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Smart TV Sticks!

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, TV and Digital Entertainment by Manas Ganguly on July 17, 2012

Even while Apple TV is on the horizon and Android TV as a commercial product is half baked, the open ecosystem that Android engenders throws up exciting opportunities and devices based around the TV experience. Smart enough as these solutions are not driven by the large CE companies and is rather developed by small start-ups.

The innovation and the wow is the departure from the rectangular TV boxes into dongle sized entities. The pocket-sized dongle connects to the HDMI port of any regular TV and converts it into a Smart TV. It’s basically a fully functioning micro-computer the size of a thumb which runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) much like today’s latest smartphones. Throw in a keyboard along with the remote and any HD television converts into an Android tablet and the accompanying remote (which includes a keyboard on the back) allows users to interact with their television as they would an Android tablet.

So then, we see the birth of a new ecosystem around the TV set, which is no longer controlled by old school parties such as the CE manufacturers, the broadcasters and the TV distribution platforms, and not even by relative newcomers such as Apple, but by a whole herd of out-of-left-fielders. The UI and the usability could be a spot of bother, but then it would eventually catch up in the next quarter or so.

Profiling a few of the leading efforts on the Smart TV Sticks

Infinitec Pocket TV- Dubai based start-up dealing which show-cased Smart TV solution

Liquid TV – Italy based start-up’s USB dongle solution for coverting TVs into smart TV(Android TV)

Real Time, wearable – here and now computing courtesy Google Glasses

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on July 2, 2012

Real Time, wearable computing, here and now data elements – Google Glass is more than just a smart pair of glasses with an integrated heads-up display and a battery hidden inside the frame. Like Apple’s Siri, it’s technology with enormous potential. The idea is to deliver augmented reality, with information that’s directly relevant to your surroundings appearing in front of you whenever you need it. Google’s business is about making money from advertising, and glass marks the transition from screen to reality with the information layer literally juxtaposed. Many might worry that Google Glass is its attempt to monetize eyeballs quite literally, by blasting ads whenever the user look’s at something. While the initial videos and demos revolve n the photos aspect of the Glasses, the ability to monetize LAYAR through the Glasses is Google’s next billion $ gambit.

Even while wearable computing is not a new idea, but Google’s enormous bank account and can-do attitude means that Project Glass could well be the first product to do significant numbers.

Uncannily common in ad delivery, Glasses is not to be confused by Google Goggles which is an app that can search the web based on photos and scans. Google Glass is hardware doing much the same but on a more integrated scale. Google’s Project Glass glasses will use a transparent LCD or AMOLED display to put information in front of the user. It uses a camera and GPS for location sensing, and uses head movements for movements such as scroll and click on information, something that is apparently quite easy to master. Google Glasses will also use voice input and output. Glass will run Android, will include a small screen in front of the eye of the user and will have motion sensors, GPS and either 3G or 4G data connections. Glass is designed to be a stand-alone device rather than an Android phone peripheral. It should connect to a smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4.0. It communicates directly with the cloud. There is also a front-facing camera and a flash, although it’s not a multi-megapixel monster, and the most recent prototype’s screen isn’t transparent.

Currently in a prototype stage, Google Glasses which is expected to be commercially launched in 2014, has key challenges- making a screen that works in darkness and in bright sunlight is tough – and mobile display technology doesn’t offer dynamic focusing, which reads the eye to deliver perfectly clear visuals. Current wearable displays have to be two feet away from your face, heads-up displays can be distracting, and there may be safety issues too. There are privacy implications too. Never mind your web history: Google Glass might record everything that the user is seeing and doing. Also there is this usability issue- Glasses will possibly not be useful in the rain (yet!)

It is expected that the Glasses are expected to cost around the price of current smartphones. Rumour indicate that Glasses may even end up in contact lenses and Google has in works a contact lens with embedded electronics.

Windows ARM Tablets limit Browser to IE: Return to the digital dark ages

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on May 13, 2012

Microsoft is well known as a competition-killer as it tries to kill competition by various means. After ending the legion of Netscape years ago, Microsoft is returning to “digital dark ages” by blocking browser choice on ARM version of Windows 8, dubbed Windows RT.

Mozilla and Google have accused Microsoft of banning third party browser from Windows 8 on ARM. There will have standard browser support in desktop edition of Windows 8, but the ARM version will be restricted to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only. Mozilla is already working on a Metro-styled version of its Firefox browser and this decision is a huge blow to Mozilla’s plans.

