Ronnie05's Blog

Yahoo! Axis. Impressive! Hope they dont mess it this time.

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on May 25, 2012

In the course of the last decade Yahoo! has lost out on every major initiative whether be Yahoo profiles and chat (To Facebook) or Search (to Bing) or Flickr (To Instagram). Once the most important Internet company, Yahoo! has been reduced to a state of profitable (shrinking fast) irrelevance. There was no major stake on how Yahoo! could influence Internet browsing behavior or leverage search or take a stake in the mobile bandwagon. Therefore Yahoo! Axis a refreshing new initiative from an almost dinosaur internet company. Axis essentially is a browser for iOS devices and a browser plugin for desktop computers. It has a premise and the intent is in the right direction.

Interestingly now, Axis will help Yahoo! skip trying to compete with the dominant desktop browsers and  instead offer a plug-in that works on all of them. That enables Axis users to extend their browsing habits to the Axis apps for iPad and iPhone, which is much less settled territory. Mobile and tablet browsing is the next frontier, and Yahoo is wise to focus the next stage of its business there.

  1. It essentially seeks to integrate the browsing and search experience. Users will not be required to launch a new page. Both the experiences are well knit on a single page with the usual bells and whistles. Why waste time on the search engine when the search process is built into the browser. Axis does away with the blue links that have defined internet query results for a decade and replaced them with previews of pages that might provide the information being sought.
  2. Understandably the experience is touch led – which is a key to the mobility, smartphone and tablet platform. Finally then, Yahoo! has some ground on hand held devices with the Axis app.
  3. Also key is the seamlessness of the experience which can be shared across all iOS devices. It would be interesting to see how Yahoo! recreates the iOS type experience across a range of disparate platforms each not exactly talking to the other. Possibly the plug-in would do the trick… but experience is the key here.
  4. On the flip however, Axis is somewhat of a double edged sword because it by-passes the search results page. Yahoo still makes a quarter of its revenues from the sponsored links on this page.

However, Yahoo! is betting its future on the convenience and speed of this search concept. The seamlessness of the experience is the consumer hook. What keeps them there is the way Axis syncs browsing history between the desktop and mobile versions, so users can switch back and forth easily between devices. Once there is enough data on the users, Yahoo can sell you all its services by promoting them heavily in the app and its search results.

Of late Yahoo! has lurched from one crisis to another. It still makes money but the future is very uncertain given the mobile dominance building on the internet, advent of Facebook and Google. Axis is thus a step in the right direction. Yahoo! still wants to take one more fight..

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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.


Google Chrome, Cloud and the new laptops

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on January 22, 2011

Google has been mulling as to how it extends the Chrome browser into a full operating system. A month back, Chrome started shipping a first run of test units so that developers, reporters and analysts could begin to evaluate Google’s efforts. Chrome is part of one of Google’s efforts to develop an operating system for laptops that does just about everything inside a browser window. To put it the other way around the computing experience shifts into the browser and the OS shifts the clouds. Netbooks using the Chrome will not require large 160 GB hard drives since all the OS functionalities and the data is moved into the cloud.

The idea of network computers that deliver all their functionality from somewhere other than the hard drive has been around for more than a decade. Sun and Oracle tried to jump start the market, but it is the power of the clouds, Google and HTML5 which would make this network computing OS a reality. The question is whether Google has created a new environment that will challenge more traditional PC operating systems such as Mac OS and Windows, or whether Chrome will be the latest challenger that ends up with niche success at best.

Booting Chrome OS takes about 15 seconds, and resuming from sleep takes about a second. (We have Apple’s latest MacBookAir performing the same trick with élan)

The magic of HTML5 means there’s a plethora of apps in Google’s Chrome store that work well.
However, its the simplicity of Chrome OS that could make it powerful. Imagine logging on to any computer in the world with your Google account and seeing exactly your own home-screen. This kind of a computing experience has a lot of appeal.
Google is clearly envisioning a future where more and more value for more and more users can be delivered via the Web in a way that makes it all easier to use and manage. While, Chrome OS notebooks aren’t going to take over the market anytime soon, but this platform is going to push things forward as businesses look to simplify the computing platforms they support. The trend that Chrome OS represents will only accelerate as more HTML5 apps deliver richer experiences over time.

