05 Aug

Three Generations of Mobile Apps (Aug 2014)

We currently are at the third generation of native Mobile apps (2014), with each generation building upon the previous one.

The first generation was introduced to the “masses” circa 2000. This generation of mobile apps were Operator-centric and built for the first generation of mobile handheld devices such as PalmOS, J2ME, WinCE, BlackBerry OS, Nokia devices, Psion and other.

The second generation came with the iPhone and Android (2007–2008), essentially giving (re)birth to a new generation of mobile apps where rich content was king. These were apps based on advanced Smartphones and higher-speed networks that pretty much made the previous generation obsolete. During this time period the Ecosystem took center stage away from the Operator. Many of the companies behind the first generation such as Nokia, BlackBerry and Microsoft were impacted during this time period in major ways — some are gone while others and are still trying to recover.

More recently, we have entered the third generation of mobile apps where the user and user context is king, with sensors on the device and core services and infrastructure residing on the cloud.

The following table summarizes the three generations of mobile apps (2014).

mobile app generations

/CEO

18 Apr

On Android and Fragmentation (early 2014)

Due to its origins and philosophy with respect to openness, Android is a fragmented mobile platform. This is illustrated next:

android-platforms-early2014

There are different kinds of fragmentation to keep in mind.

Android platform versions. To minimize fragmentation-related headaches, decide early on what versions of Android to support. As you can see above, Gingerbread (introduced in 2011) still commands close to 20% of the Android device distribution (data above is gathered from the new Google Play Store app). It is important to keep in mind is that the more versions you support, the more testing and maintenance and related costs that you will have.

Multiple screen sizes. When creating an Android app, you will have to decide the kinds of devices to support, for example Smartphones, vs. Tablets, each with different sizes and resolutions, and provide the appropriate assets, fonts and layouts that ensures the best possible experience across such different screen characteristics. See Design Apps for Tablets (Android Developers Blog).

Hardware support. Another kind of fragmentation is related to hardware support, for example, the supported sensors and/or UI facilities. Not all devices are created equal and different device manufacturers decide what to include. A couple of examples: not all devices may support the same kind of camera, or may or not provide support for Bluetooth or for that matter, Bluetooth Low Energy (introduced with Android 4.3 (API Level 18). NFC may or not be there. Another example is the Kindle, which is based on Android 2.3 but it doesn’t provide support for many of the hardware sensors or UI facilities found on other Android devices.

Consistent UX Design. Maintaining a consistent design is not necessarily easy and can lead to a fragmentation user experience. Learn and follow the Android Design Guidelines. Google has done a great job documenting the best design guidelines for Android apps. From design principles, to styles and patterns, to building blocks, you should spend time going over these great developer resources by Google.

The good news is that as you can see on the pie-chart above, the market is consolidating on 4.x and newer and devices are getting more consistent. The whole Android reminds me of the Java Micro Edition and Sun Microsystems back then, which wanted to be open with great intentions, but that caused a lot of fragmentation and problems. The answer to this is to enforce consistency across. Google is attempting to do so by “Forcing OEMs To Certify Android Devices With A Recent OS Version If They Want Google Apps“. Let’s keep in mind that the main reason the iPhone and iOS have been so consistent with respect to platforms version, functionality and distribution, is because Apple owns the whole stack (hardware and software). But in an open platform, consistency is very hard to achieve, especially when there is competition within the ecosystem.

/CEO

Related to this see: 5 Tips to Get Started with Android Development.

16 Jan

Using Android’s Advertising ID

My most recent piece is about Using Android’s Advertising ID (Safari Online Books blog).

The ability to identify users is important for advertising, analytics and other purposes. Android developers typically rely on the Android Device ID or Telephony IDs such as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) to uniquely identify users, but these approaches also introduce privacy concerns. Android 4.4 Kitkat introduces a new anonymous identifier for advertising purposes. Referred to as Advertising ID, it provides a user-resettable identifier that helps protect the user’s personal identity.

Read the rest of the blog Using Android’s Advertising ID

/ceo

23 Dec

On Location (and Other Sensitive) Data

Installing apps, Android in this case, is at times a bit of WTF. It shouldn’t have to, but it is. The amount of personal information that some apps gather can be extreme. This concern is especially true after Google removed the very necessary App Ops (permission manager) app.

Let me provide an example. An app that I recently installed asked for the following (and other) permissions:

Your location
precise location (GPS and network-based)

Your personal information
read your own contact card

Phone calls
read phone status and identity

Your social information
read your contacts

Your accounts
find accounts on the device

Not all apps need such amount of personal information. It is so important to gather just the information that is really needed, and nothing else. It is also very important to be responsible with things such as geo-fencing as well as having in place good privacy guidelines that are really in taken seriously.

A number of years ago I wrote a set of Guidelines for Location (and Other Sensitive) Data that that are still quite relevant. Check them out; I hope you find them useful.

/ceo

13 Dec

shift 2020 – How Technology Will Impact Our Future

Check out Rudy De Waele’s new book project titled shift 2020 – How Technology Will Impact Our Future — a collaborative book including foresights on how technology will impact our future by some of the world’s leading experts.

See the related Kickstarter project.

The story

The idea of shift 2020 is based upon Mobile Trends 2020, a collaborative project I launched early 2010. It’s one of the highest viewed decks on Slideshare (in the Top 50 of All Time in Technology / +320k views). Reviewing the document a couple of weeks ago, I realised the future is catching up on us much faster than many of the predictions that were made. I thought it was time to ask the original contributors for an update on their original predictions and new foresights for the year 2020.

And here is Rudy!

(love that guy!)

I am honored to be one of the contributors to both Mobile Trends 2020 and the new shift 2020 project.

Visit the related Kickstarter project.

