User Interface convergence is pointing towards the Cloud …

It is more than a year now when I was thinking about Desktop and Mobile user interface convergence topic for the first time. After all that time the question is not if personal devices’s user interfaces are converging or not but why is this happening and why it is happening so fast.

For one thing software applications  are fleeing to the cloud …

Today the trend is not only a reality but the signals from the big tech industry clearly pointing towards Cloud Computing and Cloud Services. Big technology companies are competting for this space with services such as HP Cloud, IBM SmartCloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Cloud Services, Google Cloud Platform, Apple iCloud, Ubuntu Cloud Solutions, Oracle’s Cloud Computing , SalesForce Cloud Services, just to mention a few of the big ones. These companies usually provide technology specific cloud services which come with support for open and proprietary application program interfaces (APIs) but in general each company significantly favors  their own technologies and APIs. REST in general is the open cloud standard that is commonly supported by almost all these big company providers.

Another class of Cloud Computing and services came from original  Web hosting companies which rose during early 2010 decade and managed to steadily grow and evolve  from plain web hosting providers to Platform As A Service (PAAS) providers, most of them offers a wide range of open solutions rather than technology specific ones, support for open standard interconnection and full REST interfaces are definitely a common denominator for most of the Cloud Service providers of this class. There is a huge number of companies such as Joyent, RackSpace, MediaTemple, Linode and many more available out here, all of them offering web application hosting features to enable software developers to deploy and deliver Software As A Service (SAAS) applications.

There is a small number of specialized PASS technology shops which serve vertical segments of SAAS using niche development frameworks. These companies would also offer full back end management services so developers can concentrate managing their business rather than managing the back end (production) of their SAAS applications. To name a few EngineYard, NewLeaders (ThinCloud) are good examples.

What is the point with user interfaces then …

Now that we know that a big number of the software applications will be running over a sort of a cloud service then the obvious is to assume that most users will be using a web browser type of interface to interact with software applications for their day to day activities and needs. Since this assumption seems to be credible, reality is that content consumer’s (software application users) are buying and using more mobile devices than personal computers and this trend is accelerating.

Now it makes sense, Personal computing is not stationery anymore (or the office space is not stationary now), so users jump from their smartphone, Tablet, Netbook (laptop computer) and traditional workstation computer frequently and often,  some even using two or more of these device at the same time while changing locations trough the workday or workweek.

Canonical is already poised to cover this whole spectrum, Ubuntu content user’s will now be able to seamlessly use a common look and feel operating system user interface from their smartphone (Ubuntu for phones), Ubuntu Tablet and Ubuntu desktop to cover all their computing needs. The guys from Canonical also provide Ubuntu cloud for those looking for a complete end to end stack.

Microsoft corporation is also a company looking to fulfill the complete range services and options for individuals and companies. Standard user interface is available from Windows Phone, Windows Surface (Tablets), Windows 8 OS for laptops, desktops and servers. Microsoft also offers its proprietary Windows Azure cloud platform to complement its computing ecosystem.

Google corporation a company who started as a cloud base company from its inception and dominates a big chunk of today’s internet traffic is not far from providing a full range of technologies to enable a common user interface for content consumers. Starting with Google Android for both smartphones and tablets, Google  Chrome browser and Operating system which is widely used all across Net Books, Laptops, Desktop and Workstation computers would probably be one of the most common user interfaces from mobile to the Cloud.

Apple Inc, would with its iOS and OSX software and proprietary consumer and computing hardware might be one of the most popular now a days but it does not offer a common user interface end to end. While mobile devices are gesture based (touch screen capable) their computer software is not yet and even if it would the interfaces are completely different that can not be considered for comparison. Apple also provides a basic propitiatory iCloud service that is worth to mention.

Conclusion …

Well, I believe that having options and competition is always good for consumers, while the companies above and many others work their way to capture a pieces of today’s content and computing market, it is obvious that individuals and companies will be choosing one of them to cover their data management end to end needs. The Market is big and there is room for these a new technologies but certainly covering end to end user interface is a trend that will be proven in the near future.

 

Desktop and Tablet user interface is converging and pretty fast …

Ok, I have to admit that the title of this post reads a bit sensational but it could have not be more clear to me after diving a bit more on the latest changes on software tools I am used to deal with everyday and getting surprised for its latest developments. I am normally pretty conservative in respect of technology adoption but always curious on what is happening on the edge of things I normally use. From time to time I get encouraged for the findings while reading respected reviews and blogs and fall into riding tools and operating systems that are a bit far from mature for the common developer and user.

