Category Archives: Google

First thought on Android

So Google finally released not a gPhone, but a development platform: Androïd. I’ve spent some – little – time to play with it, and here are my thougt:

- As a user it’s obviously much better and polished UI than Symbian or Windows Mobile. But in the iPhone days, it’s quite poor. The most annoying thing is the usage of menus, on a touch screen. The menus are not visible once closed, and does not seem to have a way to open them just with the touch screen.

- As a developer, it’s both very cool, and a nightmare: very cool, because the Java API seems quite complete and useable, there are some nice UI effects and it facilitate the integration of applications within the phone, and a nightmare because this is now a new platform to support. It’s not J2ME compatible, but supports partially some JSR.
Let me summarize the development landscape these days. We have:

  • XHTML/Wap family
  • the iPhone mobile browsing familiy
  • the iPhone native/ObjectiveC
  • Symbian
  • Windows Mobile
  • FlashLite
  • and of course J2ME

and now we can add Androïd with probably native/C++ Androïd and Java Androïd. Not sure that we should thank Google for this one!

What are Androïd chances of being successful?

Can the OpenHandsetAlliance make the difference? In the mobile industry, we probably have more consortium than an any other industry. Consortium for handsets, for platforms, for games,…. But usually, once a consortium is created, it’s the beginning of the end: most of them never released something interesting.

Can the applications make the difference? I am sure that you can easily create very cool and powerful application with Androïd. But I also see many great application on windows mobile or Symbian (and it’s probably 10 times more difficult to create them on these devices) but very few of them reach a critical mass.

Can Google make the difference? Of course, it’s backed up by Google but this could be a good or a bad thing. More and more people in the mobile industry are afraid of Google power. Third tier manufacturer, some Taiwanese and Korean will probably deliver a few Androïd devices, but is it enough to capture the market?

So, let’s wait and see. This sounds more the equivalent of Microsoft first attempts on mobile: not as good as it should be, but with deep pockets, you can afford several attempts before being succesful.

You can also check Fred post on Android 

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How to easily include maps in your startpage (like Webwag!)

Thanks to the new “Link to this page” feature of Google, you can easily embeed a map into you’re personnal start page.
Here is how to do it:

In Google map, press the “Link to this page” link, at the top left

Then, just select the “iframe” line, and in your webwag add an “HTML container” widget and copy the content of the iframe line into the HTML code section of the widget…and you’re done: you now have a direct link with this Google Map, from your start page. If the map is updated, your widget will be updated.

From Google LatLon blog

Yahoo!Go 2.0 is out, but beta is already full

The new Yahoo! Go 2.0 is out, but it seems already impossible to download it, as the beta is closed due to too high number of downloads. The result seems quite impressive, and now it works also on J2me. So as predicted (yes, this is in my 2007 predictions, but they are not yet published!), Yahoo is following Google (and soon Microsoft) in providing high quality frontend in J2me to their services…

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Orange/Google phone on the way?

According to the Guardian, Orange and Google are discussing the creation of a “Google Phone”. Probably manufactured by HTC (HTC is also provding many of Windows devices for Orange), this phone should be internet oriented and optimized for browsing, as well as providing some location based services….

The phone is not expected before 2008.

Interesting, as Google was frequently considered as an operator competitor….

Some would expect this to be an “Web2.0 enabled phone”, allowing to browse existing Google wbe site. My personnal thinking is that it will be an optimized experience for mobile devices, just like what have been made in an excellent way with GoogleLoacl and Google Mail for mobile.

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First Microsoft application for J2me!

Microsoft just released “Windows Live for mobile“, and as far as I know, it’s the first time that Microsft release a J2me Application! (but don’t worry, there is a Windows Mobile app too)


Windows logo on J2me device! :-)

So support for J2me seems quite limited (see my full report on the mobile mapping blog), but it’s rare enough to be noticed.

In summary:
- not yet as polished as Google map
- Still some porting issue (menu keys)
- map download (when working) is quite fast and works well
- some good and interesting UI ideaes….

As expected, the long term war will be one services, and not applications…The underlying language/OS is not very relevant, and I expect to see more Microsoft application on J2me, or in other platforms (Flash, Symbian, etc…).

This is Mobile2.0!

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The widget environment of the day….

During the Widget2.0 conference, Fox , the parent company of MySpace, just announced the launch of a new widget platform, based in Flash: SpringWidget
Well, another new platform! I see one issue with Flash widget from the content creation side: they requires a paying authoring tool (Flash from Adobe) and alternative are not really mature. Again, a good tool for designer, but not so easy to use for most of average users, as it require a learning curve (longer than HTML?).

