Archive for the 'widgets' Category

Webify my apps?

As a preparation for our discussion group for WIPJam at Mobile World Congress on Getting Cool content from the Cloud, and to follow up on the various discussions on the mobile web we have invited Malik Saadi from Informa to share some of his views and thoughts based on his report Mobile Web Application Developement. In this article Malik explains how the emergence of a fragmented smartphonosphere will make native development incredibly more difficult to scale and thus less and less economically viable and why mobile web development might be the savior for developers and brands alike looking to target larger audiences.

Malik Saadi Informa

Malik Saadi Principal Analyst Informa

Mobile cloud computing will shift applications development to the Web

Despite the proliferation of smartphones and efforts of promoting native development and runtime platforms, Web-based services are emerging as cost-effective challengers that could take application runtime to the Web environment. Not only will this allow the development of cheaper and advanced applications, but it could also shift computing resources and their management from the device to the cloud, which could in turn lower the barriers for enabling advanced applications over non-smartphone terminals.

Smartphones are limiting the appetite for applications development

In recent years, the mobile industry has moved from proprietary to open, allowing for continued improvements in device hardware and more innovation at the application level through the creation of developer communities and application distribution mechanisms. This trend has attracted the majority of device vendors and operating system (OS) developers as well as the mobile operators, which are now eager to offer their own branded app store and subsequently an immersive user experience and advanced mobile applications to their customers. As a result, there has been a strong increase in smartphone OS handset shipments, estimated by Informa Telecoms & Media at 216.3 million units in 2009, up 34% on the previous year. By 2014, sales of smartphones will reach 572.5 million units, representing 40% of total handset sales.

This trend is actually encouraging developers to create applications that are targeted at different OSs and native runtime environments. There are many advantages in developing mobile applications natively, including better integration with the device functionality, high-performance, always-available capabilities, and access to greater support from device vendors through the availability of advanced tools and developer programs.

However, there are also many challenges facing native application developers, which include: code complexity, which could affect the cost of the application development and time to market; application portability across a wide range of devices to achieve economies of scale; and restricted application distribution to operators and OEMs’ channels. Moreover, in the case of Apple, application approval has been a contested topic that has alienated several high-profile app developers from Apple’s App Store.

The fragmentation of OSs, user interfaces (UIs) and runtimes and associated developer programs are also likely to hamper any advantage gained from open mobile applications development. Open OS platforms are often differentiated by their level of support to multimedia and graphical capabilities, network connectivity options, input methods and hardware performance. Chipset manufacturers will find it increasingly difficult to maintain a high-performance and enhanced user experience over different platforms and their associated versions because each platform requires a deep integration with the device hardware and a number of optimization cycles are needed to ensure overall system stability and improved performance. Porting an application to several OS platforms is can be a good reason for failure among independent software vendors (ISVs), but is necessary to achieve economies of scale and reach a wide audience.

Palm Ares, mobile web made easy, Yes! universal?

Palm Ares, mobile web made easy, Yes! universal?

In addition, development tools associated with different OSs often lack the cross-platform approach that could enable the developer to write the application once and distribute it across various devices powered by different OSs. Mobile native application developers are stymied by the extreme difficulty of writing mobile apps for multiple OSs, UIs and runtime environments, especially when there is no clear winner and diversity is just increasing with the mushrooming number of app stores. Then there is the challenge of finding the right placement for this content so that it can be discovered easily by the end user.

Native applications developers also need to bear the cost of testing, certification and distribution of their applications. The majority of OEMs, operators and mobile app store (MAS) owners are imposing their own test and certification programs on developers. Testing fees are based on the complexity of the application submitted and are between US$250 and US$4,000 per submission. If the application is meant to run over variety of devices and terminal platforms, the third-party developer pays the full test fee for one device and gets a rebate for testing the same application on a second device. Additional fees might also be required for network-based applications. In addition, different OEMs and operators have different criteria for application testing in their certification programs. Native applications developers need to comply with these additional programs if they want their applications to reach different MASs and operator portals, which translates into additional cost burdens.

Also, an obvious difference between desktop and mobile native applications is mobile connectivity. Compelling applications should make maximum use of the customer’s mobility, from mobile location services through to interactive games. Simply replicating the desktop experience will not be enough to sustain long-term growth; users will not pay for mobile versions of applications that are available either free or nearly-free on their desktop computers.

Widget vs Native appsFor these reasons, generating native applications that address the long tail of consumer requirements and different consumer groups using various OSs and UIs could be cumbersome, costly and time consuming.