My preferred desktop operating system is Ubuntu Linux which of course I am still running its “Lucyd Lynx – 10.04 LTS” version and patiently waiting for the next long term supported version. This time while browsing over topics related to “Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)” the most recent intermediate release, discussions about Canonical decision for pushing “Unity” user interface over the expected “GNOME Shell” just popped up big.  Wait, a bunch of techies are also complaining about Genome Shell and promptly finding their ways to enable GNOME2 like desktop, this is interesting. What is up with these Unity/GNOME Shell that is causing these much turmoil around early adopters of an ever changing Linux distribution.

Cool, it just happen that both user interfaces rely on GNOME3 platform but Unity and GNOME Shell designs are not only pretty constrained and less configurable than their predecessor GNOME2 desktop which might explain why early adopters are ranting. Behind these new user interfaces the keyword is “convergence” both user interfaces are now ready to support the Tablet world while still fully serving the Desktop computing needs. More important the environment is currently supporting hybrid touch systems such as workstations running touch panel displays, thin/net books touch display capable and Linux base tablets. Now everything is clear, the convergence point claims that the new user interface should be suitable for both sides the Desktop and the tablet so the design should be constrained to the middle point where desktop user’s would accept giving up flexibility and configure-ability for standardization around the gestures driven touch displays world while still fully supporting the always trusty keyboard and mouse.

As you can imagine this convergence can not be called a trend if it is only happening at the “Dark side” usually embraced by technology geeks rather than mainstream consumer world but for my surprise it only took me few keywords on Google to find out that Canonical is not alone.

 

Google’s Android ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) 4.0 release is the tip of the iceberg of mobile and desktop converge pushed from the ground.Android is poised not only to cover the mobile market (phones/tablets/net-books) with an unified interface. This operating system has been built mobile since it inception and slowly but surely penetrating  an unlimited amount of network connected devices and appliances staring with television sets and other consumer electronics.

 

 

Apple is also desperately narrowing down the breach between its iPads and iMac user experience by adding “Gestures” and “VoiceOver Gestures” to OS X Lion’s  Magic Trackpad/Mouse support. So next is to add touch screen to iMac’s and MacBooks which I sincerely do not understand why it has not happen already.

 

 

 

Microsoft is also betting on the “Convergence” topic with its so expected Windows 8 that claims to offer similar experience all across the board from Windows phone, tablets and all the way up to regular Desktop PCs. What is interesting from the Microsoft bet? Is the open support for ARM architecture mostly drove by Nokia agreement but a step forward to the big mobile world. A quote from Wikipedia: “In particular it adds support for ARM microprocessors in addition to the previously supported x86 microprocessors from Inteland AMD. A new Metro-style interface has been added that was designed for touchscreen input in addition to mouse, keyboard, and pen input.”

 

Trends are usually accompanied by business and financial support, this “convergence” trend is not the exception when for the first time a serious market analysis firm such as “canalys” challenged IDC, Gartner and others and decide to consolidate Mobile and Desktop computers into one “Personal Computer” market and posting numbers on Q4-2011 that places Apple as #1 PC maker surpassing Hewlett Packard for a considerable margin. The article titled: “Apple storms past HP to lead global PC market“.

 

 

 

So, there is only on thing to assess, either you decide go with the current or against but at the end we all will be push forward to follow a trend that seems un-avoidable now. Welcome Unity then!

 

Android’s Samsung and LG upcoming charge, now we are talking …

Someone can not take a couple of weeks of vacation without feeling like getting behind on this Android’s offerings race. It is not news that we all have been waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S family of smart-phones to show up at all four major wireless US carriers sporting very similar “hardware” so now is not about the phone itself or the OS but your carrier of choice that actually comes into play and this is good for consumers; yes competition is good and for us to compare the carriers with less of the hardware bias in mind. Samsung’s Fascinate (Verizon), Captative (AT&T), Epic 4g (sprint) and Vibrant (T-Mobile) are not only very similar but they all are very competitive at the mid-high end of the smart-phone device market.

