Mobile – A New Era of Computing – How has it turned out for you?

As part of my day job, I read a lot of Analyst reports and they all seem to be talking about Mobile being the new Era of Computing. I’ve been trying to understand what that really means. Yes, I can recognize that we’ve had shifts between the centralized days of Main Frames, to the Client-Server Days of the PC, to the Server based days of the Web, and now we have this Mobile era. Is Mobile, Client-Server Web? Some companies do this, as they use HTML5 and Mobile Web apps, but I don’t think this is what we mean. So I am asking for your help, if Mobile is a truly a new era of computing, we should be able to address the following questions:

  1. How have you changed your computing habits?
  2. Has this changed how you and your customers interact? 
  3. Has this changed your development practices?
  4. What do you see as the longest lasting change?
  5. What change were you expecting that has not occurred?

What version of Android should you support?

During today’s flight to MacWorld/iWorld the Boeing 757 I was on, had to reboot their in flight entertainment system multiple times. These planes have been in service for some time. But the seats look to have been updated within the last 5 or so. I wasn’t surprised to see the Linux penguin during the boot sequence. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine has been leading the development team for one plane which recently rolled out to their customers, and they are using Android for their inflight entertainment system. The part that is surprising is that they are using Android 2.2 for their operating system. It seems that in some of these embedded systems they are not as current as the latest mobile phone.

This all got me thinking, for android apps, do you go for the largest potential customers, knowing that you will be 2-3 years out of date on operating system features? Or do you go for the new and cool features, knowing that you will have the potential for longer life for your app?

Can Mobile Save your local Newspaper?

I’ve been thinking about Newsweek’s announcement last month – “Newsweek goes all digital” and the implications to newsprint, which has been struggling for many years. The New York Times has been providing both Digital and Printed material for some time, and has erected a paywall around much of their digital content. It seems that their paywall has been effective, even though I don’t have any insights on how profitable it may be.

We’ve had multiple examples of all digital content that has stumbled but I am not sure if that will be the same with local papers. There are two challenges that local papers are facing:

  1. Ad revenue – yup popular wisdom is that Craigslist has killed the local ad revenue – and I don’t have anything to disprove it.. Yard sales and swap meets no longer use the local paper. This has caused many local papers to be purchased by national media outlets. Those national companies can bring in national ad campaigns, thereby allowing local beat reporters to focus on local stories. And national stories from the national news bureaus. The challenge I see with this is that you get local reporters telling stories on national events. They don’t get the visibility and reach, to gain experience and move up in the media.
  2. Declining readership – more and more people are getting their news from social media and the Internet. We are all working longer days, due to global reach of businesses, and the time to sit in the morning, with a cup of coffee, reading the paper before work has basically disappeared for many. If we work in a traditional office, we may spend 20-45 minutes in a car rising to work, but reading a paper during the drive is dangerous at best (when I lived in Atlanta, I did see people doing it!!!).

So how do you fix this? Mobile apps! Apps that can stream audio of local stories, and with modern accessibility features in mobile phones, even read stories to us. While multitasking we can listen to the local news, and local reporters can be discovered via social media to share storeis which have a reach beyond the area code they were written in.

At a recent mobile developer meet up, I met a local developer whose company has developed a platform used by one of the local tv stations to provide their news feed via mobile devices. I have dug thru my notes and can’t find the name of the company, nor the local tv station, but as soon as I do, I will do a deeper review and see if it can be used for the local papers too. Perhaps they can help us save the local paper.

Windows 8 and the phone

It appears that Windows Phone SDK is finally getting released at the end of this month. I’ve been looking at a lot of different reports lately about the amount of apps by platform, the growth by platform, and popularity of various other aspects. To that end, whenever I see these reports I think “would I, should I, learn yet another phone platform and target it?” I am sure many other mobile developers are thinking about this same thing.

When people look at stocks, the saying is, you buy on the rumor and sell on the news.

If you use this thought process for you mobile app development, does that mean that we should all be coding for Windows Phone 8 by now? The Analysts keep saying it is going to be huge!! I know this report is a bit old, but I’ve not found any report that says this prediction has changed. So to me, this is the rumor… It also becomes a self fulfilling prophecy… if we follow the idea above. People go to where the apps are, so if we build apps on the rumor, the apps will be there.

The flipside the also becomes true, we all know the news of iOS and Android. they are hugely successful with so many potential users for our apps. They are both continuing to grow fast! So if we build on the rumor suddenly there won’t be new apps for these popular platforms. And people will leave them.. to go for the new apps… over on Windows.

I’m not sure.. I think I will continue to write for IOS.

Catching up on some blogging

Sometimes I forget how fast time can move when you are busy. I’ve been meaning to blog since going to the escapist expo a few weeks ago, and I just keep running out of time, so this morning while I drink a cup of my favorite coffee, I decided to start this blog entry.

So where do I begin?

