All posts by TomSoft

Google Mobile personalized home page

Google MobileApparently Google just launched a personalized home page. Unfortunatly, the link provided in the Google blog does not seems to work at this time, which is strange as several poster seems to have used it to read some rss feed….

Probably a short term anwser to the Yahoo!Go launch?

Update: it works if you do directly to your mobile to the following link: http://google.com/xhtml GoogleMobile  snapshot
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SyncML is a reality?

One of the most interesting things from the Yahoo!Go connect announcement from Yahoo, was the ability to use SyncML to synchronise your account with your address book, calendar, etc…
Waoow I was thinking, at least it happens….. Let’s try it…

And big disappointment:

What is really strange and weird is that the server seems to filter only to a subset of ten supported phones! Do not really understand why, as SyncML should be standard…. The users who are able to configure SyncML (which is in fact the real challenge) then are blocked because they do not have the right phone. What is the point here? Is there a technical challenge that we do not know?
But let’s assume it’s just a temporary situation, I really believe that SyncML then will be huge. Of course, there is a lot of remaining issues, like settings as usual. So Operator position on this topic will be quite interesting.

Can Ajax save mobile development?

In this post: why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development, Ajit Jaokar explains his view on this topic.

And like Tom Hume in this paper, I disagree with most of his conclusion.

I am a big fan of Ajax (even if I think it’s totally over hyped), and I also personally think that it haves a great potential on mobile, but this kind of statement can only make me react….
His argument is based on the fact Ajax will solve the three following issues:

a) The problem of market fragmentation
b) Porting woes (specific to downloading applications like those built on J2ME)
c) Application distribution without ‘walls’

That’s true that market fragmentation is a big issue on mobile. But he did not give any clue why Ajax (so browser based application) will do better than J2me to solve market fragmentation.

The porting woes are also a real problem in mobile world. But this statement is totally false:

To make your [30] games available worldwide in five languages and on only 50 devices, you would need to create 7,500 different builds. At $2,500 per build, you would require a budget of nearly $19 million simply to handle porting.

First, this is totally wrong. Usually porting costs represent around 100% of the price of the game development (in the Java world, excluding different version like 2D/3D). It’s already incredibly huge, but way below this!

But can Ajax solve this issue? For instance, is Ajax used today to do games? Except very simple casual concept games, not really. And on PC there is usually one binary for a game (and one per platform, PC, Xbox, PS, etc…) . While on Ajax there are already several variant depending of the browser (IE,FireFox, etc…). So if Ajax fragmentation appears already on PC, how can it be better on mobile? Ajax developer will face the same issue of usability, screen size, bugs, etc…on numerous mobile platform. Just like J2ME: it’s easy to write a simple cross platform proof of concept. It’s much harder to have a real application running on all devices.

I predict for “Mobile Ajax” the same pattern than for other mobile technologies:

  • first phase: the dream! (write once/run anywhere)
  • second phase: the deception (it does not work as expected except on developer device)
  • third phase: manual porting/adaptation for every different device
  • fourth phase: maturity (a mix of automatic porting with process, devices knowledge and improvements of client )

It happened with Wap, it happens with Java, and it will happen with “MobileAjax”….

So:
- Ajax can not be used to do all the application (and especially not games)
- It will NOT SOLVE the fragmentation issue

Last argument was about application distribution: again, I have no clue why a browser based app would be more widely spread than a downloaded app? The issue is not how to get the application, but how to make it visible: deck placement, advertising, etc… Again, Ajax,J2ME, Brew, etc…issue remains the same…

And do not forget one things also very specific to mobile: even if it’s a very connected device, it’s not always connected to the internet. The difference between offline/online content (through preloaded things, download, caching mechanism, etc…) is much more important than on a desktop. That’s also partof the intelligence of the application, specific to mobile.