Final contributors include:

  • Neelie Kroes (VP of the European Commission)
  • Douglas Rushkoff
  • Salim Ismael (Singularity University)
  • Loic Le Meur (LeWeb)
  • Shannon Spanhake (Innovation Officer San Francisco)
  • Adeo Ressi (The Founder Institute)
  • Saul Klein (Index Ventures)
  • Aubrey de Grey
  • Sunny Bates (Kickstarter / Jawbone)
  • Carlos Domingo (Telefonica Digital)
  • David Rowan (Wired Magazine)
  • Laurent Haug (Lift)
  • Martin Recke (next)
  • Will Page (Spotify)
  • Scott Jenson (Google)
  • Gerd Leonhard (The Futures Agency)
  • Yuri Van Geest
  • Russell Buckley
  • Russ McGuire (Sprint)
  • Kwame Ferreira (Kwamecorp)
  • Delia Dumitrescu (Trendwatching.com)
  • Georgie Benardete (Shopbeam)
  • Hans-Holger Albrecht (CEO Millicom)
  • Tariq Krim (JoliCloud)
  • Dr. James Canton
  • Andrew Hessel (Autodesk)
  • Christian Lindholm (Korulab)
  • Eze Vidra (Google Campus)
  • Harald Neidhardt (MLOVE)
  • Raina Kumra (Juggernaut)
  • Robin Wauters (Tech.eu)
  • Nicolas Nova
  • Gianfranco Chicco
  • Shaherose Charania (Women 2.0)
  • Ken Banks
  • Marc Davis (Microsoft)
  • Felix Petersen
  • Kelly Goto
  • Erik Hersman (Savannah Fund)
  • Tom Coates
  • David Risher (Worldreader)
  • Glen Hiemstra (Futurist.com)
  • Jessica Colaço (iHub)
  • Mark Kanji (Apptivation)
  • Rohit Talwar (Fast Future)
  • Priya Prakash (Changify)
  • Andrew Berglund (Geometry Global)
  • Alan Moore
  • Martin Duval (Bluenove)
  • Maarten Lens-FitzGerald (Layar)
  • Andrew Bud (mBlox/MEF)
  • Andy Abramson
  • Fabien Girardin
  • C. Enrique Ortiz
  • Raj Singh (Tempo AI)
  • Inma Martinez
  • Robert Rice
  • Ajit Jaokar
  • Jonathan MacDonald
  • Tony Fish
  • Dan Appelquist
  • Redg Snodgrass (Stained Glass Labs)
  • David Wood
  • Mark A.M. Kramer (razorfish Healthware)
  • John Kieti (m:lab)
  • Aape Pohjavirta
  • Kosta Peric (Innotribe)
  • Blaise Aguera y Arcas (Microsoft)
  • Michael Breidenbruecker (Reality Jockey)
  • Tricia Wang
  • Louisa Heinrich (Superhuman)
  • Mike North (UC Berkeley)
  • Mac-Jordan D. Degadjor
  • Kate Darling
  • Simon White
  • Chris Luomanen (Thing Tank)
  • Ariane Van De Ven (Telefonica)
  • Ed Maklouf (Siine)
  • and others…

/CEO

07 Nov

Congratulations to Filament Labs, Winner of the Mobile Monday Austin App/Startup Showcase at TWS 2013

“With such convergence happening with technology and healthcare, especially right here in Austin, and especially with mobile technology, it is great to see a company like Filament Labs be recognized,” said C. Enrique Ortiz, organizer of Mobile Monday Austin.

At the recently completed Texas Wireless Summit (TWS), eight Austin-area startups presented and competed in the fourth annual Mobile Monday Austin Startup Showcase. The 2013 winner was Filament Labs, http://www.filamentlabs.co, which focuses on turnkey solutions for patient engagement. Filament is building a consumer engagement platform for the healthcare industry that helps health plans & hospitals promote healthy lifestyle changes across their member bases.

“We are so honored to win the Mobile Monday Startup Showcase, especially to be in the same category as the winners over the past three years,” said Jason Bornhorst, CEO, Filament Labs. “We are building a platform that makes mobile health easy with reusable modules that solve the complicated stuff of mHealth, like compliance, data exchange and patient engagement.”

In the Showcase, competing companies were judged on five factors: idea, market and industry potential/impact, team composition, revenue model and company stage. This year’s Showcase judges included Carlo Longino of Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP), Dai Truong of Austin Ventures and David Gill of Nielsen.

“With such convergence happening with technology and healthcare, especially right here in Austin, and especially with mobile technology, it is great to see a company like Filament Labs be recognized,” said C. Enrique Ortiz, organizer of Mobile Monday Austin.

The Showcase runner up was Fosbury, http://fosbury.co, which provides tools to drive store traffic and customer engagement using mobile wallet campaigns.

Other Showcase competing companies included:
* Beyonic – http://www.beyonic.com
* eyeQ – http://www.eyeqinsights.com
* Futureware Inc – http://www.futureware.com
* Gizmoquip LLC – http://www.Gizmoquip.com
* Kloc – http://www.kloc.me
* SnakeHead Software – http://SnakeHeadSoftware.com

The Mobile Monday Austin Startup Showcase has been an important part of the Texas Wireless Summit (TWS) for four years now. TWS is co-hosted each year by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), in the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin (UT), and UT’s Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG). TWS brings together wireless industry leaders and entrepreneurs, engineers, academics and students, to discuss research, brainstorm innovation, and collectively work to move the wireless space forward in Texas and beyond.

“Austin remains at the nexus of wireless technology, both in research and commerce. TWS topped itself this year in terms of topic quality, engagement, and diversity of attendees”, stated event co-host and Director of ATI’s IT/Wireless portfolio, Kyle Cox. With a theme of Disrupting Wireless with Big Data Analytics, the 2013 TWS featured keynotes from Aster Teradata and Stanford’s GPS Laboratory, as well as other speakers from Stanford GPS Laboratory, Deutsche Bank, Huawei, Phunware, Verizon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Cambridge and UT.