W3C to standardize Widgets?

In the same time, the W3C started a draft about Widget Of course, from what I can see it will be totally incompatible with this new platform! The scope of this draft is very limited for now, and mainly speek about description of the widget itself. So it’s unclear how far this will go, and if some topic like cross widget communications, user preferences saving, authentification, access to native functions will be adressed.

Widgets families

In order to have a better view about the widget landscape, I’ve tried to find whath are the major difference between the various engines/implementations…

Name Rendering engine Scripting language Execution framework
Googe Gadgetl HTMLbased Java Script Desktop+Browser
Yahoo!Widget Custom XML based Java Script Desktop
Opera Widget HTML based Java Script Browser+Desktop
Dashboard HTML based Java Script Desktop (+Browser?)
Spring Widget Flash Action Script (ECMA Based) Desktop+Browser
VistaWidgets? ? Java Script? Dekstop+Browser

The obvious trend is about HTML+Java Script, with an execution environment being able to execute widget both on Desktop and within Browser.

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Gmail for mobile: near perfect….

Photo Gmailmobile I finally had GMail client application working! The program was always complainging with the following error: “This program require a working connection. Check your settings“. My settings were good, and it was obvious that the connection was on-going between GMail and their server.
In fact, the problem was that my GMail account had a default language which was not english (in that case french). So switching it to english solved the issue. Surprisingly bad user experience for a Google application.

Anyway, the program is working fine, and already a hit. I will not go into the details, C.Enrique made a nice “review” on it…
Just some though:

- compared to all others mail program that I was able to test, it’s from far the most easiest to use, and the most readable. It shows how complex it is to create a simple to use UI (this is not a framework issue, but a usability issue)
- shows also that except from my small connection issue, most of the mobile are ready for mass deployment of connected applications. Mobile2.0 is heare, and it’s a perfect exemple of the power of synchronisation vs browsing (and for me, this is a mobile Ajax application).
- MIDP still have some works to do, especially on the ability to launch one app from an other. Today, no way to launch GMail client from Opera Mini, or from a Widget engine. You need to exit, and find the app by yourself. Should be solved by “JSR211, content handler API”, but there is still no handset implementing this JSR!
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Widgets: the next portability nightmare?

hyalo-weatherThe topic of Widgets standardisation will become a hot topic next year. We already haves so many different Widget framework based on browser (Google, Opera, NetVibes, WebWag), a few desktop based Frameworks (Yahoo!Widget and Dashboard), and now some emerging mobile widget framework (Widsets, and of course Mobidgets! ;-) ) that it’s quite sure that we can not continue into the same direction.
In this post, I will try to provide a view on the landscape of widgets in terms of interoperability (between platform) and try to explore the common part between theses framework.

First, I’ve been to “Widgipedia“, and from their FAQ, they already support these 14 platforms: (this was more than I was expecting)

  • Yahoo! Widgets (Windows)
  • Yahoo! Widgets (Mac)
  • Dashboard (Mac)
  • Standalone Widgets (Windows);
  • Standalone Widgets (Mac)
  • Microsoft Vista Sidebar (Windows)
  • Opera (Windows)
  • Opera (Mac)
  • Opera (Linux)
  • DesktopX (Windows)
  • Kapsules (Windows)
  • Samurize (Windows)
  • KlipFolio (Windows)
  • AveDesk (Windows)

I assume that some of them are interoperable, especially between the mac/windows version, but it seems that it’s not always the case.
Also there are some missing components, like Netvibes, or WebWag which have their own framework, and probably Windows!Live? Flash is also a probable candidate for a Widget environment….
Mobile applications have also their own frameworks, for instance Widsets or Mobidgets

So what levels of interoperability do they have. For now, none of them are interoperables!. When you do a Google widget, than you have to recreate it for Yahoo!Widget for instance.
The positive view is to say it’s not so hard to convert a widget from one environment to the other….
Is there any hope that this will change in the near future. I am not an expert of each of these widgets framework, but we can identify two major things:
the “representation/descriptive part ” generally XML based
the scripting language used is JavaScript/ECMAScript…

That’s a good start, but then you face all the little details: where are stored the user preference, how to access to some utility function, is it CSS/HTML based, etc….

So what’s next? Three options:

  • One of these framework become the de-facto standard, and all the others are either killed, or align to it….
  • A standardisation body (W3C?) take the lead on it and try to solve the problem….
  • Status quo, only a few widgets engines/framework are still alive and tools are created to “transcode” one widget into another?

None of this solution is perfect, but it will be interesting to see how this will evolve in the coming monthes, especially in regard of mobile who will bring new widgets framework, but who will be hardly compatible directly with other framework for many technical reasons….