Internet Explorer 9 unvieled

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on March 17, 2010

IE9 shows off HTML5 and the Hardware acceleration. Fundamentally in the right direction. Needs more spunk and refinement.

Internet Explorer 8 has been gradually loosing sheen to the nimbler, faster competitors across. It might still be the most secure browser, but it had some catching up to do on speed and the HTML5 support.

So, Internet Explorer 9 had its work cut out and it delivers. It supports HTML5, boasts a new Microsoft JavaScript engine which is codenamed “Chakra,” and it’ll support new-fangled web technologies like CSS3,DOM and SVG2. Microsoft says one of its main goals with IE9 is to provide a faster browsing experience — always good news — though they don’t have things cranked quite as high as the competition just yet. Preliminary ACID3 tests on the preview show the IE9 scores a 55/100, up from IE8’s dismal 20/100 — a huge leap forward no doubt, but still a far cry from the Chrome, Opera, and Safari scores of 100. However these are still early days for IE9 and improvements are yet to step in.

Quoting IE Blog, IE9 was designed to “enable a new class of applications. These applications will stress the browser runtime and underlying hardware in ways today’s websites don’t. We quickly realized that doing HTML5 right – our intent from the start – is more about designing our browser’s subsystems around what these new applications will need than it is about a particular set of features. From the beginning, we approached IE9 with the goal of enabling professional-grade, modern HTML5 support on top of modern hardware through Windows.”

The IE9 uses a new script engine “Chakra” which powers its fast performance. The secret lies in the fact that Chakra compiles JavaScript in the background on a separate core of the CPU, parallel to IE.

IE9 is also the first browser to provide hardware-accelerated SVG support. IE9’s hardware-accelerated graphics takes full advantage of the PC’s hardware capabilities through the operating system to deliver significant performance gains on graphically rich, interactive web pages.

The IE platform preview also shares the progress on IE platform with the developer community so that the developers can create, contribute and evolve the eco-system and the products around IE9.

As with every incumbent IE is slow on many of the parameters compared to the Firefox, Safari and others, but IE being a majority share player in the browser markets, a robust and capable IE9 would be the key to the majority users accessing graphics rich pages in a better manner.

Microsoft drives IE9 to stay relevant in Browsers

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on December 28, 2009

Microsoft has been the dinosaur of the Browser kingdom, but then as with the worthy comparison, Microsoft’s vice grip of the browser markets is loosening out. The latest report of market shares shows 65% share for IE. Mozila Firefox has scaled upto to 25% market share. Android and Safari are small at 4%, but Android atleast is making the right kind of noises and moves and is radically redefining the Browser markets. The Internet Explorer needs to keep up and IE9 seems to be Microsoft’s bet in the new age of browsers.

Whats new with IE9?

Hardware accelerated text and graphics.

The acceleration feature takes advantage of hitherto untapped computing power in a way that’s more useful than other browser-boosting technology–Google’s Native Client to directly employ PC’s processor and Mozilla’s WebGL for accelerated 3D graphics. This is a direct improvement to everybody’s usage of the Web on a daily basis. Web developers are doing what they did before, only now they can tap directly into a PC’s graphics hardware to make their text work better and graphics work better

An increasing fraction of Microsoft’s business is moving online, too, through its Bing, Live, and now online Office 2010 sites and Microsoft is trying to consciously migrate consumers to the cloud. The task is to build a better IE so all the Web sites have a better experience. Microsoft has recently joined the HTML standards effort. Microsoft uses the Direct 2D, which is a hardware-accelerated, immediate-mode, 2-D graphics API that provides high performance and high-quality rendering for 2-D geometry, bitmaps, and text. Direct2D also facilitates a technology called sub-pixel positioning that can smooth the appearance of text on the screen.

With the old technology, that chore can update the screen at a rate of about 5 to 10 frames per second while using 50 to 60 percent of the processor’s horsepower, but using the Direct2D method, the frame rate jumps to a range of 40 to 60 per second while the CPU usage plunges.

Another is the execution of JavaScript, a programming language used widely on the Web for everything from mundane tasks to full-on applications such as Gmail and Google Docs. However, JavaScript isn’t the only bottleneck for browsers. Browser is also an important aspect of the whole internet speed experience.

