Category Archives: Internet

Mobile Web Applications Growing

The mobile phone browser is the most popular mobile phone application used on smart phones and it’s only going to get bigger. Most of the general population are likely to have been glitz by Apples “there’s an app for that” commercials but in reality users surf the internet 2x as much more then using applications according to a Nielsen survey. By accessing the open internet there no need to have “an app for that” so long as the mobile browser is capable enough to render sites with speed and utilise the latest web technologies.

There are several reasons why the mobile browser and hence, web applications will prevail over native applications. Currently mobile operating systems are severely fragmented. To give you a bit of an idea we have iOS from Apple, Android from Google, WebOS from HP/Palm, Bada from Samsung, Symbian from Nokia, Blackberry OS, MeeGo, Maemo, Linux and now also Windows Phone 7!

Try asking a developer to create a native application that works across all phones. Most will give you a dumbfounded look, others will tell you your crazy, but some will pursued you to go completely mobile web. The web is the common platform that all phone operating systems and browsers are united under.

So it’s not surprising to see some big market players making big moves into this area:  Sprint Nextel the third largest carrier in the USA will introduced a new browser based mobile applications service promising developers the tools to create web applications and value added services which span across the different operating systems and device form factors. Expected to be released in the first half of 2011 it’s a system which will be composed of open APIs giving developers the ability to quickly build web applications that leverage location, content adaptation, security and analytics. The solution is also touted to include a range of monetisation models like targeted advertising and content conversion services.

A further development which is no surprise given these guys have been creating widget based content for years is the introduction of Widgetbox Mobile. It’s the same team behind ClickTurn ads. Widgetbox mobile aims to help businesses build mobile web apps in minutes. After using their solution I have to admit it’s very slick and easy to use. It’s basically a DIY platform which allows you to build HTML5 based web applications which work on the iPhone and Android platforms (Blackberry support is apparently on the  road map). You can use images, icons, skins, social media buttons, splash pages, slide shows and polls. As you build the application you get a preview window so you can always see how it’s eventually going to turn out. It’s a little pricy in my opinion at $25-$100 per app, per month, likely pricing most small businesses out.

The space of mobile web app v native apps is clearly polarised, and as the old saying goes we could take about it until the cows come home and so I’ll leave it to Jason Alderman (@justsomeguy) and Matthias Shapiro to rap battle it out. Thanks to 0m4r for discovering this vid.

dont_make_me_think_2nd

Common Sense Web Design

Nothing turns away visitors more than a poorly designed website. Let’s face it, most sites on the internet today ARE poorly designed. When I discover new sites they almost always contain basic design flaws.

Most of the clients I’ve worked with in the past think websites are a cheap method for getting a business name out there … in many ways that’s actually true. Unfortunately many business don’t think about their competitors online strategy which, could be to ensure they have the best web design for their market. Customers visiting a site are likely to base a large part of their purchasing decision on the professional perception they have about the website.

So if you want to use the online channel to boost the bottom line then you better invest some time and money into developing a professional, attractive and modern web page that will stand out.

It’s not hard, whether you do this yourself or contract an agency or designer to do it for you. The following points should always be considered when designing a website.

KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)

Just because you have content doesn’t mean you need to add it to your site. Many businesses stick large amounts of text and look at design as a secondary priority. Go with the “less is more” approach. A basic homepage, with some bold branding. If a site overwhelms a visitor with content they will simply leave, remember the death by power point saying…well the same goes on a site, death by content! Use plenty of whitespace to break out sections, this allows the users to focus on the sub messages you want to portray and marks out the calls to action (explained below) more clearly. Another reason for keeping it simple – mobiles. More users are accessing websites on smartphones and tablets now and your website should appear just as attractive on those devices as it does on a big monitor. Whether it’s on an iPhone, iPad or Android device, you need to take into consideration how it’s all going to appear.

Consistency

Make sure you use consistent fonts and graphics that fit into the overall brand. Your logo and colours should reflect the company that you are. Keep in mind that the styles will be used offline on items such as printed stationary and signage. Select a colour palette and and stick with it. If you use the Antenna font then stay with Antenna, don’t change halfway through a design and decide to implement the rest of the site in Arial.