I am sure that it will be an interesting topic to discuss in the upcoming “Widgets Live!” conference in SF! (which is the same day than this interesting mobile2.0 event, in SF too!)

And in the second part of this post, I will explore potential solution and direction for a common widget framework…Stay tuned.

Update: one the reader (Lindsey), pointed out this work on W3C about packaging deployment Web Application Packaging Format Requirement. This doc is a starting point, but contains a good table about various packaging format used between Google, Yahoo and others…

Read also this post from C.Enrique some monthes ago on the same topic….

Picture taken from the “hyalo-weather” widget….

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La Terre vue du ciel (Earth from above)

Absolutely not related to mobile, but so cool:An incredible work done to find on GoogleEarth the exact places and directions where all the pictures of the book “La Terre vue du Ciel” has been shoot. Some are then put as overlay on GoogleMap, others are just the exact position than Yann Arthus Bertrand had when taking the pictures. Result is amazing as you can see:

The link to the KML file is here….Enjoy

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WayFinder 3D

In case you missed it (I’ve missed it!), a demo of Wayfinder 3D is available for Symbian S60. It’s a Symbian native application (1.7 meg and even, does not contains any map!). You can use it to find service…But with some strange behavior. For instance, to get weather, you have to re-enter (manually) your location! Does not work with GPS (says that I need to “update” it?)

Through mobitrends

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Navigation on mobile for free (nearly)

I’ve just realized recently that GoogleMap has an interesting possibility. When looking for directions, you can specify a latitude/longitude location instead of an address. This opens up the possibilty of real time directions on your mobile, linked to your GPS( thanks to J2memap)…
So I’ve quickly implemented this in Version v0.906, thanks to the “here” location in the direction box. If you type or selecet here, your coordinates will be used as a starting point.

Here is an example:


Lost in Paris?

Lets find an hotel

Do I have an issue with “é”?

Let’s find how to go there

Hum…

and follow the sign…

This is GPS navigation for free (except the data costs, that might be huge depending of your operator!)

And my disclaimer: this is an experimental feature, and does not attempt to replace any “real” navigation system!

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French GeoPortail/GoogleMap comparaison

Four days after his launch, French service “GeoPortail“, that should fight GoogleMap at least for France and oversea dependencies still not working, due his huge success… So for those who are curious, you still can have access to the same data through another service (working this one), french Yellow pages: “http://pagesjaunes.fr
In “Quoi” (“What”) put something like “Restaurant” in “Ou?” (where?) put a city name, and press the “Vue Aerienne” (satellite view) to open a new window with an high detailled satelitte view…. So service far from being perfect, but resolution and accuracy is perfect…Note that even if both services use same data (IGN one), they have been done by two different companies.

As an example, here is a small comparaison of the same area both in GoogleMap and using IGN data. The red square on GoogleMap is the area that you see on big picture…


GoogleMap data


IGN data

So what can we expect? I am not sure that the service will be really masheable, page jaunes use some more complex URL description that prevent them to be used more or less directly….My hope is to integrate these data into J2memap, seems that this one will be the hardest to do!
So let’s wait a few weeks and see what happens…

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Geotagging and Pictures (and a world record!)

I’ve added a few nice features in the latest J2memap release (v0.9, not yet you): the ability to take some pictures, and to upload them directly to Flickr with some geotagged flags thanks to the mobup classe
The other day, I was in the french fast train, and make probably the record of the fastest geotaged and uploaded picture in real time, at 300 kmh! I forgot to switch on full size, so quality is quite bad, but it got the position on the map, as well as the snapshot of J2memap who include some nice icons once the picture has been geottaged: it’s quite easy, just take a picture, and it will be send to Flickr using your current GPS position.
Here are a few screenshots:

The picture in Flickr (ok, the resolution is really to small)

The screen of the mobile (yes, TGV was not at 300 km/h at that time, only 295…)

the result on the great tool yuan.cc:

I like this one, as it a real good example of mashing up different tools, googlemap, flickr, yuan.cc, j2memap, and a little bit of mobup… No real usage yet (who knows? ;-) ), but fun!

Geotagging with mobile is in the air, Martin is doing some experiment too, look at it…Technorati Tags:

J2MeMap update

It’s not because you do not see anything you about J2MEMap that the product is not progressing. I will release shortly a beta of next version of J2meMap. In the meantime, I suggest that you download latest version (0.809) who correct some bugs:

  • MSN Virtueal Earth now back!
  • A few caching memory management issues

So what will contains the new version? A lot of focus on “track” management, I will describe this later on on a more detailled post.

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