“Unfortunately, the upcoming release of Windows for the ARM processor architecture and Microsoft’s browser practices regarding Windows 8 Metro signal an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices,” … Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s General Counsel

Microsoft is under fire from both Mozilla and Google. Mozilla accuses Microsoft of violation the browser choice rules set by European Commission (EC). Mozilla also reported in the post that Windows RT will have two environments – a Windows Classic environment and a Metro environment for apps.

In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability, and security to which users have grown accustomed. Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can’t do the same

Meanwhile, Chrome-makers Google also verified the issue. Like Mozilla, Google is also planning to launch Metro version of Chrome browser.

Google has also shared similar concerns regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation. By locking the browser choice, Microsoft is limiting innovation in the browser space across all platforms.

Google and Mozilla accuse Microsoft of anti-competitive practice with the ARM-based version of Windows 8. The exclusion of browser choice is going to affect tablet users and if the problem is not handled, PC users may also enter a similar fate in future. Looking at declining market share of IE, Microsoft is planning to block competitors like Firefox, Opera and Chrome from Windows 8, but the decision will raise antitrust concerns.

Microsoft claims that it needs to restrict access to the desktop for security and performance reasons, and that’s why only a few apps get access to it, notably IE and Microsoft Office.

Thats a bit of unfair reasoning that Microsoft has put up there. After all, on Windows 8 for PCs, other apps are allowed to run on the desktop. It may be true that Windows RT hardware will be more susceptible to performance slow-downs than traditional Windows hardware, because RT hardware will generally have slower processors and less RAM. That won’t always be the case, though, because Windows 8 will run on netbooks, which typically have low-end hardware.

Another question that needs to be asked is Whether banning Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers from the RT desktop will make a difference to browser market share? AT the current rate, not many give much of a chance that Windows 8 tablets to make significant headway against iPads and Android tablets. And of the people who do use Windows tablets, only a very small percentage would likely switch their default browser, even if they had a choice. So in terms of market share, not allowing Firefox and Chrome on the desktop will barely register as a blip.

As for user choice, it would certainly be better if Windows 8 tablet buyers had more than one realistic option in browsers. But limiting browser choice is likely to hurt Microsoft more than help it.

 

Applications steal the march over Browsers in Mobile media

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on May 8, 2012

An year back, i was blogging how Apps are the next generation of Internet Consumer Experience. Those were the heady days with App stores being launched left, right and centre. The pace has abetted as the app store bubble has gone poof… but the apps story remains as relevant and as dominant as ever.

A ComScore study MobileMetrix 2.0 which measures engagement and behaviour on smartphones puts Applications one up over mobile browsers. The analysis of the share of time spent across apps and browsers revealed that even though these access methods had similar audience sizes, apps drove the lion’s share of engagement, representing 4 in every 5 mobile media minutes. On similar lines, analysis of the top properties also revealed widely varying degrees of time spent between app and browser access methods. In both these metrics, Apps outscored Browsers by a margin and more. The chart below demonsstrates Mobile App usage over Mobile browsers for the most used portals on internet:

 

As Internet access goes Mobile, the apps are beginning to power more and more access and engagement. Apps outscore mmobile browsers in more than a handful ways– Whether it being a push medium for relevant and timely delivery, or in being API guided content awareness and monetization, all screen presence or alternative solutions or powering the Web 3.0 (Internet of all things). Brands particularly are more keen to take the app route to consumer engagement because of the versatility of the app experience which is so relevant to the brand. Integrated service delivery is the key for applications over mobile browsers. Integrated services are those that work on any delivery medium that the consumer may be using: cable, DSL, wireless, wireline or satellite rather than being tied by transaction to one delivery medium.

WIth the iOS, Androids and WP8s driving usage of apps on smartphones, Apps also have a critical mass backing their growth aagainst mobile browsers.

 

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Developer Interest in Android wanes as Hybrid Apps take over

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on March 20, 2012

HTML5 is taking over as the key enabler of Internet on mobile phones. The Internet of all things and cloud based convergence will be a key theme in this decade and it will be powered by a tight integration powered by APIs. The future will be about Platforms on which devices and services will be enabled will be powered by applications both native and web based. This post examines the platform, applications and developer intent.

A recent survey by Appcelerator finds that Apple iOS leads the developer interest charts with 89% intent. iPad comes a close second at 88%. On the Applications side, the loser is a very unlikely candidate: Android (79% on the Android phones,64% on the Tablets and 51% on the ICS platform). Appcelerator in its quarterly survey figures out that Android is gradually slipping down mobile programmers’ priority list, with HTML5 powered Web apps stepping in to as an answer to development difficulties. HTML5 ended up showing 67% positive intent from developers.