Google Chrome: A study in Technology disruption

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on December 25, 2009

In sheer numbers, Google Chrome is small compared to a IE or a Mozilla. It accounts for 4% of the browser usage worldwide. However, Chrome (which was released in 2008) is Google’s real time bet into the way web is used in terms of speed and the way it supports cloud based applications, which arguably is the future for Google going forward. The Chrome integrates with HTML5 for faster deliveries of web based applications.

Chrome started out as one of Google’s efforts to accelerate the Web–launching faster, loading pages faster, and running Web-based JavaScript programs faster. Google’s argument: a faster Web experience means people will spend more time online, do more things, and, naturally, click more Google search ads. Google’s ambition is to speed the transformation of the Web from a static medium into a foundation for applications

1.For starters, the Chrome leverages on Javascript for faster performance that helps expand the browser capabilities.

2.Next, Google has begun building its 03D plug in for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics into its Chrome browser. This paves the way for high-powered Web-based games.

3.Google plans to build Native Client into Chrome, too. This is designed to let Web applications take advantage of a computer’s native processing power.

But the Google’s big daddy of all ambitions was the Google Chrome OS, which coupled with the Google Chrome browser will stream applications and computing power from the cloud. This then would not only be a shot in the arm for Google’s Cloud ambitions but there is also a very real market of Netbooks which would love to have this booster.In other words, Google’s cloud-computing ambitions just got a lot bigger and there is a very real market for it.

The Chrome OS will also help Google take the competition out in a click since all Web-based applications on netbooks will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux, thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform. Masterstroke!

In terms of real time action: Google released the rough Chrome OS source code in November 2009 and released beta versions of Chrome browsers for Linux and Mac by December 2009.

Many Chrome ambitions are still far from any practical reality, but the browser had effects in terms of stirring up competition. Mozilla programmers have improved launch speed in the Firefox 3.6 beta.

Microsoft and Apple, who enjoy the privilege of packaging their browsers in their operating system, released major new versions, Internet Explorer 8 and Safari 4, respectively. Safari took the 64-bit leap, and Apple boasted of its big JavaScript speed boost. IE 8 brought a number of user-interface refinements, but notably, Microsoft lists better security and privacy as primary features.

The 2nd Half of 2010 will see Google unveil the Chrome OS and coupled with HTML 5 and “forever getting better” Chrome Browser, this may disrupt the technology that drives mobile and netbook computing. Something that Google is not unused to doing.

Microsoft:Difficult moving ahead of IE 6 and XP

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on August 19, 2009

Microsoft has the likes of Linux, Apple, Google, Mozilla as competition on the OS and browser fronts. However, if July figures of browser market shares from net applications are to be believed, Windows XP and IE6 are the biggest threats to Microsoft! In them, Microsoft deals with an Operating System and Browser that refuse to die (much to Microsoft’s discomfort)!microsoft_logoMS is all the way up-to IE8 and IE8 is splashing around as the safest amongst browsers (Read here). However it is IE 6 launched in 2001, that remains the leader in browser markets. MS is not amused by the mass of people who refuse to give up IE6.


There are a number of reasons Microsoft isn’t happy with the IE 6 holdouts. First is that they might be easily swayed to Firefox.

  • IE 6, after all, is so ancient that it doesn’t even use tabs. It’s clearly inferior to any modern browser. Put it next to Firefox, and anyone would want to switch. IE 8, by way of comparison, stacks up well to the most recent versions of Firefox.
  • In addition, Microsoft has built features into the latest version of IE 8, such as Web slices, that are translatable into increased traffic to Microsoft or Microsoft partners, which in turn translates into cash. The more people that stay with IE 6, the less revenue for Microsoft.
  • Beyond that, developers have gotten so sick of having to maintain their sites for IE 6, that they may eventually simply stop supporting it. That could clearly be disastrous for Microsoft. In fact, developers are so fed up with IE 6 that a group of developers have formed a group called ie6nomore as a way to try and get people to leave the ancient browser behind.
  • As for Windows XP, that presents an even more serious problem. Every consumer and every enterprise that doesn’t upgrade from XP represents money being taken out of Microsoft’s pocket. The problem goes beyond people who don’t upgrade their existing PC. There are plenty of XP users who won’t buy new PCs because they don’t want to give up XP. So it’s not just upgrades that Microsoft is losing out on, but new sales as well.