About the Wireless Networking and Communications Group
The Wireless Networking & Communications Group (WNCG) is a world-leading center for research and education at the University of Texas at Austin. WNCG strives to be the most relevant academic wireless center, which is achieved in part through its vibrant industrial affiliates program. Many WNCG graduates now lead and contribute to R&D efforts at those companies as employees. WNCG is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) for Wireless Internet Communications and Advanced Technologies (WICAT). http://www.wncg.org
About the Austin Technology Incubator:

The Austin Technology Incubator harnesses business, government and academic resources to provide strategic counsel, operational guidance and infrastructural support for its member companies to help them transition into successful, high-growth technology businesses. The Austin Technology Incubator, in the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, has a 25-year history of successful new venture support with a focus on getting startups funded. ATI has helped more than 250 companies raise over $1 billion of investor capital. More than 85% of ATI’s 2012 graduating class received funding totaling more than $200 million. ATI has a dual mission: promote economic development in Central Texas through entrepreneurial wealth and job creation, and provide a “teaching laboratory” in applied entrepreneurship for UT-Austin students and faculty.

About Mobile Monday Austin
Since 2005, the Austin chapter of Mobile Monday has been connecting via monthly meet-ups, technology and business professionals, researchers and enthusiasts who share a common interest: mobile software and technologies. Today Mobile Monday Austin has over 495 members. For more information see http://MobileMondayAustin.com. Mobile Monday Austin is possible thanks to its sponsors and the Austin tech community.

See the press-release – http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/10/prweb11276133.htm.

/CEO

04 Nov

Android 4.4 (KitKat) is Here!

Check out the new guest post that I wrote on Android 4.4, for the Safari Books Online blog. It summarizes what is new on Android and related important information.

In this post we will explore the major changes introduced in Android 4.4. Android 4.4 is the newest version of the Android mobile operating system that was released at the end of October 2013. Also known by the codename KitKat, this version brings a number of very important internal memory-related improvements as well as improvements to the user interface, connectivity support, media and security support, and more.

Read Android 4.4 (KitKat) is Here! (source: Safari Books Online).

ceo

13 Sep

Betting on Nokia (2013)


(Image source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk)

Have you given up on Nokia?

From my perspective, due to its recent (couple of years old) debacles and endeavors with MSFT, I had stayed away from Nokia.

I never believed on how their MSFT strategy was approached.

Nokia should have totally maximized their Smartphone hardware design expertise, and should have offered that to the world — running Android, Windows and their own Advanced OS. If they have done that, by just supporting the Android OS, they would have owned the other side of the marketshare (not already owned by Apple).

But instead they handed this unique opportunity, and without contest, to Samsung. Today Nokia has lost such hardware design expertise to Microsoft.

And while the world was changing, Nokia management was too comfortable. Call it arrogance or not, they assumed their leadership and marketshare would last, versus seeing it erode at such a fast rate.

Nokia failed to adopt-standardize on “touch interactions” fast enough — even though they had the technology, OS based on Symbian and R&D brain-power. Then they pulled out from Japan, then pulled out from the USA, gave up on MeeGo Phone, and sold bulk of its Qt business to Digia. Its audience, platforms, content and ecosystem was all too much, too complex, affecting company focus.

And all the above happened during the time when the Smartphone itself, the mobile ecosystem and the mobile-lifestyle in general were being redefined, by Software, by advanced interactions and beautiful interfaces, rich content, faster networks, and awesome user experiences, all which when put together led to the awesome transformation of the Mobile space as we see know it today. This is a period of 3-5 years, really the culmination of 15 years of evolution that started with pagers, feature phones, Smartphones, and now Advanced Smartphones.

Those were the early days of Mobile, which also were the days of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) and Nokia. Because BlackBerry and Nokia where both early pioneers, is the reason why their IP portfolios today are worth billions of dollars; Nokia’s alone is worth more than $6 billion dollars. Blackberry’s IP portfolio must be very valuable as well.

There were other factors that contributed to Nokia’s demise on Mobile.

Nokia was too dependent on the Network Operators/carriers. This is to the point of sacrificing/delaying the introductions of advanced (more costly) devices into the consumer market.

Control then moved away from the network operator and into the Ecosystem — led by Apple and Google.

Back then, Nokia saw BlackBerry as a threat. They saw Apple as a thread as well, but Nokia didn’t see Android as much of a threat.

And the final straw was Nokia giving-up what is the MOST important aspect of Smartphones — the Software. And because Nokia’s software strategy was MSFT alone, it was game was over.

But past is past. Nokia has finally cut clean from MSFT, and got rid of legacy stuff. Yes, it lost lots of good people, but life goes on. The market benefits from this via new startups formed by ex-Nokians.

Nokia can now start from scratch. In many ways, it is a blessing.

So am I betting on Nokia?

Yes, I am.

Nokia is a company with lots of passion and pride. It has the smarts/people. It currently has the technologies and products that can be monetized (network, maps, etc). It owns tons of mobile and wireless intellectual property that is worth billions of dollars. And now that MSFT is buying Nokia’s device business, and is cutting clean from MSFT, Nokia is in the position to reinvent and simplify itself.

I even see how Nokia would re-enter the mobile space. If you think about it, mobile is still young; what I mean is that while the “mobile use case” has been proven, the technologies are still evolving. Yet to be invented are new approaches and use-cases related to the Mobile Lifestyle.

So I bought NOK stock and it has been going up.

(Disclaimer: I am not giving you financial advice here, just a personal perspective).

ceo

04 Sep

App Showcase at Texas Wireless Summit 2013 (Oct 18)

The 11th annual Texas Wireless Summit (Oct 18, 2013) continues the tradition of providing a forum for industry leaders and academics to discuss emerging technologies and business models that will shape the industry over the upcoming two to three years.

As in previous years, we are running the Mobile Monday Austin App Showcase at the TX Wireless Summit, and we are inviting Austin (startup) companies to join us and showcase their mobile apps and solutions. You will be exposed to hundreds of attendees and investors.

If you would like to showcase your mobile app/solution, please complete this online form. If having trouble, please contact me at “enrique dot ortiz at gmail.com”.

Participation is limited.

ceo

03 Feb

On Voice Apps (2013)

Future of Mobile
Image Source: The Future of the Web and Mobile (Feb 2007)

For years I have been working on mobile and related software development. This has been a world of “data”-and consumer and enterprise applications and infrastructure, that for me started in 1999-2000 with CDPD, CDMA, then GSM, 2G, 3G, and today 4G and LTE from the network side, and from the device side Symbian OS, WinCE, Palm OS, RIM, WML, HTML Basic, J2ME, and into today’s iOS and Android (Smartphone and Tablets) as the main platforms for native apps and HTML5 webapps.