The shift to Web runtime and cloud-based services

The mobile Web applications development environment is an emerging alternative to native applications. This shift is best illustrated by the rush of operators and handset vendors to provide their own widget ecosystems which use Web technologies to facilitate mobile applications development and lower the overall development cost. It could also enable mobile operators and vendors to tap into the wealth of the Internet and address their customers with contextual applications that are more relevant to them.

Until recently, a number of barriers prevented Web-based applications and cloud services from gaining ground in the mobile market, including: the cost of connecting to Web services; the low-bandwidth and latency provided by current mobile access technologies; the bad quality and performance of mobile browsers and related Web technologies; and security issues.

Despite their current shortcomings in terms of performance, power consumption, integration and always-on capabilities compared with native applications, Web applications have many advantages including: faster development, time-to-market and monetization; wider distribution channels; and adaptability for cross-platformization.

There are many changes in the mobile market that are likely to shift applications development to the Web including:

  • The accelerating migration towards mobile broadband services.

  • The dramatic improvement in mobile browser solutions and UIs.

  • The advances of Internet transcoding and multimedia transformation.

  • The emergence of widgets and widget runtimes as efficient solutions for easy content discovery.

  • Deep integration of Web services with the device capabilities and features to enable the creation of contextual applications.

In the past year, several trends have crystallized around mobile Web runtime technology which promise to transform mobile Web applications development, distribution, installation, execution and management. A number of new OSs, including Google’s Android and Palm’s webOS, and a number of mobile platforms, including Microsoft’s Silverlight, Nokia Web Runtime, Qualcomm’s Plaza Mobile Internet, Adobe’s AIR, Access Netfront Widget platform and Opera Widgets, are designed with Web connectivity and functionality in mind. The whole idea is to enable the easy transition of applications development from a native environment to the Web environment.

Widget framework comparisonA number of operators, including Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, O2, Verizon, AT&T, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Softbank and China Mobile, have already developed – or are in the process of developing – widget stores and Web developer programs that will make the development and distribution of Web applications easier and content discovery and management simpler on the mobile screen. For example, the aim of the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) initiative – founded by Vodafone, China Mobile, Softbank and Verizon – is to stimulate a new generation of mobile Internet applications around which they can build their service plans and value-added services. JIL’s first project is to develop a widget ecosystem with a single point of access to enable developers to tap into the combined customer base of the four JIL operators – estimated at 1.1 billion subscribers.

The trend towards the adoption of the Web as a mobile applications development environment is likely to intensify thanks to both the emergence of mobile cloud computing and the low latency of the next-generation access networks, which include LTE, HSPA+ and WiMAX.

Informa expects the Web to become the new ubiquitous platform for application development as more and more applications move to the cloud and allow users to access their personal information anytime from any device and over any access network. This trend is likely to remove “smartness” from the device to the cloud, which could potentially reduce the burdens of fragmentation that the native development environment suffers from and spur innovation through the involvement of the much wider Web developer community in creating contextual mobile applications. In addition, this trend will help to shift processing and storage resources to the cloud, which means advanced applications could be accessed by more resource-constrained devices. This could in turn widen the addressable market for the cloud applications beyond the smartphone market.

By increasing the reliance of end users on the Web and cloud applications, new business models will emerge and revenues will be diversified from multiple sources that include advertising, network API charges to third-party service providers and the creation of premium services for the enterprise market. In addition, the migration to a Web development environment could increase traffic around hosted services such as e-mail, VoIP, online office, calendar, online gaming and social networking.

Several device vendors have been pre-installing key widgets in their devices but the trend now is to reorient their software platform strategies towards the creation of widget ecosystems for the development, distribution, lifecycle management, discoverability and monetization of widgets and Web applications in general. These applications are generally easy to create, fast to distribute and serve a plethora of niche markets on the Internet.

Tier-1 operators are also realizing the potential of partnering with Web application developers to enable innovation over their networks, reduce costs related to building data services and build service plans around long tail of consumer applications that target different user groups.

The aim of major operators is to move away from pipe services based on flat rates towards the creation of content-based service plans that will enable them to address different consumer groups with relevant real-time contextual applications and services.

Operators that are not experts in mobile data services, notably Mobile 2.0, have now openly admitted that they will not be able to create these services on their own and expect to employ third parties in the value chain to create best-of-breed services with sustainable business models.