 A little scratching behind the surface throws up interesting insights on how MS is unable to chain the twin monsters it had fostered so long. Microsoft caused this turmoil and now they have to deal with it.

Microsoft Vista and Windows 7 are poor excuses for wasting a total of nine years in development. The results are a dozen versions of the same OS that “eats resources like dinosaur eats leafs, has a performance of a Yugo, but generate costs that rival a custom made Maserati”. Even the innovations haven’t been exciting really: A UAC that covers up the still present security holes and Aero that doesn’t work on most systems.

IE6 has been around for a long time, because Microsoft wanted it so. XP will be around for a long time, because Microsoft didn’t produce anything after XP that is worthwhile to use. Microsoft is about to make itself irrelevant out of lack of user understanding and lack of innovation. 9 years of inaction after XP and IE6, relentless versions of the same old XP and IE and a failure with Windows Vista has made customers extremely skeptical about incremental innovation at Microsoft, so much so that there is a reluctance to trust Microsoft’s promises with the Windows 7! It is reasonable to expect that with thousands of developers, millions of dollars spent, and nine years of development time Windows Vista would perform drastically better than XP on the same hardware. That has clearly not been the case with Windows Vista! Users are unwilling to pay for the same performance that he is currently getting with XP. The argument being that after so many years after XP came out, Microsoft couldn’t write an OS that is better than it, but they have not been able to. This could be a hurdle with acceptance of Windows 7 as well. Microsoft needs to watch out!

We’ll have to wait until October and beyond to see whether Windows 7 can solve one of Microsoft’s biggest problems — its aging operating system and browser and jump start its innovativeness in product philosophy!

Here’s looking at you: HTML5 (Part II)

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on August 3, 2009

Continued from earlier post:

However, HTML5 is handicapped by the following factors:

513636061_98d07f7966Lack of Extensibility:

One of the new things HTML 5 sets out to do is to provide web developers with a standardized set of semantic page layout structures. However, the new elements may not be entirely forward-compatible, as they are constrained to today’s understanding of what makes up a page. An extensible mechanism, although less straightforward, would offer more room to grow as the web evolves.HTML5 does add new elements like header, nav, article, section, aside, and footer which expand the structural definition of a page, but does not provide the level of extensibility that people have been seeking.

Documents versus Applications:

From a future perspective, HTML5 is seen as a document publishing, however, in its present avatar it is painfully evident that it lacks the tools it needs to describe the documents sufficiently.

There is also a burning need to address the short-comings of HTML for web applications —especially when it comes to being able to build rich web applications for mobile devices.

While most of the smartphones in the world use the Webkit in some form or the other and HTML 5 will have to build upon this platform as a base, it is worth bringing to notice that Webkit Does Not Equal HTML5 Support… Yet

To be clear, just because a device uses webkit does not mean that it has the latest version of Webkit and can use HTML5. Recognizing the market share of Webkit is important solely as an indicator that a significant portion of smart phones will have access to HTML5 sometime in the near future.

There is great incentive for mobile operating system vendors to upgrade to the latest versions of Webkit. They see the success that the iPhone has had and the fact that one of the main contributors to that success was the browsing experience. They understand that not many companies can afford to develop native applications for all of the various platforms which makes the features of HTML5 attractive.

Because of this, browser improvements need to be a high priority for mobile operating systems.

Here’s looking at you: HTML5 (Part I)

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on August 3, 2009

World Wide Web Consortium’s decision to not renew the XHTML 2 Working Group charter effectively means that XHTML 2 (as a web standard) is effectively dead. In its place as the future of web development stands HTML5.

Given the emergence of “mobile internet” as the next revolution in internet medium, HTML5 is going to big a deal and it will be relevant much sooner than people think. Adoption of HTML5 will be driven by the needs of mobile, not the needs of desktop developers.


When Can We Use HTML5?

HTML5 did not really matter until IE supported whatever new standard for mobiles or IE no longer has the majority of the market share.

Given the fact that IE doesnot have a mobile bias, the smartphone growth will drive HTML5 adoption. The iPhone, Google Android, Nokia, and the Palm Pre are all based on the open source Webkit browser engine. Those phones represent somewhere around 65% of smart phones sold.If you look past mobile phones to other mobile devices like the iPod Touch, Nokia’s internet devices, and the upcoming Google Chrome, you see that Webkit is even more broadly distributed.