More recently, I have been deeply involved with Voice as an App.

Evolution of Mobile

Mobile has truly gone through a period of tremendous evolution and growth. Mobile is about convenience and easy access (to others and to information). The mobile Smartphone is a social artifact. And while today I believe that mobile has peaked in general (a topic for another blog), mobile has entered the phase of continuous stable growth that won’t stop — its essence will just transform into different form-factors and new interactions — all about improving the mobile context and thus the experience (usefulness).

Voice has always been a fundamental piece or feature of the mobile phone, and it will always be. But in the world or era of “data”, voice has been treated as “legacy stuff”, separate and driven by its own experience, drivers, and infrastructure. Voice just works, but separate, under Operator control.

As a side note, for years, many of us have been talking about convergence with respect to mobile; an example of this is a piece I wrote back in 2007 titled the Future of the Web and Mobile that covered the expected evolution of mobile from my point of view — this was written 6 months before the iPhone was first released; looking back is pretty much on target.

The early part of the 2000 decade saw technologies, concepts and lessons-learned from Europe (Nokia), Canada (RIM), Asia and USA (Palm, MSFT, others), but their impact remained pretty much closed as well as localized to the respective regions (mainly due to Operator control). Then the years 2005-2008 were the fundamental years of transformation, and openness away from Operator control and into the Ecosystem, first in the USA (thanks to Apple and Google) which then impacted the rest of the world in big ways, into what Mobile is today. Throughout that same time-period we have been talking about the convergence with voice, but this in my opinion has never really happened. I am talking about bringing voice convergence to the next level — from the device into the App-level.

On Voice Apps

Voice is by default a multi-platform application. But the future points to voice as a dominant “mobile app”. The consumer world is massively becoming mobile, and the enterprise world will be eliminating the traditional office phones in favor of mobile. Interestingly, the effects of BYOD also impact Voice apps as well.

Even though the technologies for creating voice apps have been around for a while, today we are still kind stuck in a different world when it comes to voice: a 100+ year old world of closed voice-networks, arbitrage, peering, FCC and PSTNs regulations and other. There is a lot of history on how we got there, but for folks that come from the world of “data”, like I do, it all looks like quite a mess. Thankfully, it is an “old world” that is slowly evolving (while in the process, crashing) with the new world. I am right in the middle of this world today. One day, all of this will be completely freed from such legacy world, thanks to open IP networks, mobile, the Web, the Cloud and new business models.

Voice is slowly but surely moving into becoming a “data app” — Voice as an app or an app feature. Voice will continue to be the Smartphones *main* feature (or app). Primarily standalone. But primarily standalone with many flavors or choices beyond the “core voice support” provided by the Network Operator (for example, Google Voice). These are SIP and WebRTC clients that you can download and use, point-to-point or via the old PSTN.

Google Voice
Google Voice. Image Source: The Next Web website

Cloud-services companies such as Plivo and Twilio are helping with this evolution to provide Voice as an app or app-feature.

Because of the current state of “voice” as an app, depending on the “app layer” you are at, the moment you want to open your voice app to complete calls to any phone out there (that is, the PSTN), you will immediately “crash” into the legacy world of voice. This is a hardcore world of telephone numbers, activations and inventories, origination and termination and routing, agreements, and fees and regulations. To effectively deal with all of this you either have to implement all of this directly (costly), or you can use solutions on the cloud, such as the services-and Marketplace provided by Shango (my company) and its partners.

From the design perspective, designing mobile apps with voice functionality does require a different way of thinking from designing traditional mobile apps and web apps. The inclusion of voice as an interaction mode does require re-thinking of your application as a multi-modal app. And because voice apps is about communication, the whole thing can quickly turn into including or not other kinds of communication such as IM, SMS, video, and group-communications (conferencing), and other.

Conclusion

The mobile device, the Smartphone, is a social artifact — it has always been. Voice has always been the fundamental feature on these highly personal devices. But we have always been treating voice “as its own separate function”. Voice is changing. Voice as an app or app-feature is coming, and is coming fast. BYOD has an impact on Voice apps that must be taken into consideration.

We are at a very interesting crosspoint where the old legacy voice world is moving into the new world of “data” and Cloud-based services and apps. The Cloud service providers to help create, manage and support such voice apps are out there, the Smartphones provide the support for native SIP stacks and libraries to write and/or include voice functionality into your app, WebRTC is coming, and you can download your own SIP clients/apps to use as well.

The future is clear: open IP networks, Mobile and Cloud-service providers are and will play an important role in the evolution of voice communications, voice as an app and the future of “Mobile”.

ceo

23 Jan

Dell is going Private (2013)

potential_dell_dial_2013

A month after I wrote Dell to exit global smartphone business, now I hear rumors that Dell is going private.

Many years ago I was predicting that an Asian company would buy Dell, but I wasn’t expecting Dell going private.

The Dell story kind of upset me. Dell, which is right on my “backyard”, is/was an Austin darling, used to rule the personal computing world. Today, I am not surprised of what is happening at Dell; I have been saying this for years. The Round Rock, Texas company missed the boat in a major way. You need to understand that this didn’t happen over night. It has been a slow but expected process/result — I am talking about 10 years, which is the same time-period that it took personal computing/Mobile to evolve into what it is right at this moment — just look around and you know what I am talking about: Smartphones, Tablets, personal information devices. This mess all started during the days of Kevin Rollings.

For Dell, Mobile always meant laptops. The company wasn’t able to understand that personal computing was transforming, right in front of their eyes, into the new form of Tablets and Smartphones. Actually, some inside the company did, and they created prototypes and Tablets and Smartphones *but* without a proper business-plan and without proper vision. They thought they were in control, but they weren’t. Then, they couldn’t adapt fast-enough. They couldn’t make it happen; didn’t know how-to. Technology leadership requires vision and investing in R&D — Dell didn’t do either. Then Apple and Google-and its partners all ate Dell’s lunch. It wasn’t a tech problem, but a total lack of vision — a business (management) problem. Shame on you Dell management.

