilla on February 14, 2014

enterprise mobile roundup

Creative Commons photo by Matthew Hurst. Click to see the source.

And now, some links to interesting news and articles about mobile technology as applied to the enterprise…

Good Technology’s data suggests iOS has a dramatic lead in the enterprise

iphone ios 7

CIO points to the latest report from Good Technology, the Good Technology Mobility Index Report Q4 2013, which says nearly three-quarters of all activations in the fourth quarter of 2013 among its customer base — more than 5,000 organizations in over 130 countries — were for iOS devices:

good technology mobile os chart

iOS accounted for 73% of all Q4 2013 activations of mobile devices using Good’s security platform, followed by Android at 26%, and Windows Phone for the remaining 1%.

When you look at just the tablet activations, Apple’s lead is even more stunning, accounting for 91.4% of tablets with Good’s security solution installed. Android accounts for the remaining 8.6%:

good technology tablet chart

Samsung’s enterprise push sees success with the US Army and the NSA

samsung galaxy s4

The recent exodus from the BlackBerry platform — one we recommend — has created an opportunity for its rivals to capitalize on. While Apple’s been doing a good job of winning over the enterprise, Samsung is also actively courting the enterprise by pushing features like its Knox security platform and chip-level security. Their efforts seem to be paying off, as the US Army has placed an order of 7,000 devices, and “several thousand” have been ordered by the NSA. Both were originally BlackBerry customers, who chose the platform for its security features; Samsung Knox-enabled devices received approval from the US Department of Defense last year.

5 arguments to convince your boss to let you BYOD

peter and lumbergh

Dell’s Tech Page One has these five arguments you can use to persuade your boss to let you bring your own device for work purposes:

  1. It’ll save the company money. They point to this CIO Insight article that suggests that BYOD can save a company up to $80 per month per employee.
  2. The support requirements for BYOD are very low. They say that consumer phones and the apps that run on them are quite easy to use, choosing one’s own device means that users will be using platforms that they know and love, and users will be more likely to upgrade their own software and rely on the manufacturer for support.
  3. It’s not insecure. It’s no more insecure than any given company-issued desktop computer, and people are far more likely to take better care of devices that they own.
  4. It’ll make workers happier and more productive. Users will tend to choose the phone that’s right for them and their job.
  5. You can’t stop them, anyway. Shadow IT is pervasive. “You may not want to hear this, but asking for permission to BYOD is really just a formality. Just as your employees are already using their work phones for personal stuff, we’re also using our personal devices to access work stuff as much as we possibly can. We just don’t tell you about it.”

5 enterprise mobility myths you probably think are facts

myths facts

In BizCommunity.com. Nilesh Talaviya lists five thing people think are true about enterprise mobility that actually aren’t:

  1. It’s best to wait and watch. With many enterprises already building mission-critical mobile apps, the longer you dawdle, the more you’re giving your competition the lead.
  2. BYOD is mandatory. BYOD makes sense in a lot of situations, but not all of them. There are other approaches, such as COPE (Company-Owned, Personally-Enabled), and CYOD (Choose Your Own Device), for starters.
  3. Enterprise mobile apps are a security nightmare. With the right security measures, apps on mobile devices are no more dangerous than desktop applications.
  4. Enterprise mobility is too costly. There are lots of inexpensive options for building enterprise apps, and custom-built enterprise apps don’t have to have the same UIs as consumer apps.
  5. Enterprise mobility needs big investment in infrastructure. Most of the infrastructure is taken care of by the carrier and wifi — most of what you’ll need to add is made up of building ways to integrate mobile devices with your back end.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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mirror universe microsoft

There’s a classic Star Trek episode in which a transporter malfunction beams Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Scotty to a “mirror universe” where everyone has an evil counterpart. In the mirror universe, the Enterprise isn’t a ship of exploration but war and conquest, the peaceful Federation is the hostile Terran Empire, and Evil Mr. Spock is wearing the dreaded Beard of Evil. If you’ve never seen it before, or are itching to see it again, someone’s posted it on YouTube, and I’m posting it below. Enjoy it before Paramount issues the takedown:

We don’t live in a world of starships and transporters, but Microsoft’s head of PR, Frank X. Shaw, the company’s answer to the Iraqi Information Minister, just might. The latest evidence for this came to light in his response to Farhad Manjoo’s first column for the New York Times.

In his column, How to Survive the Next Wave of Technology Extinction, Manjoo writes:

By following a simple strategy, you can get the most out of the digital world while reducing the chance you’ll be burned by a single wrong move. The point is to minimize the danger of getting locked in to any one company’s ecosystem. The strategy also ensures that you can easily move from device to device without much hassle.

