The week starting 21 October witnessed the concentration of mobile conferences - first Apps World Europe, immediately followed by Droidcon, however the latter one at the Eastern end of central London.
The exhibitors of Apps World could be roughly classified into several groups: app developers; developers of back-ends and SDKs, UI controls and such; mobile marketing (of course!); game developers; easy-to-use GUI-based app development (e.g. AppMachine); payment solutions; cross-platform solutions. Some of the big names that were present: General Motors with their in-vehicle app platform, HP with Augmented Reality SDK Aurasma, Microsoft advertising MS Surface tablet family, BlackBerry promoting their new Z10/Q10 generation of phones, PayPal actively pushing into mobile payments.
There was no Apple stand - they probably think they are too big to be bothered. However, Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, attracted huge crowd during live streaming presentation from California. Iconic figure in IT world, Wozniak helped changed the computing industry with the launch of Apple in 1976 in partnership with Steve Jobs. Since then he has contributed to the rise in popularity of the iPhone and the development of Apple's iOS.
Wozniak spoke with fondness about voice-controlled mobile apps. “We talk to mobile phones like human to human, and get answers from them. The shrinking size of mobile devices makes them more personal, close to you. AppleScript for voice is integral part of iPhone and iPad, helping enforce Apple’s rule that no programming language should be present on a phone”. He nostalgically recalled that Siri existed in the shape of desktop app long before iPhone, before even Apple Macintosh.
When asked what parallels he could draw between early days of Apple and modern startup scene, Wozniak noted that in early days of Apple startups were unusual occurrence. “Young people went unknown ways. Back in Apple days companies created tools that engineers needed. Apple was very engineer-oriented. First 10 years were failures. Apple Mackintosh - was modified and able to sell 3 years after Steve Jobs left.It was difficult to persuade people to buy. Modern startup scene arrives more from business point of view, and going pre-planned route to success. Also, there is a huge market, and competition from the very start. Excellence is absolutely important in order to succeed. Today it is all about what user wants, and partnership with user.”
To help participants stay in sync with rapid changes in the industry, Apps World brought together 250 speakers and 8,000 attendees from all over world. In addition to a range of speakers, there were also dedicated theaters for app developers. For Android fans this took shape of Droid World, a conference to discuss the best Android development practices. It studied the latest APIs updates, secrets of a successful Android app, best practices in design and UX. Other theaters were dedicated to non-Android technology; Enterprise mobility and BYOD; gaming; mobile payments; TV apps & multi-screen; HTML5 web apps; M2M and IoT; API strategy.
During one of the great thought-provoking sessions, The future of mobile apps, Jeffrey Hammond, VP, Principal Analyst from Forrester Research Inc, analyzed recent survey data on how developers are building mobile apps and which platforms they are targeting.
Jeffrey Hammond looked at the role of mobile apps as part of modern applications ecosystems and noted “mobile first” mindshift. Technology is readily available, however it is cultural mindset shift which poses a problem. He mentioned that mobile/tablet traffic rose up to 15%, and, particularly, tablet traffic grew bigger that phone traffic. This suggests different use cases - while phone is used to access Internet in a store or car, tablet is used for browsing in more relaxed and spacious environment, e.g. in a living room.
He predicted rise of connected internet - 3-5 years down the line we will be talking about systems of operation (sensors, IoT).
7 traits of modern app, as highlighted by Jeffrey Hammond:
- omnichannel clients
- deployed on elastic infrastructure (cloud hosting makes it easier and cheaper to scale up/down on demand)
- aggregate discrete services - from 3rd party suppliers. Use ready solutions as building blocks
- use managed APIs; the same API is used by mobile app, web app, desktop app, 3rd parties
- integrate Open Source SW thus avoiding licensing issues
- employ continuous delivery with very short release cycle, as opposed to waterfall with 9-12months release cycle
- gather fast feedback, which is logical outcome of continuous delivery.
The speaker also stressed that apps architectures must evolve to exploit scale out. It is necessary to move away from MVC to new architectural patterns, such as Pipes&Filters or Broker.
He admired the increasing use of HTML5/JS to support multiple platforms, and concluded that HTML5 really took off and its use moved beyond the basics. For example, 30% of developers currently use CSS Media Queries, 27% - Web Storage, 25% - Web Sockets, 22% - File API. These are the features of HTML5 previously regarded as exotic.
Jeffrey Hammond stressed that the future of mobile is context (which leads to simplification of mobile app usage for an end-user) - hence the emergence of the adaptive, context-aware modern application that provides advanced contextual experience for user. Context could include: location, speed, battery level, what data are stored on the device. A good example of contextual use of time for effective app adaptation would be airline app. At different time points around flight departure a user would require very different functionality which in its turn is tied to very different underlying business processes. For example, 2 days before a flight a user needs to to able to change booking or reserve a seat (ties into airline flight booking processes). However, 2 hours before flight he probably only needs to check gate number/flight time/flight updates (ties into airport flight handling processes).
Answering the question about user privacy worries, Jeffrey Hammond suggested apps should act as Big Mother (convenient) rather than Big Brother (creepy). Users wish to stay away from creepy, and be with convenient. Therefore, apps need to treat exposed user data in a way that is convenient and helpful, not intrusive.