Calls to Action

Every website should give users an action they can fulfil as soon as they visit. It could be signing up to an email address list, putting in their information or clicking on a poll…these are the calls to action. They should feed into your design – the text should be bold and visible and stand out. A good method used to highlight a call to action is to use an individual graphic as it is more attractive to a user then plain text. Look at the use of bold colours, and then use buttons, messages and links to drive the user into purchasing or doing something else. Always remember to make the text very clear so the user knows what they are about to do. Part of good web design is to ensure these calls to action are all over the website, whether its “Get in Touch” or “Buy Now” or “Signup”, ensure it’s consistent, simple and most importantly clearly visible on the site.

GREAT! Navigation

It’s not good having a site when your users can’t find their way around it! Creating a solid and fool proof navigation system is critical. If your site is small (less then 10 pages) then opt for a horizontal primary navigation approach. It if contains many pages then it might be worthwhile implementing a control which reveals lots of different options that are triggered by hovering over or clicking over a menu option. It should be possible for your users to make their way through to the bottom page of the site in a matter of seconds. Keep sub pages distinct and purposeful – remember not to clutter! You can use different techniques to achieve great navigation but don’t forget to implement some basic principals such as the use of breadcrumbs…if your site is large with more then 10 pages and several layers of navigation then breadcrumbs are great. They are a popular way of allowing users to find exactly where they are.

Creating a great looking website is not difficult if you follow tried and tested principals. There’s no need to be a design guru just remember to keep it simple, clean, consistent and clear.

Native Apps v Web Apps

It’s almost like every developer and his donkey are creating new mobile native device applications these days. With the runaway success of the iPhone and the Google Android Smartphone OS its not hard to see why. There are a plethora of start-up companies who base their business modeled around the development of native applications for a specific device…dangerous in my opinion – but possibly successful, I’m just not sure.

Developing for devices is not a hard game to get into. With well documented APIs, downloadable development kits, tools & videos, backed by internet behemoths Apple and Google further coupled with a strong community of existing developers – it’s not hard to see why developers have produced over a 300,000 iPhone and 85,000 Android applications to date.

Other incentives for developers and development houses to create device specific apps are:

Attractive revenue splits: developers keep 70% of revenue from paid applications. The splits are the same across Apple and Google with Apple retaining their 30% whilst Google are currently opting to pass their 30% onto network operators and partners.
Easy billing: Both Apple and Google have established billing relationships or can establish a relationship quite easily should customers want to purchase applications. Apple have had this relationship with it’s customers through the iTunes store whilst Google have introduced Google Checkout. Without the need to integrate complex payment systems into their own applications, developers simple focus on functionality. Another barrier developers need not consider.
Continuing growth: Androids adoption by manufactures, carriers and customers is rampant, a recent US study had Android in second spot with 28% market share compare to Apples 21%. However Apple have not really faltered, with the introduction of the iPad & iPhone 4, even more applications are now being introduced into the Apple app store.
Low cost of inception: got a computer? got internet access? it’s as easy as that with Apple even providing development membership with access to additional resources for a measly $99/year. Expensive tools like Visual Studio are not required for a developer or small development teams to get into the game.
Low total cost of ownership: deployment or hosting overheads are eliminated with the marketplace hosting developer applications, a prohibitive cost for developers on a shoestring budget.

It’s hard to predict when, or even if, native application development will stagnate, prompting developers to seek new models or users to be behaviorally coerced into using alternatives. However, if we look at 4 new offerings in the mobile market we can draw some predictions. By no means do I mean this to be a well researched prediction but more or less what I’d like to think of as an educated guesstimate as to what the next year will bring into the mobile internet landscape. The following are in no particular order:

Sencha: From the creators of ExtJS, these guys have been around for years, most notably having created a robust Javascript framework used by many web applications. It was certainly used to power multiple applications for previous clients of mine and I can vouch for it’s rapid development abilities and expansive library of UI controls. The company behind this original framework have no created what is dubbed “The First HTML5 App Framework”. It there success with ExtJS is anything to go by then get ready for some creativity unleashed as the framework taken up by more and more web developers. The Sencha framework promises developers the ability to develop and deploy essentially a mobile app site with the look and feel of a native iPhone or Android application. Taking a look at their Kitchen Sink examples it’s certainly impressive. Transitions are smooth, there is already a vast array of controls to use, the framework picks up multiple gestures and I’ve found it to work just as well on both my iPhone 4 and my Nexus One. The killer app for me was solitaire allowing users to use gestures and utilize local storage so I could come back and complete my game at a later time.