Rumors say that Microsoft would invest $2 billion on the deal. Good money — but Dell would once again miss to identify root causes. Dell needs to understand that part of the reason it has failed and is failing is truly related to its dependency on Microsoft for all things Software. Dell needs to realize and learn that Software is where differentiation comes from. Software runs the world. It must take ownership and leadership both on software and hardware.

It is no surprise why both Dell and Microsoft missed the personal computing boat — the mobile opportunity. It is a problem with the way of thinking and lack of vision (that is, lack of proper leadership).

As I wrote recently, moving forward, Services and Cloud is perhaps what Dell should focus on, and forget about the rest. The problem is that Dell’s dependency on PC revenue is still at 70%; it is a tough problem to solve.

The new personal computing (aka Mobile) is perhaps too late for Dell at this point. But with the right leadership, anything can happen. If Dell insists on addressing the personal computing market, it must do a re-boot, and bring totally new minds (business and tech) into the equation — something they should be able to do now if they go Private.

ceo

22 Oct

Startup Showcase at Texas Wireless Summit 2012

This Friday October 26, 2012 is the Texas Wireless Summit. And as part of the event we are having the annual Mobile Monday Austin Startup Showcase.

(Also, don’t forget that on Oct 22 we are having our regular Mobile Monday Austin event at Capital Factory — topic: Mobile & Cloud.)

This year we are having a strong presence of Startups — 13 total showcasing their mobile apps and solutions; awesome:

1* Baytan Labshttp://baytanlabs.com
2* CanWeNetworkhttp://www.canwenetwork.com
3* Divert-Xhttp://divert-x.com
4* DrawMD / Visual Healthhttp://escalation-point.com
5* EMMOCOhttp://emmoco.com
6* News Blasthttp://sxtyscnds.com
7* Noomhttp://www.noom.me
8* Ringfulhttp://ringful.com
9* Toopherhttp://toopher.com
10* Vivogighttp://vivogig.com
11* VolunteerSpot — http://volunteerspot.com
12* Wheel InnovationZhttp://wheelinnovationz.com
13* Zellohttp://zello.com

Looking back at previous App Showcases at TWS, it is great to see companies that at the time were just starting, and that today are doing quite well, for example 1) MapMyFitness, 2) Game Salad, 3) Tabbedout.

As part of the showcase, judges that include the founder of Tabbedout, the CFO of Phunware, and yours truly, will judge the companies based on
(1) Originality, (2) Impact, (3) Maturity and (4) Business Plan/Model. The judges for this year are:

* Maria Ocampo — Head of Publisher Services at Collider Media
* Rick Orr — Founder Tabbedout
* Alan Kane — CFO Phunware
* Brian Grigsby — General Partner, Corsa Ventures
* D Keith Casey Jr — Evangelist at Twilio
* C. Enrique Ortiz — Head of Products at Shango

For more information about the Texas Wireless Summit and registration, visit TWS web site http://TWSUMMIT.COM.

CEO

01 Oct

Total Time Spend Using Mobile Web vs. Apps (October 2012)

Saw this today at BI website…

Source: Business Intelligence (BI)

Source: Apps More And More Important Than The Mobile Web (Business Intelligence). Original report by Nielsen.

The above is self-explanatory…

What I find ‘funny’ is that over time I have noticed that Business Intelligence’s opinion on “native vs. web on mobile” swings back-and-forth (based on the top news of the day). In this particular case, all the recent attention to “native vs. mobile web” is thanks to Mr. Zuckerberg.

ceo

30 Sep

The Eternal Debate — MoMo London Event on HTML5 v.s. Native (Sept 2012)

Native vs. Web
Image Source: Mobile App Testing Blog


Seems that I missed a very good debate. I just read a blog on MoMo London event on HTML5 v.s. Native.

Seems like an eternal debate.

Today in 2012, I am still amazed we still are debating this and have not been able to address this. This is really a ~10 year old debate, still driven by the exact same issues and pros/cons as before — centralized vs. not, cross-platform vs. not, maintainability and fragmentation, code-reusability or not, better user experience vs. not, performance, security, access to device APIs vs. not, thin vs. thick, app discovery, etc. etc. etc.

We can argue the basics are here (HTML5, CSS3 and JS-and-related frameworks), but creating great mobile webapps with great user experiences is today only possible by a few; in other words, is a niche area. (Not even Facebook was able to pull it off, right?).

The day the “common mobile developer” is able to create great mobile webapps with ease, is the day this debate will end.

Today still, “user experience” (driven by network latency, app richness, toolsets, adoption by big brands) is best maximized on mobile native. Today still we have to talk about classes of mobile applications (again driven by network, richness, performance, storage, toolsets, maintainability, security, cost of one vs. other, etc) — then decide what is better suited — native vs. web on mobile.

How much longer will it take settle out this debate? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? Right now I say around five years — I wish I am wrong. But does it really matter?

In the meantime, successful mobile developers redefine the meaning of “full stack developers”; successful mobile developers must be “End-to-end, Cross-platform, Full Stack Developers” — this is a lot of complex ground to cover.

Related to this see “The biggest mistake we made as a company was not investing enough on native.” — Zuckerberg (2012).

ceo

29 Sep

Android Platform Versions (2012)

Below is a snapshot of the Android platform distribution, as of September 2012.

Android Platforms Sept 2012

As you can see, the majority of the devices out there, close to 60%, are still 2.3 (Gingerbread). This is followed by ICS with close to 21%. Froyo 2.2 is 14%.

I hope that by March (but more likely, summertime or later) of 2013, that by then the majority of the Android devices out there are 4.0+. This would make the Android app developer’s life in general much simpler — by (1) minimizing the number of major Android platforms to deal with, and (2) making it easier/cheaper to implement (or move up to) the recommended Android design guidelines. The result of this includes (1) cheaper to develop/maintain apps, (2) consistent apps per developer, and (3) consistent look/feel/behavior across the app market.

For this to happen, device manufacturers and operators must help transform the above piechart to be mostly 4.0+ Android devices. They can help by literally selling less (and even better, stop selling) Gingerbread/2.3 and older devices. If you look around you will see that operators are still selling Gingerbread devices. And we need Google to have more cojones with respect to this and stimulate, if you will, both the device manufacturers and operators to move forward — this transition is taking forever! (Note: Gingerbread was introduced on December 6, 2010.)