The wanning interest in Android platform is being attributed to the Fragmentation of the Android platform. The survey concludes that a lot of developers are unhappy with the fragmentation of the platform as well as the fragmentation of the monetization platform. Fragmentation impedes monetization on the Android platform. Customization for screen size, feature sizes, even skins that device manufacturers have put on top of that eats into resources allocation on the platform.

79% of developers think that HTML5 was going to be a component of people’s apps in 2012. Only 6% developers plan to make all-out Web app that runs in a browser; a much larger 72% plan a hybrid approach that wraps native interface elements around an app that relies on a browser engine behind the scenes. A hybrid has some native code on device, but content will be delivered via HTML.

For developers on open platforms it’s a tough line to walk. They want to have an open OS, but openness means they’re going to have fragmentation.

Web applications–those built with technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that run using a browser engine–answer at least some of Google’s fragmentation challenges.Web apps rose slightly to 67 percent, passing Android tablets in the last quarter. Thus HTML poses the answer to fragmentation.

The good news for Android is that even while it has suffered recent declines it fares much better than Blackberry (16% Developer interest) and Windows (37% developer interest).

The good news for Google is that developer interest is on a rise for Web-App hybrid environment like the one running on its Chrome OS and Chromebooks.

The Three Platform paradigm in connected future of technology

The future belongs to connected experiences over a large range of devices starting from Smartphone, Tablet, Networks and not limiting only to TV, Vehicles, Home appliances and more. As a new era of convergence sweeps in, increasingly its evident that the Apple, Android and Windows will lead this march of convergence into the future.

Apple leads by the experience example on a relatively modest number of its own devices. The key will be the experience factor which will power Apple as a high margin and profitable enterprise. The key challenge for Apple will be to enable experiences seamlessly across platforms and devices. Apple will not be in the game of out-innovating Android. It will be more about how well it is able to merge exepreince, interface with technology services on various platforms and devices.

Android will emerge as the mass vehicle. Being open and free will anchor a lot of innovation, some of it across some very new devices and interfaces. The key here is Android’s flexibility which will provide sound base for innovation across platform and devices. The challenge for Android will be in terms of providing a common user experience. There may not be any pure Android experience since innovation on various platforms will add to disintegration of the “pure” Android Interface and experience. This is both good and bad for Android (the Amazon example) because it would mean staying ahead of the curve at the cost of not having an interface as good as Apple.

Microsoft Windows will consolidate its Enterprise position and leverage its advantage across legacy platforms and security.  Microsoft however has been loose in bringing innovation to markets. For every Kinect, there is a surface which is not yet commissioned. However, Microsoft’s niche has to be the enterprise and with its Windows8 it is trying to establish credibility across mobility experiences. Microsoft may still be lagging the “killer app” in enterprise mobility- and a Balckberry acquisition can give it just that edge in terms of the Blackberry infrastructure. There are some reports of a acquistion afoot. Interestingly enough Blackberry has put off its QNX platform till end of 2012. If one wishes to read between the lines … a struggling Blackberry puts off QNX almost indefintely, a Microsoft is fishing for “the killer enterprise app”, RIM is a prime sell off target, Microsoft had evinced interest…. is the acquisition a near reality?? We shall see

Can Facebook unseat Apple/Android at their own game, within their own ecosystem?

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on January 11, 2012

Facebook’s genesis was in terms of being a web destination and while Facebook is the no.1 mobile app globally across diverse platforms, Facebook was loosing traction to Android and Apple which harbored a collaborative eco-system approach. With 350 million users accessing facebook from Mobiles on a monthly basis that was too big an opportunity to hand it over to iOS and Android platforms.

Thus came into being Facebook’s recent push into HTML5 with Project Spartan,which features apps built for Facebook’s platform that can run on top of the Facebook Messenger app, instead of requiring the user to launch the iOS app equivalent. This poses a disintermediation challenge to Apple. Facebook is trying to beef up its payments system, Facebook Credits, to handle application payments and cut out the iTunes model ingrained into the iOS ecosystem.Facebook is demonstrating that it can leverage its hold over consumers at the software level, through the power of the social network, across multiple platforms.

So now, here’s an interesting question: Can Facebook unseat Apple/Android at its own game, within its own ecosystem?

Generations in computing interfaces and the Promise held out by Siri

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on November 19, 2011

The future of computing devices is really about how people interface with computing devices.

Generation #1:Many would remember the ubiquitous keyboard and the QWERTY keys which defined the early days of mobile computing. Remember having to key an SMS while navigating your car. It was not just difficult, it was fatal.