In this context, vendors of mobile widget solutions could facilitate the work of operators by enabling them to bridge the gap between the Web and mobile applications development. These vendors already propose a suite of applications that could include a widget player, idle screen replacement, ODP and a white-label application store. These products could be deployed either individually or as part of an end-to-end widget development, distribution, presentation and monetization ecosystem.

Informa’s report Mobile Web Applications Development looks at various solutions for developing Web applications and widgets, their respective deployment scenarios and the different features that could be requested by operators or OEMs that wish to add mobile Internet and branded services through widgets. Obviously, operators and OEMs have different requirements when choosing a mobile widget solution depending on which market segments and regions they want to address and which services they aim to deploy. The report also looks at the role of mobile widgets in providing a rich mobile Internet experience to help operators and OEMs create new service opportunities, increase customer loyalty and extend the value of their brand to new market segments. It includes a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the revenue opportunities and key trends in widget ecosystems, enabling technologies and the challenges facing operators and OEMs in implementing them.

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In case you missed WIPJam at Awsome (OSIM)

At this stage if you have missed OSIM / WIPJam… there is no consolation other than reading the #osim tweets or consulting some of the great summaries written on the subject, and to quote just a few see the links at the bottom of this post, with hopefully more links from you soon…

A lot of OSIM summaries but no WIPJam summary so far which this post sets to correct… with a quick overview of the 2 unpanels.

This should be followed by a short series of posting summarizing the various discussion groups…

Open services architectures

Open services architectures

Open Source is all about community and developers… and sometimes developer communities (*)… And thus they should be a key part  of Open Source in Mobile ! That’s why we partnered with Informa to bring WIPJam to OSIM, invite developers to participate for free, and have a bit of collaborative thinking and exchange during the day!

Our  first unpanel focussed on openness and all its variants… The session covered a lot…

  • Operators struggling to be as opened as they would like to because of  local regulations told Chris Fromm of E-plus
  • Claudia Backus (Motorola) and Lars Kurth (Symbian Foundation) started a series of questions exploring the motivations behind targeting a platform whether Android or Symbian. To find out that developers thought that the interesting part in Android was more the buzz and the opportunity promise rather than the fact that it is open source (even though all agreed to say that open source should not only be seeing the code but also getting bug fixed…  and one of our developers had managed the feat!!!! which left Lefty (Access) voiceless for a good 5 minutes)
  • Choosing the right niche to open source in, with Dave Axmark reminding people of the surprised looks he got when he launched MySQL
  • Governance models and the best approach to take when setting open source communities, from completely open to a mix of community source and open source, sparkled a good discussion led by Ralph Mueller from Eclipse Foundation

A lot covered, but also a lot of subjects to be explored in more depth… Anyone wants to continue the conversation?

Choosing the right niche (and carpet) is sometimes baffling

Choosing the right niche (and carpet) is sometimes baffling

Discussion groups brought their usual brouhaha and debates… with results sometimes esoteric, but discussion group leaders have promised to post out more details on the subject soon.

Stay tuned for more summaries from our various discussion group!


Our second unpanel for the day was about mobile web development… trying to shed some lights on the complex world of widgets, mobile web, application or not application… or as represented on our panel, JIL (Vodafone) , BONDI (OMTP), html5 (W3C), transcoding (Siruna) or offering a pure web service REST (Layar).
A bit of clarification was needed first of all to define what widgets are after the debate earlier on this year (still on?)… Which Francois Daoust (W3C)  gave explaining what a widget was as per W3C standard which sounded very similar to “an application written by a web developer !!!” ; followed by an unanimous consensus that:

  1. Widget are applicationsThe end of a long day
  2. It is possible to make money from mobile widgets (someone actually pointed out that iPhone was a brilliant example of that)
  3. Whatever fragmentation exists is not specific to mobile but reflective on what’s happening on the web (hopefully this could mean banning the term fragmentation from any mobile conversation from now)
  4. Web development is much easier than traditional mobile development (earlier on in the day Tom Deryckere from Siruna had indulged the WIPJam with a live coding session showing how one could mobilize a website in 1 hour… )
  5. Web development is popular and there are many web developers out there! In a few months of existence Layar already has 111 layers developed for their site internationally with a large contingent from Japan! (Dirk Groten CTO of Layar was exhausting after being asked to give demos all day but managed to give us the figures )

Does it sound too easy, too simplistic?  Waiting for opinions…

Big thanks to all who joined us! With a special WIPThank  to the unpanel, the discussion group leaders, and all of you who had to face their fears of microphones! We look forward to seeing you all  the future! CTIA maybe??