The two major platforms not using Webkit are Windows Mobile and Blackberry. Some of the capabilities of HTML5 are available to Windows Mobile users via the Google Gears plugin.

Blackberry has its own specialized browser not built on any of the major browser engines. It only recently started handling html, css and javascript reasonably well, but still is insufficient and buggy compared to other browsers.

Fortunately, for both Windows Mobile and Blackberry, Opera’s browser is both available and popular. It is consistently one of the top if not the top download on mobile applications sites. And Opera is one of the leading developers of HTML5.

HTML5 for Mobile

HTML5 is a critical step for mobile web application development. Some of the key elements that it provides are:

  • Offline Support — The AppCache and Database make it possible for mobile developers to store thing locally on the device and now that interruptions in connectivity will not affect the ability for someone to get their work done.
  • Canvas and Video — These two features are designed to make it easy to add graphics and video to a page without worrying about plugins. When supported by the phone’s hardware, as is the case with the iPhone, they provide a powerful ways to get media into a page.
  • GeoLocation API — This is actually not part of HTML5, but is a separate specification. That said, it is often bundled together because the mobile phones that are including HTML5 are generally supporting the GeoLocation API.
  • Advanced Forms — Even simple things like the improvements in HTML5 for forms could make life easier for mobile applications. Fields that can be validated by the browser are improvements for mobile devices. The more that can be handled by the browser means less time downloading javascript code and less round trips to the server if validation can be found before the form is posted.

Most importantly, nearly all of the hybrid applications frameworks—Phone Gap, QuickConnect, RhoMobile, Titanium Mobile, and others—rely on HTML5 features to provide a rich application experience.

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How Microsoft is underprepared for next gen computers?

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 28, 2009

Microsoft’s Windows is still shipped on 97 per cent of all new PCs. Thanks to the emergence of new classes of portable, internet-connected devices, a potentially disruptive sea-change is now under way in the fastest-growing areas of personal computing and Windows is not exactly in the driver seat on this ground.

As a PC operating system, it turned out that the world did not need, or want, Linux. The ubiquity of Windows guaranteed that other software developers would write their programs to run on it, creating an effective barrier to entry for others trying to break into the market.

That market dynamic has also helped Microsoft to hold its ground so far on netbooks, the new class of small-scale machines that have been the sole bright spot in an otherwise shrinking PC market. While early netbooks came with Linux and were designed to act mainly as simple internet devices, they have since been recast as scaled-down versions of the familiar, software-heavy laptop.

Yet this victory has come at a cost, and has exposed a flaw in Microsoft’s development plans. With most netbooks incapable of running the Windows Vista code, it was forced to use the older Windows XP operating system. And with prices far lower than for standard laptops, Microsoft has already seen an erosion in the average price it gets for Windows.

A second phase of the netbook wars is now looming. Google’s Linux-based Chrome OS, announced this month and planned for the second half of next year, is designed to carry through on the original promise of netbooks: to let users do all their work on the web through a browser. The web is thus a platform for applications and the operating system becomes less relevant.

Other operating systems designed for the web are also in the works. The Linux and Intel open-source project, known as Moblin, will be available in a range of machines before the end of the year.

The backers of software platforms like these see netbooks as the thin end of the wedge. Getting a foothold on small laptops is the first step to expanding into a wider range of internet devices – including the emerging class of tablet computers and so-called mobile internet devices (MIDs) that many in the industry hope will eventually create a new personal computing market, between today’s PCs and smartphones. Maemo, Nokia’s Linux-based operating system for portable tablet computers, is also pitched at this market.

That convergence promises to bring another dimension to the emerging software platform war.

Smartphones have seen a wave of software innovation, with the emergence over the past two years of a number of new purpose-built platforms: Google’s Android, Palm’s Web OS and a version of Apple’s OSX for the iPhone.

Microsoft is suffering because some of its licensees are looking to do more business with Android.

Designed for the power-constrained world of mobiles, these smartphone operating systems could start to invade a bigger piece of the personal computing world – particularly if the low-power Arm processors on which they run move up into larger, netbook-style devices.

Even in this shifting world, though, the power of Windows could be a deciding factor. If it released a version of the new Windows 7 to run on Arm-based processors, Microsoft could still be well-positioned to ride the wave of new devices.


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