Generation #2: Haptic or touch based interface for computing was around for many years, but it was Apple’s iPhone and iPad range of devices along with Androids which truely revolutionized this scene and in effect put the Generation #1 devices into history books.

Generation #3: Gesture control and gesture recognition is really a evolution of the Generation #2 Haptic feedback devices on a much larger scale in tersm of being able to read body movements in a 3D plane. Interestingly this input mechanism came through from the world of gaming. Microsoft Kinect and to a some extent Microsoft Surface defined this generation of interfaces.

Generation #4: The easiest human interface is that of Speech. And after defining the interfaces with multi-touch, it was Apple which took this one step much further into future than Andbody else. Yes! Google had the speech recognition technology much ahead of Apple. However it was Apple’s fate to add the dash of character and spunk to Voice recognition – called Siri which holds a huge promise into future.

This presentation analyzes the factors why Siri could ultimately do something none could ever do before it- Challenge the Search paradigm. Again the simplicity of the voice interface and Siri’s character and spunk is what differentiates Siri. But in some time, Siri could be the de-facto standard, with app developers and Apple’s presence across a huge range of consumer based devices chnaging the way people search – by saying it out. Apple could take the whole paradigm further with intelligence on the voice enabled platform. It would be an interesting duel between Apple and Google and Siri could change the future.

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Rise of Applications (as next gen Internet Delivery medium)

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on June 21, 2011

In few of my earlier posts, i have blogged about Applications based Internet delivery as the future of Internet. To me applications are far more superior internet mediums because of the versatility of the purposes they can solve (and so, There’s an App for that); the always on and always connected nature of apps and the API-led integration across all web based resources. The other benefit of Apps include the fact that Mobile apps using Web technologies are easier to build & deploy on multiple platforms. Also, Apps are activity led in terms of being mobile and not just relaying static information, but making dynamic linkages with various engines and APIs to present most relevant results. Daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 12 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps.With profusion of apps and with a large multiple of results basis how one App interacts with its environment, there are search engines for Apps returning the exact thing needed by relevance, instead of returning just the pages coherent with the search string.Thus Apps will be a better discovery medium of the web and the trend of Apps super-ceeding web pages is “on”.

Mobile App analytics firm, Flurry says that daily time spent in mobile apps has now surpassed web consumption. The average user now spends 9% more time using mobile apps than the Internet. In June users spent an average of 81 minutes daily on mobile apps, compared to 74 minutes on the web.This compares to 66 minutes on mobile apps daily in December of 2010, and 70 minutes spent daily on the web. And June, the average user spent just under 43 minutes a day using mobile applications versus an average 64 minutes using the Internet.

As smartphone usage continues to grow, we’re going to see more tech companies pursue aggressive mobile strategies and with Mobile Internet, the key delivery medium will be Apps. Whats also working in favour of apps will be the ability to integrate dynamic content into the App and enhance the user engagement.

Semantic Web: Internet beyond Search and Social

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on June 9, 2011

As Internet outgrows search, Semantic is the new key for information search, personalization and delivery.

With the advent of Social Web (Web 2.0), an amazing amount of online information continues to get created, and content continues to expand at its breathtaking pace. There are over 140 million tweets being posted every day, 48 hrs of video uploaded to YouTube every minute and more. Internet users would need tools to help them sort out data for them according to whats relevant and pertinent to them. It’s going to be harder and harder to find information because there’s so much out there. Without a mechanism of data sorting and discovery a lot of the information will never be used and most and all traffic will congregate in a few sites only.

A good index of sorting out the information overload would be data relevance, personalization and customization basis the user, his context, his profile and the social networks that he is a part of. I have in earlier posts discussed about the applications being the best deliver medium for the future internet: always on, always connected, active, learning, mobile, dynamic, intelligent and platform agnostic. Content that is customized for a particular individuals’ preferences can be chosen and presented in a variety of ways. Apps learn what users like and gets smarter as they use it. Semantic web leverages ontologies and meta-data to build paradigms of user online behavior and customizes the internet experience according to the user.Thus Semantic web moves users very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks users to see, but not necessarily what users need to see.

Thus, the same Google search performed by two different users could turn up entirely different results, as the search giant tweaks its suggestions on each individual’s behavior. Personalization can also require sacrificing privacy: customization works best when users are willing to hand over data about what they click, how long they spend reading it, what sites they follow, and more.Users, on their part, will be comfortable allowing apps to track them as long as companies prove giving up some privacy delivers better, more helpful services. People are willing to share more and more information if they see that they’re getting value out of it.

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