Some customers may leave feedback as “why the app does not follow the Android UI guidelines”, or “why the app doesn’t support the ICS UI paradigm” — but again, 4.0+ is just a smaller fraction of what is out there!

In the meantime, there is the Android Support (Compatibility) library. Also, see Backwards Compatibility (Android Design Patterns).

ceo

11 Sep

“The biggest mistake we made as a company was not investing enough on native.” — Zuckerberg (2012)

The title of this blog is not what Zuckerberg actually said, but is what he really meant.

From TechCrunch Disrupt – Zuckerberg Shows He’s The Right Man For The Job:

“The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5.” While building native apps that were bacially just a wrapper for the mobile web standard let it experiment quickly, it made the apps run way too slow. “We burnt two years.”

This validates what I have been saying for years… Don’t take me wrong, I’m a fan, user and developer of webapps. Web on mobile is big and the mobile browsers and frameworks are getting so advanced, and the mobile webapps so kickass, but for certain kinds of apps, especially rich consumer-based applications, native is the way to go today.

Consumers are about great user experiences and great quality. The “mistake” Zuckerberg refers to is not really that they bet “too much” on HTML5, but that they didn’t invest enough on native.

But that said, FB has nailed it down; recognizing the need to invest on the native apps and related infrastructure, and focusing on mobile first.

Any company going global must have a mobile first strategy — we know that for many around the world, their online experience will be on mobile.

ceo

23 Jul

Starbucks App == Mobile + Convenience

The Starbucks App for Android 2.0 is out on Google Play (see announcement on VentureBeat).

Good to see…

(I was one of the people who contributed design & dev to this product, specifically the Card Management tab/functionality, plus some other.)

Starbucks have proven, starting with their iOS app, that consumers are ready for mobile payments — as of April 2012, Starbucks apps have done over 42M mobile payment transactions (see announcement on VentureBeat).

Awesome…

Convenience is always a big winner. In the case of Starbucks it is about payments, rewards and store information right on the palm of your hands.

There is another important aspect here. It also shows that stores must have the whole infrastructure in place to be successful:

  1. The POS that are enabled with the appropriate readers and software,
  2. The devices/smartphones with the SW and functions (the apps), and,
  3. The scalable service infrastructure with the appropriate back-end integrations, and the right kind of services-and content — in the case of Starbucks, authentication, payments, rewards, store information and related-integrations.

It is then that users will adopt this in masses; and, yes, it is about convenience.


(Card management tab with Pay Now, and embedded PayPal Integration for Card Reload)

Digital cards are at the center of the app. The app, which is global-ready, allows smartphone-users to load the digital cards (dollars, pounds, etc, depending on country) via credit cards and/or PayPal — all within the app, thus maximizing the user experience. The digital cards are then scanned at the stores. For this, the app uses 2D-barcodes that are scanned/read by the POS using regular barcode scanners, consummating the transaction.

Looking forward, this app is a good candidate for NFC and/or other proximity-based technologies. If the NFC infrastructure was in place, that is, the readers and the NFC-capable smartphones, I will bet that it would also be a winner. But full, pervasive NFC deployments are still are a few years away, delaying its adoption. As a result, today, 2D-barcodes is the way to go.


(This is not real, just a concept scenario that I put together for the Starbucks app with NFC support)

As mobile app designers, the important thing is to design your application in a way that 2D-barcodes or NFC or other are just interaction channels — the key is keeping the rest of the app- and related supporting infrastructure (servers, authentication, exposed services, payment infrastructure and so on) properly abstracted. As a side note, this is a reason why Square is ready for the future — it has all the infrastructure in place, and today their reader is the Square-reader, and tomorrow it can be something else. Starbucks is ready too.

ceo

16 Jul

Security & Privacy on Mobile Apps, Part 3 – PCI Compliance

This is Part 3 of a series on Security & Privacy for Mobile Apps.

Part 1 of this series introduced main concepts related to security on mobile apps. Part 2 went deeper into the security elements and guidelines related to security and privacy on mobile applications. In this Part 3, I will cover security from the PCI compliance perspective.


Handling Personal or Sensitive Information

Personal and sensitive information include any information that is critical for a user, for example credit card numbers, credit card validation codes, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, name, addresses and date of birth, and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Any such information must be properly handled and secured.

When dealing with credit cards in particular, you may have to adhere to strict security requirements such as the ones as defined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, or PCI for short. The PCI council defined a number of requirements and certification to help to ensure both devices and software applications all take the proper steps to protect cardholder data. The PCI council consists of the following companies: American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc.

Even if your application is not handling cardholder information, the requirements by the PCI council are good guidelines to follow if your mobile (web) application deals with personal sensitive information of any kind.

PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) requirements

Let’s take a look at the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) requirements. These requirements apply to “any entity that stores, processes, and/or transmits cardholder data.” In short, “if your business accepts or processes payment cards, it must comply with the PCI DSS.” Note that “to comply”, means that the payment application must pass a PCI-provided assessment.

Table 1: Payment Application DSS Requirement

   Source: Payment Card Industry Security Standards

The PCI Data Security Standard defines fourteen (14) requirements — some technical while other operational — that affect both the server-side and client/mobile-side of the payment application. Let’s cover each of these requirements in some more detail:

1. Do not retain full magnetic stripe, card validation code or value or PIN block data

How to: Always prompt for such information; never store locally on the device. Always prompt for PIN.

2. Provide secure password features

How to: Always prompt for PIN before allowing access to the app’s critical paths or sensitive information. Use the PIN to secure application data.

3. Protect stored cardholder data

How to: Do not store cardholder information on the device. Tokenize access to critical information (tokens are covered below). Use the PIN to secure application data.

4. Log application activity

How to: Keep a local log of critical activities, such as when user logs into the application, performs a purchase, and so on. This typically is a circular log. Provide the means to remotely access or upload the log as needed.