Another interesting comment, is why Google (the one who put Ajax in the spotlight) and Yahoo did not choose Ajax to do their mobile client? (if you’ve ever tried to run Google Map on OperaMini, you know why! ;-) ).

And may be there are more creative way to evolve. I really think that Ajax and J2ME offers a perfect mix of technology to create much more creative application, Ajax for the purely “web based” part, J2ME for the more “client based” approach… Again, the MobileWidget experiment is another example of attempt to use this mix between J2ME, XML/HTTP request, and a scripting language in a different way…

Update: see C. Enrique Ortiz

Short feedback on Yahoo!Go client for Serie60

Yahoo!Go
Review of Yahoo ! Go client for Symbian :

Yahoo just provided the ability to download their client on numerous serie60 handset.. So here are a few comments from usage point of view:

http://go.connect.yahoo.com/go/on_your_mobile

  • First surprise, size: it’s huge, 1800kb……especially regarding the fact that it’s native code, and according to functionalities! And it seems that a lot of other stuff is downloaded at the first connection.
  • Once installed, I had very rapidly an “out of memory error”, and I had to start the application again” (I am using a Nokia6680)
  • What you can do: basically, provide an access to MyYahoo from a mobile. More concretely, this mean that:
    • Your address book is synchronized with your MyYahoo address book accoun
    • Your calendar is synchronized with your MyYahoo calendar account
    • You can read your Yahoo email (and being notified when an email is received)
    • You can send photo to your MyYahoo account
    • You can browse the same information than the MyYahoo pages: typically weather, quotes, rss feed you’ve subscribed, etc…
    • You can chat with others users
      • While in a chat session, you can send voice messages
      • While in a chat session, you can send photos
    • You can customize the phone with a yahoo skin (but does not seem that this skin can be updated).
  • From a usability, there is some good things and some bad things:
  • It’s a native symbian application. So no numerous security warning. An SMS is sent to identify yourself.
  • Synchronisation works quite well with, and all the internal address book has been filled with my Yahoo contact base.
  • But some of the menu yahoo categories (news, quotes, etc…) just open the web browser on the selected page. No way to browse off line for instance. Even worst, one page (stock quotes) you are asked again your password/id. But this might be more a bug.
  • The photos album is managed by Yahoo! Photo (and unfortunately not by Flicker, ☺ ).
  • Some more comments and view:
    • The synchronisation is really useful, and it might be a sufficient reason to switch from one service (ex: msn) to another, especially for people who use more IM than Outlook!
    • The link with the camera is also very nice! Might be an “mms killer”: why should a costly MMS to share my picture with others users.
    • And lastly, the chat with picture and photo are really easy and convenient to use!

    So it’s probably one of the first complete “WebToWireless” application.

    Next challenge will be to put such application in the Java world. Not impossible, but will be hard o achieve the same level of integration with the rest of the phone.

    Camera as input devices….

    Just discovered the “littlespringsdesign” blog, which pointed out some really interesting usage about usage of camera within phones, in this entry:

    Mobot does exclusively marketing, but they also have a more general image recognition technology. They target things like allowing users to take pictures of movie posters to get movie info or tickets, brand logos, CD covers, or any sort of printed advertisement to get information or purchase related merchandise (such as ringtones). I expect that the biggest issue with their vision of taking a picture of something like a movie poster rather than a special bar code is that not every movie poster would be in the database, leading to needing to put an extra message on the movie poster – or user frustration and eventual product abandonment.

    Neven Vision appears to have a technology that is similar to, but slightly more generalized than, PaperClick (who specializes in bar codes). Neven Vision’s marketing tool, iScout, uses visual hyperlinks to indicate “clickable” (pict-able?) items. They also have a more generalized product allowing users to take a picture of any product or picture of a product (such as TV or a print ad) that would allow the user to go to an internet site that has the product for sale. Again, until the majority of products are in the database this is likely to result in user frustration and abandonment of the product.