Jolicloud: from the creators of NetVibes, is a free new netbook operating system which recently came out of beta to v1.0. Jolicloud sounds promising in it’s attempts to mix both native apps and web apps. It preaches “bringing all the benefits of cloud computing” not sure how true it is but having run it on a virtual machine the interface is pretty and it does make discovering content seem like childs play.

hahlo: is a twitter client developed to run as a rich AJAX enabled application right from your mobile browser. Personally I find the user interface fantastic. It comes with options to view your lists, mentions and messages. Clicking on ‘Menu’ displays a great looking modal overlay which will trick you into thinking it belongs in a native app. Clicking tweet is magical…you know where I’m going with this one so best if you check out the web app yourself and make up your own mind.

Chrome Web Store: from Google opens later this year. Google are building an app store directly into their browser offering! not a bad move given they already have so much scale and have been advertising everywhere. On a recent trip to Paris I noticed on the underground, Google Chrome ads which eventually made my travelling partner – a local Parisian state “I’m going to check out Chrome from Google”. Clearly underground advertising works. Given Googles user base a big element then will bring is educating users about the so called web apps. Thanks to Apple people know about the App Store, expecting apps to be made available locally on their handset – and now Google have an opportunity to not only push web apps to browsers but to sync these with the Android operating system.

My personal view on this is as the internet become more pervasive and ubiquitous in the developing world and speeds improve in the developed world we are going to turn to the browser to deliver more of our consumption needs, more so in the mobile space. It will take time – no doubt. Web apps need to be more discoverable, but throw developers new technologies such as Sencha, support it on the mobile, and we might just find gravity moves away from Native Apps towards Web Apps.

html5 and quake 2

Quake Powered By HTML5

HTML5 has recently received loads of attention. Will it be the way we will consume the future Internet? … I personally don’t know – and doubt anyone you ask can give you a firm and gospel answer. So rather then pretend that I know enough about it or preach about it’s destined capabilities, I thought I’d share what the engineers over at Google have done.

2 guys from the GWT (Google Web Toolkit) team Ray and Joel have ported quake 2 to run on the browser!  No it’s no April fools joke as I originally thought.

Specifically they have taken Jake2 which is a version of Quake 2 (opening sourced by ID Software) and compiled it into Javascript using GWT. The final results are impressive. They claimed to have achieved 25fps on a Macbook and 60fps! on a Linux notebook. The port includes sound, has local storage + multi-player between Mountain View HQ in the States and Sydney, Australia was also tested … in short freakin impressive!

So What?

It’s a milestone.

As one of the developers indicates in his own post -

“I hope that this port encourages some people to become even bolder and crazier in the types of Web Apps they’re trying to build, because if Quake2 is possible in Javascript using browser APIs, then even more amazing applications are waiting for you to develop, so get started!”

Both these guys have demonstrated to the Internet community (trolls included) that anything is really possible in the browser using HTML5. The significance is more important for applications rather then gaming. Today more and more applications are being released on the Internet with the power that was only ever previously experienced on desktops. With the shift to cloud computing and SaaS it’s an approach clearly here to stay.

For mobile application development this is equally significant. Right now device manufacturers, media and telecommunication companies are all scrambling around to build their own application ecosystem generally centered around using traditional desktop languages and wall gardening developers & consumers into a specific channel. e.g. Symbian, iPhone, Android, Black Berry.  With the use of HTML5 developers, consumers & companies don’t need to rely on distribution through a single ecosystem, nor do they tie themselves into web technologies such as Flash or Silverlight. They can develop for the biggest channel of them all – the browser.