LG’s a big name in the wireless phone industry is just coming up with a similar strategy proposing a family of smart-phone devices called “Optimus” sporting latest Android’s 2.2 “Froyo” way ahead of anyone else including Samsung so far. LG’s Optimus which may also will follow Samsung’s approach to be open to all US carriers with similar and competitive hardware options including Android’s based tablets as well.

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Android’s revolution has just started …

It is amazing but if anyone of us were told how big Android’s smart-phone offerings will explode in 2010 nobody would take it seriously. Just few weeks after iPhone4 spectacular announcement by Steve Jobs and company (of course the device is not still available until June 24th and only for those eager to make the big waiting lines) AT&T has readily available its brand new HTC Aria for 130 after rebate and has also announced that Samsung Captative is coming up preceding the Samsung big bang announcement at NY this Jun 29th! So what is interesting is that Android’s smart-phones ranges from many different sizes and vendors including a wide range of pricing which would suggest that they will be targeting a wider spread of potential customers as compared with the few willing or able to pay for prices at the high end of the spectrum.

Competition is good and seriously it is getting darn good! A list of Android’s devices is somewhat kept up to date at wikipedia. Besides HTC and Motorola that has been front runners so far but the big players in the low end of wireless devices such as LG and Samsung are emerging with very appealing and affordable options for the rest of us. On top of that PC maker’s such as ACER and DELL are also aggressive with their hybrids smart-phone/entry tablet devices…

At Verizon you can get an Android phone staring from 49.99 (LG Ally) up to HTC Droid incredible for 199.99. But as incredible as it sounds Verizon is already making space for the newest Motorola Droid X which is aiming to compete front to front with HTC EVO 4G and the so expected iPhone4. Thanks there are options and many of them. Similar offerings from other wireless carriers are coming as well, so an smart-phone for everyone seems likely the future to be.

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Step 0.0; get Android SDK installed …

To much writing and no signs of moving towards some coding action yet so its time for a step forward. There is no way to produce or even try any Android OS code before actually installing the so famous Android SDK which at the time of writing this article its offering the brand new Android 2.2 platform.  It is great that Android Developers site has this part fully covered so I will not attempt to create another “How To” piece here but just document my very own experience and perhaps be able to add some humble annotations and comments. I need also to disclose that this is my first time trying Android SDK or any similar smart-phone SDK so I do not have any particular expectation but having a fast, smooth and successful installation attempt.

Preparing the development environment is the first step

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Ubuntu 10.4 upgrade step by step experience …

Once I am not the kind of geek that love to be on the edge all the time and usually prefer to try new stuff whenever it gets somewhat mature and stable. Yesterday I went ahead and put myself into the quest of upgrading my trusty Ubuntu 9.10 OS to the latest Ubuntu 10.4 LTS (Long Term Service). I should realized that I was not going to be alone on trying this and I am not sure how many thousands or then of thousands where trying to upgrade right away after the “10.4 LTS upgrade” icon was available from our Ubuntu Update Manager screen.

In summary, The upgrade process is simple but it is not something you can leave unattended, the steps below will show you all the screens that requires attention during the upgrade process and the ones you should provide a mouse click or hit enter in your keyboard. I am pretty sure Ubuntu image mirror servers where overloaded yesterday and possibly will be still overloaded for a couple of days so be prepared for long waiting hours while new distribution packages are downloaded and then installed. All my applications and development environment remained intact including all applications not supported directly by Canonical organization and I was able to work business as usual right away after restarting the system and login into my freshly 10.4 LTS OS so no complains so far but will be reporting any issues or findings along the way if necessary. With no more to add here it is the story:

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Chrome Browser for Linux has arrived …

Early this month and very discretely Google’s announced Chrome Browser’s release for Linux environment (Sources: Softpedia, Google). This might not be news for some of my geeky friends that has been using and perhaps doing development on chrome browser for some time now but they are for me and the few of us who are this rare kind of individuals that have been using exclusively Linux OS as a home desktop system for quite a while. So welcome Google’s Chrome browser to Linux desktop; this is an stable version not a developer’s one.

So far the experience is very good. Installation was a breeze just few clicks and the password to authorize the new DEB package installation. It imported my Firefox settings so the switch is smooth. Web pages load super fast and now if one the the apps gets stuck downloading content not a problem I just open a new tab and continue browsing. So far it is pretty impressive. I will report back on personal findings along the way but for now it is just happiness.

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