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    What’s wrong with RSS

    RSS is quite interesting, but suffer from a lot of issues, and I start to be a little fed up to heard only one voice, the one that promote the usage of RSS as the only ubiquitous communication form: could be used to deliver email, download code, etc….I even read some proposal to use RSS to notify of presence, location, etc…

    Why not, but the main issue is that RSS is NOT a notification mechanism, it’s a stream that needs to be pulled (and not pushed) to get an update. There is no subscription mechanism, so update depends of you’re refresh rate, which is completely non-optimized.

    Some solution emerges. For example, RSS aggregators can be “pinged” by RSS issuers, to notify that the RSS stream has been updated. And if you subscribe to an aggregator (like Google reader) that he must be able to optimize update for his subscribers. Nice, but this solves only the issue for the aggregator, and not if you want to have a direction connection with the feed.

     
    So, the current architecture of RSS force you to check very frequently the RSS feeds to get real time update of something. That’s a complete technical non sense: that’s fine if you do a daily, or eventually a hourly check. But if you build an IM client on top of this, than the network load will be huge for very few information.

    What is missing is a real subscription mechanism, where you can subscribe to a feed, and get notified of the update of this feed. From a practical point of view, it’s like receiving an email, or an SMS, or being “pinged” when a feed is updated, this would be a good next step.

    So before such solution emerge, be caution and do not use RSS to try to solve all your subscription/update problems….

     Good luck….

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    MicroWidget is on the way

    Mobile Widget I’ve just decided to start to work on something called “MicroWidget”. MicroWidget will be the equivalent for mobile of Widget, Gadget, or other inspiration source on the mobile….
    Basically, it’s an XML based rendering engine with a tiny scriping language. I’ve used FScriptME as a basis for the scripting language. FScriptME is very limited, but it’s a good start. I’ve added some pseudo object oriented faciclities, like myText.data=”some text”, and some usefull xml parsing function.
    As an example, here is the widget code for a Clock like widget:

    <img src="/clock2.png" />
    
    <script>< ![CDATA[  func onTimerFired() 	timeArr=explode(time()," ") 	hour=explode(timeArr[3],":") 	day.data=timeArr[2] 	secCl.angle =-toint(hour[2])*360/60+180 	minCl.angle =-toint(hour[1])*360/60+180 	hourCl.angle=-toint(hour[0])*360/12+180 	repaint() endfunc  	]]> 	</script>

    The code is pretty short and can be easily understood. The only difficulty is the function “explode”, who create an array from a string.

    Of course, there are plenty of other usefull function to retrive some xml data, to parse them, etc….

    First result are really encouraging, but generate some interesting issue about interface design…

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    Predicition for 2006!

    I will go also through my little prediction for 2006. Most of them are based on my previous post, and yes, it’s Christmas break:

    • Google will buy a Opera(if not already done): the “OS” of Google is the browser, so they need to provide one on platform who does not have one, or a good one. That’s why I predict that they will buy a browser company typically Opera. The interest of Opera for Google is that they also have a good mobile offering.
    • But Google will move from the “Good side” to the “Evil Side”. Too powerfull, too big, too smart….
    • The “big three”, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft will enters more strongly into mobiles. All will provides much better access to their service to everybody mobile.
    • Location based service will increase, especially in North America, thanks to GPS enabled mobiles. In Europe, such mobile will start to appear

    google Zeitgeist

    Google just published his 2005 “Zeitgeist “, and it’s really worth reading: you wil lhave the top 10 search of the year, in several categories.
    But what take a look at some detailled info on popular search in various categories, like WMD, Marhc of the penguins, or Jean Paul II , etc…
    The page contain some very detailled graph about the evolution of some request around the year, as well as comparains between two terms. For instance:
    WMD show requests about Weapons of Mass Desctruction around all year….
    Theses pages show how powerfull is it to know what are the verious request made on Google: you could anticipate trends, get visibility on some mass phenomena, and probably much much more…
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