If your keen to try the port yourself you can get it here.

Or check out the end result in this video.

Google Pulls Out of China…be it in a round about way

After much speculation and months of tit for tat verbal jostling between Google and the Chinese government it seems Google has finally pulled the plug and pulled out of China….well in a fuzzy way…

Google.cn no longer behaves as a search portal, rather the system directs you to Google.co.hk where interest results are uncensored. Sneaky!

About time I say. The INTERNET. A vessel for FREE SPEECH.

“Google’s page reads (translated) “Welcome to Google Search in China’s new home.” It seems pretty clear that Google is happy with shutting down its China-based domain in favor of Hong Kong. It’s also highly likely that Chinese officials will scramble to block uncensored results from Google.com.hk via its Great Firewall. Google says that it’s currently monitoring “access issues,” and that it has set up an App Status Dashboard to show what’s currently accessible in mainland China and what’s not.”

So far though triggering a search for “Tiananmen Square” yields unfiltered results.

So Google is finally walking the walk after talking the it’s tough talk….pulling out of the worlds fastest growing internet market is by no means an easy descion. I have a renewed and reenforced respect for this mighty company.

Go Google.

Fennec Fox...release imminent?

Firefox Mobile Released

OK so it’s been a while since the announcement, but as I pointed out late last year in my previous post Firefox mobile has been released. Simply called Firefox mobile (not advertised as Fennec as previously thought) it’s an exciting announcement which include some great featured such as:

Weave Sync: allowing users to synchronize their browsing between their mobile and desktop browsers.

Awesome Bar: a very Australian name! a bar allowing users to trigger search and quick access to sites.

Location Aware Browsing: users get location based results

Pop Up Blocker: as the name implies

Add-ons: now this is real awesome! allowing for the same great add on feature as we have become used to with desktop variant.

Currently it’s only available on the Nokia Maemo platform…below is the official release video:

Firefox Mobile Released

Head over to the official site for more info.

Well done Mozilla…now bring this baby over to the Android.

Fords Appetite for Mobile 2.0

The Ford Motor Company has announced an increase in-car mobile internet services during CES 2010. With partnerships already in place with map supplier Mapquest, Internet radio provider Pandora, micro-blogging service Twitter and audio news service Stitcher this comes are no surprise. However whats really interesting is the announcement by Chief Executive Alan Mulally about a potential deal with Google.

Whilst’s details of any potential partnership were sketchy it has been reported to involve the use of Googles Android operating system and Fords ‘Sync’ service -already rolled out in it’s vehicle lineup. According to the LA Times, the lineup of Sync services cars are selling at twice the rate of those without.

It’s highly likely that Ford will introduce an Apple App Store type model where by developers could create car specific applications for use on it’s Sync platform. The opportunities are extreamly high. Imagine receiving driving instructions based on real time mashups of road demand, accidents & weather info…nice.

Now all said and done, the added services could actual pose a distraction to drivers in some circumstances, but Ford have introduced and progressively introducing safe guards such as voice commands rather then physical input and the disabling of WiFi whilst the car is out of ‘Park’ to stop drivers surfing the net.

Mobile internet services are not completely new to the Auto Industry. For instance, Fiat uses a systems called Blue&Me whilst, General Motors have a system called OnStar. Fords foray into this area means this behemoth of a player brings significant weight into the ever expanding mobile internet services space. With increases consumer awareness, larger developer interest, falling access costs and increasing speeds…they look likely to pull off a successful venture.

Full Mozilla Mobile To Be Released…Finally!

Fennec Fox...release imminent?

Fennec Fox...release imminent?

Fennec the mobile internet browser from Mozilla has been announced for release before the end of the year. The beta versions of Fennec have been around on the Nokia N800 phones for a while so this announcement comes as no surprise….about time I say.

Whats really interesting is it’s possible impact to the world of Android. No doubt we will never see a iPhone version but the Android market place may just have a new hot download early in 2010.