The key is promiscuity. When you decide what to use, you’ve got to play every tech giant against the other, to make every tech decision as if you were a cad — sample every firm’s best features and never overcommit to any one.

Here’s his strategy, boiled down to three lines, which I’ve dubbed “The Manjoo Mantra” and to which I’ve added those lovely graphics that you’ve come to expect from this blog:

the manjoo mantra

Manjoo’s approach is my approach, and if you talk to your local alpha geek, and the odds are pretty good that s/he’s following it as well. From informal nerd gatherings like Toronto’s Rails Pub Nite, to more organized get-togethers like DevTO, to the Toronto and Ottawa offices of the billion-dollar ecommerce business Shopify, to the San Francisco Bay Area, from small startups working out of their kitchens or at cafes, to operations ranging from Stripe to Dropbox to Google (all places where I’ve interviewed in the past little while), it’s the same: hardware from Apple, services from Google, media (and often, other tangible goods from Amazon).

I do keep a Windows 8 machine handy just in case there’s some Windows-specific work to do — a Lenovo T430, which I call the “StinkPad” — but at this point, it’s relegated to secondary tasks such as email, Skype, audio and video playback, torrenting and other joe-jobs so that the main computer, an early 2011 MacBook Pro has maximum free cycles to do real work. At this point in the game, most of my Microsoft user experience comes from my trusty Xbox 360, and the occasional Office document (which I open on the Mac), and doing tech support on aging friends’ and relatives’ aging home computers (a good number of which run Windows XP).

Note that Microsoft doesn’t appear at all in the Manjoo Mantra, and that’s not the sort of snub that Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications (that’s right, the word corporate appears in his title twice) gets paid big bucks to take lying down. He published one of those “open letter” replies to Manjoo’s column in Business Insider, which I include in its entirety below:

Dear Farhad,

When you wrote for Slate, you often championed new emerging technologies that offered the tantalizing prospect of disrupting static markets by putting more power and choices into the hands of the people who use them. So naturally, I was a little confused when I opened the paper of record this morning to find that along with switching your employee badge, you seem to have switched sides, and are now a firm supporter of the status quo.

I’m referring, of course, to your advice column for consumers wishing to avoid “tech extinction” by betting on the wrong horse. Surprisingly though, your predictions seem like you are using a rear-view mirror, not a windshield, to look at the road ahead. You recommend sticking with today’s biggest players in the mobile phone, web services and content marketplaces, diversifying purchases between Apple, Google and Amazon accordingly. The core argument for doing this seems to be that none of these companies are likely to go away, and that spreading your bets reduces the risk of “lock in.”

Ironically, these recommendations do lock you in. To expensive hardware with fewer choices and to aggressive content screening and intrusive advertising.

More importantly though you are discounting the possibility that the best antidote to extinction is actually betting on players who are innovating today, not simply monetizing the products they invented 5 or 10 years ago. Your own advice would have had a 2007 smartphone buyer picking a BlackBerry over an iPhone, a 2001 gamer buying a Dreamcast instead of an Xbox, and a 2008 social media user putting all their contacts into MySpace, not Facebook. This would have look like sound advice at those moments in time, but of course it wasn’t. Not because those products were bad, but because they had already peaked, and were no longer focused on solving customer problems in fresh new ways. The best way to avoid extinction is betting on a commitment to evolution through innovation.

So while your readers could take your advice and blend in with the current crowd, we’d encourage you (and them) to take a look at some alternatives that offer even better ways to get things done. And with a cross-platform connected ecosystem that spans the workplace to the living room featuring best in class products like Office, Skype and Xbox, we’re a pretty safe bet too.

fxs

If you have any grasp of the history of tech over the past twenty years, your reaction is probably similar to this:

the doctor - wtf

Think about it:

I admire the bare-knuckle yet tactful way in which Shaw deals with bad PR for Microsoft, but he’s living in an alternate reality. In that parallel universe, I’d have gladly stayed in Microsoft, evangelizing an industry-redefining, disruptive, successful Windows Phone and Surface Tablet.

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How influential are mobile apps?

by Joey deVilla on February 13, 2014

Quite influential — you see references to them everywhere, and I mean everywhere:

angry birds grenade

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What’s going on with Windows Phone?

by Joey deVilla on February 13, 2014

what's going on with windows phone

What’s going on with Windows Phone? Right now, not much market share and a whole lot of speculation. Read on, as we look over the history and recent stories of Microsoft’s current mobile operating system.

What’s going on with Windows Phone’s market share?

original android phoneMarket share, by definition, is a zero-sum game: in order for a player to get more market share, it has to take it away from the other players. Microsoft played a very good zero-sum game in the 1990s, grabbing the lion’s share of a number of markets: desktop operating systems, business productivity software, the browser, and in the second quarter of 2007, half the smartphones sold in the US ran Windows Mobile.