Gate crashing at the Nokia T-Mobile party

Gracious party thrown by Nokia and Tmobile

As promised here are a few summaries of OSIM, feel free to post more!

- Peter Vescuso : Observations from the 2009 Open Source in Mobile (OSiM) Conference: Open Source…Perfect and Free?

- Philipp Deprez  : Review: OSiM World, Open Source in Mobile, Amsterdam

- Roberto Gallopini : Effective Commercial Open Source Strategies Reloaded

- David Wood : Five reasons open source won’t work in mobile(?)

And a final special thanks for Nokia and T-Mobile for organizing a great party on the last day of OSIM… or was it gate crashing?
(*) Thanks to Tony from Mobile Sorcery  for the inspiration with his famous “Symbian is open source as in open and source!”

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Counting the days

With only 10 days to go before the WIPJam at OSIM I’m all too busy polishing my best trainers for the event to think about anything else… but making sure that the event will be as interesting and entertaining as possible to all! Call it the stress of the organizer… So in need for reassurance I gathered a few of the hot topics of mobile development today that should spice up our conversation.

Open is the new closed writes Andreas Constantinou  from VisionMobile hi-lighting the fact that nowadays everyone claims to be open if not open source. But then adds that we’d better become informed shopper when it comes to openness and stop believing the “Wash whiter than snow” blanket statements coming from various open source and open projects in mobile.  This is just what our first unpanel will set-out to do! With 4 representatives from various  projects, Symbian Foundation, Access for Limo, Eclipse Foundation, and Motorola for OHA, joined by an operator (Eplus) and a long time open sourcer David Axmark (Founder of MySQL) we should be able to cover the entire spectrum of governance…

Why care you might ask? Governance is boring, administrative stuff and in the end they ‘re all the same… Or almost… (vote here for the best open source license for example)

My answer to this would be rather simple… governance will impact everything you can or can’t do in and around a platform… from annihilating your business model to blocking your product’s route to market (thinking a bit negative here)… ever tried to become a member of OHA or submit a code fix to Android to set-up an Android distro? Still waiting for the outcome of a JCP for APIs you need to launch your app across multiple phones? Still battling to get your apps through the Appstore or through an operator?  Looking forward to put your hands on the Limo or Symbian code? All points that we can take with our panel of experts…

24% of mobile developers have started to write apps for netbooks according to EDC and will definitely check this with our participants. Thanks to Intel we will have a truckload (or so) of netbooks in demonstration at the device bar… and a great discussion group on the subject of netbooks and new devices… what could we make of them?  What do they change to development patterns?

And if these 24% are correct, what I’m even more excited to find out are the motivations behind this move? Are these Windows Mobile developers scaling up to larger screens and hopefully larger volumes or Linux mobile developers doing … well roughly the same thing, or whether there’s just no logic at all…

Developing for smartphone is like entering the Babel tower writes Paul Krill for Computer World stating that the large number of native runtime is a limitation to developers and stating that html 5 could hopefully be our saviour soon!

Fragmentation has been a statement of fact in the mobile development world for as long as one can remember, and the situation has only become worst with the rise of iPhone and Android. The resulting dilemma was all fairly well summed up by Mobile Sorcery in Total Telecom or as I heard at a recent mobile marketing seminar , “All big brand want an iPhone app as the key to their mobile marketing strategy until we tell them this is only 2% of the market, then starts the real discussion”. Which makes Caroline’s platform choice panel part of OSIM and discussion group on platform  choices particularly timely, or if you’d rather talk to the protagonist of the article directly anyone from Eclipse, Motorola, Limo will be present.

Seeing html5 as the new saviour of mobile fragmentation though is pretty new. Anyone looking at the vast numbers of browsers, widget frameworks, web API initiatives could certainly ask whether we’re not heading towards yet more fragmentation. The usual explanation by those involved telling me html5 is a standard and we need to wait for it to be ratified to see  unity. I’ll be waiting then… but only until we hear what our unpanel has to say on the subject with W3C, Bondi, Vodafone, Siruna giving us their thoughts on the all-web future of mobile development.

If this has tickled your curiosity,  you can now register or start posting questions you would like to debate! The comments on this page are made for this!

See you in Amsterdam! and remember it’s free to attend for developers!

Thibaut

@campbieil

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Back from linuxTag … with Euro Notes prospectives!

Following our Europe Open Source in mobile WIPjam tour, here’s the third and last blog in a short series summarizing the tour.