The Escapist Expo happened the same weekend as Durham’s Centerfest celebration. I had found out about the Escapist Expo on friday while listening to The State of Things – and decided I had to go. How could I not? Gaming, Games, and Geek Culture!! It was a triple threat. I went and got to hear a session from Chris Hazard – founder of Hazardous Games. I’ve talked with Chris many times, including on both of my podcasts – (Dogearnation – now defunct, and GamesAtWork.Biz – the current podcast). He has an amazing mind and thinks a lot of how to use time travel in simulation games. I then spent time on the show floor, testing out new games, picking up some game inspired music, and watching all the really great cosplay people. Amazing time, hate that I forgot to take pictures. Oh, and I did take part of a team based geek trivia panel, there were 9 teams and we came in 4th. Given that there was a bunch on console gaming (and I don’t do console gaming), I felt proud to place 4th!

Since I didn’t take pictures.. I am linking to another attendee’s blog who took some great pics.

More to come .. soon.. I promise

What is your biggest challenge

I don’t have a lot of time to do my blogging, coding, and gaming… I have my day job which has been consuming more and more of my free time, including my time on weekends, and evenings. I bet many of you can relate to that, especially if you are doing mobile development in your spare time. I picked up mobile development a few years ago, as a way of getting back to the code. I’d been a developer many years ago, but as my career advanced, I started doing architecture, management, etc. The more I advanced the less I got to code.

Getting back to the code two years ago, was load of fun. It provided me with hands on experiences that many of my day job’s customers were dealing with. The ability to get back to this level of understanding has been invaluable. Having said that, I am also dealing with many of the challenges that customers and other developers are dealing with. A few of the ones I’ve been dealing with are:

  • Keeping up with multiple device characteristics. Even though most of my development is on iOS, I am still dealing with iPhone vs. iPad, normal vs. Retina. I can only think that adding android or Windows phone will compound that challenge.
  • Testing, and I don’t just mean the device problem. As a one person development team, I find that testing mobile apps to be difficult. I use the emulator to test as much as I can, but I also have to test on my devices. Of course, I don’t have all generations of the iPhone. To that end, I tend to force people to upgrade to “current” versions of iOS. This is probably not practical for most developers.
  • UX/UI design. I am not a graphic artist. So even though I have ideas, I can’t always visualize them. So things don’t look as good as I want them.
  • New toolkits. I am working on a game… Of course I am not an expert on all of the classes and methods within iOS, so adding a game platform library into the mix means I am even less of an expert. When should I use the toolkit vs. native? How to best optimize my apps performance

What are your biggest challenges?

WordPress on iPad

Well, as happens, the day job is consuming more and more time. Luckily the latest update to the WordPress for iPad app addresses many of the problems I’ve had recently. So I am able to write up a quick Huzzah! while getting ready for dinner.

I know work is getting busy when I don’t have time to download any new apps in an entire week. I tried this morning to find a good example of a DigDug game. The old Atari game where you would use a small pump and blowup fire-breathing dragons! Someone should make a good version of this.

Tonight’s TechCrunch Mini-Meetup

When is a mini-meetup a blow out!  When there are over 600 people signed up.  I am really looking forward to heading over in a few hours  to the TechCrunch Mini Meetup, the this number they have just announced that it has moved to Bay 7 (and to address the potential for rain.  As I’ve been saying on this reason for this blog, the RTP area is a vibrant location for start ups and for mobile development.  If you see me tonight introduce yourself, especially if you are a local mobile developer.  Let’s see how we can show off your work!

Triangle TweetUp and local developers

I’ve been to the triangle TweetUp hosted by Bronto for three years running. It is a great time and place to catchup with twitter friends, learn about cool things going on, and drink some good local beers. This year it included a mini ignite section, where six people got up and did five minute lightning talks. Having just done a lightning talk of sorts at IBM’s impact conference the week before, I really enjoyed the fact that these talks were truly personal, not focused on specific technology.

I also had the enjoyment of talking with both Drewand Tim. Tim told me about a great application for the Mac which I hope to use to start doing a few screencasts about my favorite apps. Go check out Reflections App.

I realize that working on this blog, along with my other activities at Games at work, Wasted time and my day job I’ve not been able to keep a nice cadence of entries over here. To that end, I am reaching out to others In the local community over the next few months to see if we can expand the base of bloggers on your favorite local app developers. More to come on that front.

IBM impact and mobile

As part of my day job, I work for IBM. Full disclosure, I work in the Rational software brand. As part of my job, I am focused on mobile development. To that end, I was able to go the IBM Impact in Las Vegas, Nevada this part week. It was amazing to see the number of people in the enterprise who are focused on mobile. From customers, partners, analysts, and IBMers, everyone was focused on mobile and looking at how they could extend their applications to take advantage of mobile devices.

IBM showed of their IBM Mobile Foundation, this is the first IBM version of the recently purchased WorkLight studio and server. For those who don’t follow enterprise applications, this allows for creation of hybrid mobile applications. A hybrid application is one that is combination of html5 and native platform code. This “best of both worlds” way of developing allows for common functions across multiple platforms, iOS, android, and windows mobile, while supporting native code for those functions which need access to device capabilities, i.e. the camera, or address book.

My focus for this blog and podcast ( when I can get time to get the podcast started ), is more about stand alone apps, for end users, not hybrid apps or enterprise users. However, it was certainly exciting to see all of this excitement in the enterprise. This will allow more and more developers to become mobile enabled, and that means that we will see more apps being developed for home and fun!