5. Develop secure applications

How to: Design and implement the mobile application with security in mind. Do this by implementing the different requirements being discussed in this article.

6. Protect wireless transmissions

How to: Perform all communication over an encrypted secure connection (typically over HTTPS/TLS).

7. Test applications to address vulnerabilities

How to: Implement a robust test-suite that includes automated and manual testing that validates that no access to critical application paths is possible unless the user authorizes it via a PIN, that API calls and data over network connections is in fact being encrypted, that no credit card information is stored locally, and that any personal information stored in local data is properly encrypted.

8. Facilitate secure network implementation

How to: See #6 above

9. Do not store cardholder data on a server connected to the Internet

How to: Design a network architecture that separates production systems from the public Internet. Deploy production servers with critical/personal information behind a firewall.

10. Facilitate secure remote software updates

How to: Only trust software updates from trusted sources. Leverage app stores/markets and app signing for native applications. Leverage centralized approach of mobile web apps. Perform all software updates over a secure network connection.

11. Facilitate secure remote access to application

How to: See #10. In addition, see #6 — all remote/network communication shall only be done over secure network connections.

12. Encrypt sensitive traffic over public networks

How to: See #6 above

13. Encrypt all non-console administrative access

How to: See #4 and #6 and #10. All access to secure data, administrative or not, shall be done over secure connections.

14. Maintain instructional docs and training programs for customers, resellers and integrators

How to: From the mobile application perspective, provide FAQ and Help pages that describe the privacy and security aspects of the application. Include Privacy terms and conditions.

Other PCI Information and/or Requirements

The following two tables show the general PCI goals vs. requirements, and PIN-entry device security requirements.

Table 2: PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) requirements

   Source: Payment Card Industry Security Standards

Note that most of these requirements on Table 2 were covered on the previous section.

Table 3: PCI PIN Entry Device Security Requirements

   Source: Payment Card Industry Security Standards

And these requirements on Table 3 are related to physical devices, in particular device characteristics and management requirements.

Conclusion

On this 3-part series we have covered security on mobile applications – introduction, elements and guidelines for secure mobile apps, and PCI requirements for mobile payment applications. At the end, it is about protecting the user by protecting related critical information –credit card numbers, credit card validation codes, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, name, addresses and date of birth, and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII); all such information must be properly handled and secured.

As privacy continues to become more critical over time, with the number of apps exponentially increasing, and with potential legislation in the future, having clear privacy and security implementation, wording/messaging and responsibilities are all very important.

Finally, as product owners and developers, we are all responsible for properly implementing our mobile applications and protecting the user…

Resources

12 Jul

On Mobile Industry Numbers and Mobile Jobs

The other day I tweeted this:

(URL: https://twitter.com/eortiz/status/223096404233564160)

Then I read at the Royal Pingdom blog some interesting Internet 2011 in numbers; looking at the mobile-related numbers, we have:

Mobile (July 2012)

  • 1.2 billion – The number of active mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide in 2011.
  • 5.9 billion – The estimated number of mobile subscriptions worldwide in 2011.
  • 85% – Percentage of handsets shipped globally in 2011 that included a web browser.
  • 88% – Apple iPad’s share of global tablet web traffic in December.

    So the mobile space is a pretty hot space indeed. Let’s now look at some mobile-related job salary numbers, courtesy of Indeed Salary; note these are *average* salaries:

    Mobile Architect

    Mobile Developers

    Mobile Designer

    Mobile Web Developer

    Android Developer

    iOS Developer

    Windows Mobile Developer

    BlackBerry Developer

    Symbian OS Developer

    Mobile Product Manager

    I actually find this quite low for Mobile Product Managers.

    Mobile Project Manager


    Let’s now look at some trends, courtesy of Indeed Trends. Interesting is how it starts to trend up towards the end of 2010 for all the top mobile OS platforms –iOS, Android, HTML5:

    iOS Job Trends

    HTML5 Job Trends

    Android Job Trends

    Mobile-app Job Trends

    Symbian OS Job Trends

    Note the roller-coaster trend for Symbian OS…

    Windows Mobile Job Trends

    Interesting!

    BlackBerry Job Trends

    Conclusion

    So in conclusion, the mobile space is red HOT… The demand is there. It definitely is a good time to be a mobile technologist, developer, product manager, and so on… globally!

    CEO

    01 Jul

    Security & Privacy on Mobile Apps, Part 1 – Introduction

    This is Part 1 of a series on Security & Privacy for Mobile Apps.

    (Note: in this article mobile apps means both native and webapps)


    Are you Serious About Security on your mobile apps or webapps?

    Security and privacy is an area that too often is not being properly addressed on mobile apps in general. From the product requirements, to the design and implementation of the mobile app, properly securing sensitive information means addressing this end-to-end: on the device/smartphone, through the network, and on the servers on the cloud.

    Examples of sensitive information:

    • Personal Identifiable Information (PII)
    • Cardholder and other credit card information
    • Health/medical information
    • Tracking users/geo-location

    And it is not only about collecting or not sensitive information, but also about 1) preventing others from gaining access to the sensitive data collected by your app, and 2) how to communicate to the user about how the app itself deals with such sensitive data.

    As product owners and developers, we all should follow proper security and privacy guidelines, regardless of the kind of application. But when dealing with critical or sensitive information, we must go beyond guidelines and treat privacy and security as application requirements.


    Increase in Apps with privacy & security requirements

    Developers do need to be serious about security and privacy on their mobile apps:

    But many developers find addressing privacy/security as challenging:

    Why the need to be explicit about security and privacy?

    Addressing security/privacy goes beyond protecting and securing data. It is a fact that security/privacy on mobile apps can quickly become confusing. And this impacts how we tell the users about what the application does with sensitive data. Typically this communication is done via privacy terms and/or policies that are hundreds of lines long and hard to read on a mobile device, thus many people simply skip reading it.

    Simplifying privacy communication — a case for “Classifying Apps”?

    Imagine that we can abstract and simplify how we communicate to the users the matters related to privacy/security. And idea is on classifying the Apps based on how they handle sensitive data, for example:

    • Class A — Collects data
    • Class B — Stores data
    • Class C — Shares data
    • Class D — Tracks the user
    • Any other?