The last element of openness spotted during the tour was for open opportunities in the mobile space… Some call it fragmentation and hate the number of niches that keep appearing some see it as wide open spaces in which to create something new!

And at this point in time in Europe, this is probably best illustrated by the number of Android specialized start-ups ExpertiseAndroid, OpenIntents,  OTAMate, akquinet . All these companies have one thing in common :

Their owner takes a bet (probably a reasonable one) on the emergence of Android as a major platform and position his company as a leader in this field by evangelizing about Android at conferences like LinuxTag.

A tried and tested approach? An easy thing to do for anyone with Java skills? Yes maybe… but the rooms are full to listen as the buzz grows…

The absence of Google or any Open Handset Alliance from these events is what makes it an open opportunity… opened for the more daring developreneurs. Anyone with courage and credibility can step up and lead his tribe uncensored, unprompted, unsupported, only motivated solely by the idea that they can generate revenues from the this space.

So far  open opportunity sounds more like the natural human behavior to fill in gaps than it does look like anything new and groundbreaking in the world of mobile software. This is where the second element comes in… The ability to start smaller and smaller. All the companies above are good example of companies starting from garage or still in incubation mode.  This ability to start very small is also an opportunity brought by openness (the Appstore being a good example of the principle).

In a way  the this is quite reminiscent of web development, as was pointed out recently by the panel of VC at MobiTechFest Europe.  The possibility for anyone with a bit of technical background in the web space to develop and host a website makes starting a web company, developing and launching a proof of concept almost effortless and for sure won’t make you penny-less…  This was  makes VCs or rather angels almost redundant (it must be a sign of recession times).

Obviously open source has played a huge role in lowering the barrier to entry for developreneurs, whether its is a LAMP stack, a wordpress or a drupal…

And in a way today the same is happening in mobile… numerous new projects come that promise to lower  the barrier to entry for developers (and hopefully too for the whole value chain). So what’s the state of the nation for mobile developreneurs… what is or will be the LAMP stack or the Drupal of mobile?

One could argue that it will continue to be the LAMP stack and Drupal with tweaks to make them more mobile friendly.  One could also argue that the contenders have to be found on device. Maybe on the web side  of things: webkit, Fennec, or new projects such a phonegap, Or maybe the OS itself?

For now I’ll reserve my votes. But look forward  to exploring the options with you?  Comment here or come and meet us at WIPJam@OSIM to cast your vote

PS: Having been told that the title of the previous post was weird I thought I’d engage into even more oddity and a very bad pun for this one!

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What Captain Kirk, Batman and the Justice League know about Opening the Mobile Web

 We’ve asked our speakers and sponsors to provide some blog fodder as a lead up to Mobile Jam on September 12.  

Steve McDonnel   Steve McDonnell, the Global Alliance Manager, Strategic Platforms & Internet Technologies at Motorola has a few things to say about how the mobile web is going to open up: 

 There are so many people talking about widgets and mobile web today and is it really any wonder? I remember watching TV shows where the characters (Captain Kirk, Batman and the whole Justice League, for example) had access to the types of communication devices that are only now becoming a real possibility. I’m not optimistic about driving a jet car any time soon, but I’m pretty close to having a gadget that will surpass Kirk’s communicator, (GPS and voice, big deal.) 

Why is mobile web so exciting, and why are widgets making the whole thing more real for so many people, here’s what I think.

 

Mobile is the most personal, immediate and convenient way to access the web

·         Personal - A consumers phone is possibly the most uniquely personal computing device they own

·         Always with the user - Instantly accessible

·         The only always-on mass media

 

Today’s the web experience on mobile is like the Internet circa 1997

·         Mobile browsing is not living up to user expectations

·         Without widgets, users need to actively search to find exactly what they need

·         Once there, many pages are static

·         Or there is limited information on a small screen, so they need to scroll or search further

 

Consumers are demanding a better mobile web experience.

We don’t have to open up the mobile web, consumers will do that, 25% of all mobile phone users around the world access the internet on their phones, a staggering 825 million people (Real Networks, 2007). Paid content on mobile is already $31.3 Billion globally…greater than Hollywood or video games. Consumers are demanding a better mobile web experience.

 

Widgets and web applications provide consumers the mobile internet experience they want, reducing friction on the way to getting the information and services they’re looking for.

  Agree or disagree?  Steve will be on the UnPanel #1  - Opening the Mobile Web.  Give him more to think about by providing your comments!   

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