The release of the iPhone redefined the smartphone market, not just in terms of market share, but also in terms of feature set and design. It forced Google to drastically alter their plans for Android, which at the time was more like the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices of that era, with a hardware keyboard, a directional pad, and a non-touch-sensitive screen (there’s a photo of a prototype on the right). By playing fast follower — something that used to be Microsoft’s stock in trade — Android grew, eventually claiming more than half the mobile OS market share in 2011.

Microsoft didn’t respond as quickly. In fact, then-CEO Steve Ballmer famously dismissed the iPhone, saying that it was yet another overpriced Apple device, and that the business market — where they make most of their money, and then the primary market for smartphones — wouldn’t go for it since it lacked the all-too-necessary hardware keyboard needed for real work. A year later, the Windows Mobile team was reorganized and put to work on what would become Windows Phone. In the meantime, the lackluster Windows Mobile 6.5 was put out as an interim release in 2009, when Ballmer publicly admitted that Microsoft had “screwed up with Windows Mobile”. Windows Phone, first introduced as “Windows Phone 7 Series” was released for the North American market in November 2010, almost three and a half years after the first iPhone. Sales were sluggish, and as I recall from my time at Microsoft (I was a Developer Evangelist and designated Windows Phone Champ), the carrier support was nearly non-existent. Months after Windows Phone’s release, Ballmer admitted that Windows Phone adoption was disappointing, with their share of the market having gone from “very small…to very small”.

Stephen Elop, former head of Microsoft’s business division (Office 2010 was released under his watch) left in 2010 to become Nokia’s CEO, and in February 2011, the Microsoft/Nokia alliance was announced. Some people believed that the bringing together of two giants would boost Windows Phone’s fortunes — IDC and Gartner predicted that Windows Phone would be the number two OS after Android by 2015, and Pyramid Research boldly (read: “crazily”) predicted that it would have seized the number one spot from Android by now. Others, like Googler (and ex-Microsoftie) Vic Gundotra didn’t see it that way; in response to the alliance, he tweeted:

He turned out to be right.

2 turkeys

Here’s a look at the mobile OS market as of the fourth quarter of 2013:

mobile os share q4 2013

Last quarter, Android and iOS accounted for nearly 96% of all smartphone shipments. In the zero-sum game of mobile share, that leaves Microsoft with less than four percent of the market, less than the minimum double-digit share believed necessary to thrive, and certainly less than the 20% share predicted by Gartner and IDC, and the 40% share predicted by Pyramid Research. If Microsoft expect to remain a player in the mobile OS market, and if it intends to shift its focus to devices as services as put forth in its latest mantra, it will have to make radical changes to Windows Phone.

What about that Canalys story about Windows Phone being the fastest-growing mobile OS?

grumpy catA couple of weeks ago, we wrote about an announcement from industry analyst Canalys stating that Windows Phone is now the fastest-growing mobile platform, having experienced at 69% year-over-year increase in the fourth quarter of 2013Tomi Ahonen, an avid Nokia-watcher and whom I think of as “the Grumpy Cat” of mobile industry punditry, is calling shenanigans on Canalys’ statistics, calling them “deliberately misleading and utterly untrustworthy”. He argues that Canalys is misleading people by talking about the growth rate rather growth, which makes the number of Windows Phone devices shipped look considerably more impressive. He says that if you compare growth rather than growth rate, Windows Phone’s performance looks very dismal:

windows phone vs android real growth 2012 - 2013

Chart by Tomi Ahonen. Click to see at full size.

What’s going on with Windows Phone and Android?

windows phone and androidFor now, the answer is “nothing yet, other than a lot of armchair quarterbacking and speculation.”

Last week, the Guardian’s tech writer, in one of those “advice to the CEO” opinion pieces that usually appears when a major company takes on a new chief, suggested that Microsoft scrap their current efforts with Windows Phone and create a “fork” of Android. “Forking”, if you’re not familiar with the term, is one of the two major options that open source software presents to a developer: you can either contribute to the effort, or you can fork it — as in “fork in the road” — by taking the code, going your own way, and working with your own version, with the features you want.

Ars Technica’s Peter Bright wrote a counter to the Guardian article, saying that Android, while nominally open source, is “unforkable”, because it has two major components:

  • AOSP, the Android Open Source Platform, the “basic bones of a smartphone operating system”, which anyone can take and put on a mobile device. Amazon has done just that with their Kindle devices.
  • GMS, Google Mobile Services, which provides “a wealth of APIs and system services”, including Google Maps, location, in-app purchasing, as well as a lot of the standard apps on Android devices, including Search, Gmail, Chrome, Maps, and so on. You can’t fork this, your device must pass Google approval to use GMS, and it costs an estimated $0.75 per device.