    Regardless, think about these classes when designing your application, and crafting your privacy policy documents.

    Now imagine that these classifications are standardized, and with this, the Privacy wording for each these classes of apps is standardized as well — all with the goal of making such wording very clear and easy to understand, standard, and referenceable — similar in idea to how licenses such as GPL, MIT, Apache have been defined, standardized and used all around.

    With such “standardization”, mobile apps would have a very clean, simple privacy policy that is familiar in wording and meaning, for example:

    Privacy Policy — this application:

    1. Collects Data
    2. Shares data
    3. Tracks the user

    Please click on the appropriate hyperlink for more information.

    I would seeing an initiative of some kind to do just this (I’m investigating this as we speak). If you have any thoughts, please drop me a line. Perhaps there is something out there already that I haven’t seen yet. If there is nothing there yet, I believe it is worth it to follow up on this and come up with simple, consistent, familiar privacy messaging (and badge?) across platforms and applications.

    Conclusion

    Personal and sensitive information include any information that is critical for a user, for example credit card numbers, credit card validation codes, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, name, addresses and date of birth, and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Any such information must be properly handled and secured.

    As privacy continues to become more critical over time, with the number of apps exponentially increasing, and with potential legislation in the future, having clear privacy and security wording/messaging and responsibilities is very important. And as product owners and developers, you/we are responsible!

    Related

    /CEO

    31 May

    Introduction to jQuery Mobile (May 2012)

    See my latest article, Introduction to jQuery Mobile (developerWorks).

    This article, an update to my original Intro to jQuery Mobile (Feb 2011), introduces the basics in the latest version of jQuery Mobile. Learn about browser support, the UI components, and the API.

    “Summary: Get an introduction to the jQuery Mobile framework. Learn the basics of the framework and how to write a functional mobile web application user interface. In this article, an example guides you through basic pages, navigation, toolbars, list views, form controls, and transition effects.”

    Link: Introduction to jQuery Mobile (developerWorks).

    Related links:
    * jQuery Mobile developer site
    * Original article: Intro to jQuery Mobile (Feb 2011)

    ceo

    07 May

    On Ambient and (Mobile) Context

    Recently I have been seeing the word “ambient” used a lot to describe “context”; a good example is Alohar Mobile and its Mobile Ambient Analytics Platform. Alohar Mobile are also the makers of Placeme.

    Is Ambient the new Context?

    It is not. Context is more than just ambient information; ambient information is a subset of Context:

    • ambient: “of the surrounding area or environment”
    • context: “the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.”

    The following illustrates the elements of the mobile context:

    The Mobile Context, May 2012

    Read more about the mobile context — see the original The Mobile Context blog.

    Ambient information is about sensory information while context is much more complex. Context is about the (set of) information related to a given user-event-in-time. It is the intersection or overlap of the different sets/elements above, at any given point in time, as it relates to a given event (search, browse, gift, purchase) for a given user.

    Those who are able to truly capture, analyze and understand Context, are the ones who will be able to bring true meaning to (and reap the benefit$ from) Mobile.

    ceo

    03 May

    Retail Stores vs. Amazon (2012)

    Something subtle but very important occurred yesterday. I am talking about Target’s decision to stop selling Amazon’s Kindle e-readers (hyperlink: USA Today).

    In the above article you can find one sentence that summarizes the struggle that Retailers have been facing:

    Target’s decision to phase out the Kindle is also occurring as the retailer, along with other major merchants, is trying to fight a growing practice called “show rooming.”

    Consumers visit a physical-local merchant/retail-store to see, try and feel a product, then compares prices online via their smartphone in real-time, then leaves the store. Many will go ahead an buy from Amazon, way cheaper, as Amazon has mastered the art of inventory, moving inventory and adjusting prices (in real-time). In addition, Amazon, to complement such sale, will show you something that pretty much is guaranteed that you will like and potentially buy.

    There is such a huge opportunity for whomever solves this problem; of keeping the customer within the store and helping close the deal, right there — by bringing the right information to the floor, including adjusted prices, in real-time. As the article reads, retailers are trying to combat this via “exclusive merchandise” but that is not the right answer — the answer is “inventory-demand-data/intelligence + consumer lifetime value index + price adaptation, all in real-time”. Easy to say, hard to do. Amazon not only knows this but it has the advantage.

    (Disclaimer: back in 2008 while at eZee, we saw this problem coming and we tried to build the above. Not only we were too early, but it is a very hard thing to build – we had to pivot the company. Merchants were not seeing what was coming their way. Today, merchants are not only recognizing this problem, but are living it; Best Buy, a company we tried to get into, is a good example of what I am talking about).

    ceo

    05 Apr

    Mobile Trends 2020 | Project Glass – Google’s Augmented Reality Glasses


    Source: Project Glass G+ page

    Back in January of 2010, Mobilist Rudy de Waele asked a number of us to predict the Mobile Trends for the decade of 2010-2020. The result of this was a great compendium of views on things to come in this decade; see Mobile Trends 2020 – A look into the future of mobile.

    A few days ago Google announced the Project Glass (G+):

    Pretty cool it is that this awesome announcement/project is in line (and ahead of schedule) with my prediction/contribution to Mobile Trends 2020 on AR visors that I made back in 2010 (slide 40):

    “AR becomes standardized and absorbed into the web browser as a View, similar to today’s “street vs. map view. We (will) start to see the initial phase of the 5th screen, “visors” that work together with the mobile handset extending digital augmentation from the handset screen (the 4th screen) onto “eye-glasses” (the 5th screen). The handset is the personal gateway, between personal sensors and services and the applications on the Internet.”

    I’m very excited about this announcement. The “glasses” approach is closer to reality and will appeal to the masses much more than “AR contact lenses” (which we are still many years away from; much more challenging to implement).

    Project Glass is an exploratory project or experiment, and today we have all the technology pieces needed to make this happen today, but it will take the rest of the decade+ to understand and perfect this super cool technology and the new types of interactions and related information flows that this brings/introduces, and bring this to the masses.

    I am looking forward to getting my hands on a pair of these Google AR glasses.

    ceo