The browser has been in development for over 18 months so we can expect some special features. Some things to look out for include:

  1. plugin support just like it’s PC equivalent
  2. desktop to mobile synchronization
  3. tabbed browsing…nothing new since Opera Mini already has this feature

Here is a link to a more comprehensive feature list.

If Fennec is to really success in the mobile space then it must overtake Opera which is the industry most popular browser….no it’s not Safari mobile. With the release of Opera Mini 5.0, 2010 may possibly shape up to be a year of the mobile browser wars.

twiddling thumbs in anticipation……

Mobile Internet to Surpass PC Web

More users will access the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within five years, according to a Dec. 16 report from Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker, one of the analysts who predicted the original Internet boom. “The mobile Internet is ramping faster than desktop Internet did,” according to the report.
Smartphones, e-book readers, connected in-car electronics and wireless home appliances like gaming consoles would sell more than 10 billion units by 2020. That’s ten times more devices than there are desktop PCs, according to the report.
Here’s one interesting observation from the report: Meeker believes that the mobile Internet revolution will produce a new crop of winners, whose ranks won’t include today’s giants. Microsoft, Cisco and Intel benefited from proliferation of PCs. Desktop Internet computing lead to the birth of Google, eBay and Yahoo. Mobile Internet computing winners are yet to be defined, she writes. “It’s notable that, after years in the backwaters of global mobile development, American companies (led by the likes of Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com and Google) are becoming mobile Internet innovation pacesetters,” according to the report
Mobile Internet > PC Web...growth predictions

Mobile Internet > PC Web...growth predictions

More users will access the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within five years, according to recent report from Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker, she was one of the analysts who predicted the original Internet boom…OK so that wasn’t too hard to do. However, kudos where it’s deserved. She states that “The mobile Internet is ramping faster than desktop Internet did,”

Smartphones, e-book readers, connected in-car electronics and wireless home appliances like gaming consoles would sell more than 10 billion units by 2020. That’s ten times more devices than there are desktop PCs.

Meeker believes that the mobile Internet revolution will produce a new crop of winners, whose ranks won’t include today’s giants. Microsoft, Cisco and Intel who benefited from proliferation of PCs. Desktop Internet computing lead to the birth of Google, eBay, Yahoo and the likes. Mobile Internet computing winners however, are yet to be defined, she writes. “It’s notable that, after years in the backwaters of global mobile development, American companies (led by Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com and Google) are becoming mobile Internet innovation pacesetters,” according to the report.

Some very interesting takes:

“The mobile Internet cycle, the 5th cycle in 50 years, is just starting. Winners in each cycle often create more market capitalization than in the last. New winners emerge, some incumbents survive – or thrive – while many past winners falter.” Woot! Disruptive innovation by way of a new channel will always foster new and exciting developments.

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Australia to Filter the Internet – What a F**k Up!

censorship

Australia to Censor The Internet

Australia has just announced that it will proceed with controversial plans to censor the Internet after Government commissioned trials found that the filtering and blacklisting of banned sites was accurate and would not slow down the Internet.

Why on earth would a western nation impose strict Internet filters? Possibly one of 2 reason…actually I’m sure it’s both.

  1. These politicians have no idea on the notion of freedom without bounds
  2. These same politicians are uneducated and sadly misinformed on the adverse affects to the community

Sure I get it, we need to protect minors from harmful material such as child pornography…that’s clearly obvious. But these things have already been implemented by the Internets biggest players. All major search engines exclude such content from their indexes. Further, home PC software and browsers have built in features to prevent such explicit material being accessed in the first place.

The Australian government by moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime has opened up the ability for them to go beyond such material and censor content which would otherwise be useful. This has to raise concerns to all Internet community members not just in Australia but from around the world.

What Australian politician have demonstrated here is their inability to think beyond the horizon and consider what such a move will mean in future. We will be restricting access to socially and politically controversial material on the Internet….so What? The Internet was designed for this. Take for example, information on how to overcome drug addition, euthanasia, access to gay and lesbian rights…controversial yes, should be restricted?..NO!

A pole run by the Sydney Morning Herald had over 20,000 respondents. 96% disapprove of the proposed changes. Hardly a surprise.

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