Bright argues that while you can create a fork of Android with AOSP, without GMS and all the goodies that come with it, it’s just not the Android that users know and love. Not only will the fork not have a lot of the standard Android apps that people expect, but many third-party apps that rely on APIs — Application Programming Interfaces, the “hooks” that programmers rely on to access specific features — provided by GMS; they just won’t work on an Android fork without GMS.

fork in the road

At Stratechery, one of the five points in Ben Thompson’s answer to the question “What should Microsoft do?” in terms of mobile is to fork Android. He suggests that Microsoft could build a mobile OS on top of AOSP (AOSP.NET, perhaps?) and then use its own services — Bing Search, Bing Maps, Outlook and so on — as replacements for the goodies that come with GMS. They could even make APIs that are really similar to those offered in GMS so that it would be easy for third-party developers to port their Android code to the Microsoft’s forked version.

Thompson’s plan calls for “Microsoft’s global platform evangelists to encourage every Android developer to change a few lines of code and submit to the Microsoft AOSP App Store”. There’s a big problem with this, and I say this with some authority as a former member of said global platform evangelists, and as one whose area of specialization was Windows Phone:

  • It’s not going to win over Microsoft developers. Microsoft has a tendency to create a new technology, promote it madly to developers, then kill or abandon it after creating a newer, shinier technology. They feel that they’ve been jerked around enough, first with the complete incompatibility of Windows Phone 7 with Windows Mobile 6.5 and previous Windows Mobile OSs, and then with the big changes in development model from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8. Dropping Windows Phone and encouraging developers to learn building for Yet Another New Mobile Operating System will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  • It’s not going to win over Android developers. They’ll see this as Microsoft reverting to its old strategy of “Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish”, and they’re not going to want to be party to that sort of history repeating itself.

The new Microsoft may embrace open standards such as HTML5 and JavaScript, but a whole operating system that they didn’t invent? For a company in the business is selling operating systems and office productivity software? Highly unlikely.

bluestacks

And finally, there’s talk of Microsoft considering letting Android apps run on not just Windows Phone, but even Windows — as in desktop/laptop/Surface Pro tablet Windows — as well. Running Android on Windows desktop has been possible for a while now, thanks to virtualization technologies like BlueStacks’, and it may be possible to port their virtualization technology to Windows Phone.

Mary Jo Foley says that such a fork would demotivate developers for the same reasons I cited above.

What do you think? Would you use a Windows Phone if it could run Android apps as well as an Android-only device?

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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When videogame characters go bird-watching

by Joey deVilla on February 12, 2014

mario birdwatching

Cartoon by Yves “The Bourgyman” Bourgelas.
Click to see the source.

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RayWenderlich.com’s iOS development video tutorials

by Joey deVilla on February 12, 2014

ray wenderlich tutorial videos

Click the image to see the video on its page.

RayWenderlich.com has long been home to some of the best iOS development tutorials out there. They regularly publish tutorials that you can read online for free (here’s a categorized list), as well as more in-depth ebooks such as The iOS Apprentice, which they sell at very reasonable prices, especially considering the depth to which they cover their topics. If you’re serious about iOS development, and especially if you’re just getting started, you should visit RayWenderlich.com regularly.

In response to readers’ requests, RayWenderlich.com is introducing video tutorials. These videos focus on a particular iOS or Objective-C development topic, dive deep into it, end with some kind of hands-on challenge (and provide a solution), and are generally run about 15 minutes. The first video tutorials will cover the basics, such as:

  • Core concepts
  • Data types
  • Foundation
  • Storyboards
  • Auto Layout

As time goes on, they’ll add other topics, such as OpenGL, iCloud, Sprite Kit, networking, GCD (Grand Central Dispatch), Mac programming, in-app purchases, Unity, and even Android. In the intro video, Ray says that even if you’ve been doing iOS development for a while, you should watch these videos, as there’s a good chance that you’ll learn something new, and even if you don’t, it’s always good to brush up on the material, as there’s just so much.

In order to give people a taste of what these videos — which are currently “in beta” — are like, they’ve made these four viewable for free:

In keeping with RayWenderlich.com’s tradition of providing good tutorials at a decent price, you’ll eventually need to sign up for a video tutorial subscription for $19/month. As a reward for early birds, you can lock in a rate right now for $15/month. Having read much of the site and purchased The iOS Apprentice and iOS by Tutorials, I believe that the tutorials will give you, the iOS developer, a lot of bang for the buck.

 

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