Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why Apple doesn't allow multi-tasking on the iPhone

Of all the SDK limitations that Apple imposed on its new iPhone SDK, the one that seems to irk developers the most is the limitation on running background processes. While the ability to run in the background is a fundamental part of programming for Windows or Mac, Apple is trying to make the point that developing for the phone is quite different from developing for a PC. So here are 3 reasons why Apple made the right decision:

1) Its clear that mobile apps should conserve battery and bandwidth. There's an limited upside to multitasking on the phone.

2) Extending the API to include lifecycle management will make the iPhone API more complicated.

3) The network is the computer. Phone developers should make use of the communication protocols built into mobile networks such as SMS, inorder to send and receive notifications.

People are dwelling on #1 but #2 and #3 are more important. The only way to have a large number of high quality, bug-free apps is to have a simple API. Making developers responsible for suspending program execution and persisting program state is really going to increase the probability of bugs. As for communication protocols, it doesn't make sense for independent developers to re-implement them. Your typical GPRS/EDGE/UMTS mobile networks are not really packet-based transports, and designing communication protocols for these kinds of networks are difficult. Apple and the operator will have to standardize on a few communication protocols such as SMS or XMPP, like Google has done with Android.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Developer satisfaction with Android continues to fall

Round 1 of the Android Contest isn't even over yet, and it seems developers already have plenty to gripe about. At first, it was the Android SDK and simulator, which was buggy and didn't include several important features. This forced Google to respond by releasing an updated SDK one month before the contest was to expire and extending the deadline of contest until April 14th. Now more cracks have begun to appear. Developers on the mailing list have been complaining about the lack of web-based submission system to track their entries. Comments ranged from disappointment to disbelief:

"Maybe google have no time for better support. Maybe they have no resources or idea for this at this time. But I work hard and hope, that we and our work will be treated seriously. "

"So... it seems Google is kind of "unprepared" for this contest... I would assume if Android is such a big deal in Google's mobile strategy, they'd be putting mountains of resources in it to
make sure it reaches the maximum potential"

It is pretty incredible for a company, whose business is to create webapps, not to have a web-based submission of their own for contests. Especially one as important as Android. This is raising questions about Google's priorities considering it recently announced a competition for sending robots to the moon, with the total prize money being three times that of the Android prize.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Should Apple sell 3rd party iPhone apps via ITunes

Wired is suggesting that apps for iPhones developed using Apple's official SDK will be sold on iTunes. Just like how iPod touch users can buy the 1.1.3 maps, emails apps from iTunes store. While there is no confirmation yet, if Apple goes ahead, it will position the iPhone app platform as a serious alternative to the Android platform. There are numerous benefits to developers:

1. Apps can make real money and not just pie-in-the sky advertising dollars (which is as low as $0.15 CPM for facebook apps).

2. Apple will create a directory for apps and possibly vet them for quality and trustworthiness. Conversely, this will mean that to succeed any app must be approved by Apple.

3. No stupid apps or app spam because people won't pay real money for them. Instead of contrived metrics like "number of daily active users", iTunes can use the number of paying customers and their average feedback. Smart developers will let users try their apps for free, and the willingness to pay is the best measure of quality.

4. Successful apps will be able to demonstrate their commercial potential and get funding to release on other platforms such as Android or Windows Mobile or J2Me. Android is offering prizes of $20,000 - $100,000 to developers, but winning a prize from a committee of technologists doesn't demonstrate market acceptance.

This could really be a huge development for the mobile industry. Up until now, a few games companies like Jamdat mobile has monopolized the development of games for cellphones, which imo range from the trivial to the infantile. Operators have been unwilling to sign deals with developers without the "right" pedigree and the "right" set of ideas. This is about openness and open markets succeeding where walled gardens and planned economies have failed.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Roll your own MMO (ROMMO)

NASA is doing its own MMO. This must mean an opensource MMO engine either already exists or will soon exist. Its time for Roll your own MMO or ROMMO. A way for programmers with god-complexes to create their own worlds and impose their own rules on unsuspecting users who have been lured with friendly viral invitations. This will be much better than Facebook at wasting developers and users' time. On top of that each world creator will be able to design his or her own virtual currency, which will soon make everyone richer and richer, in a virtual sense.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Google Gangs up on Facebook but Microsoft and Yahoo waiting

Now that MySpace and Bebo has joined Google's party, it seems that OpenSocial is most interesting for who it excludes: Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo. Why should Microsoft and Yahoo be included, after all they don't have any social networks. Neither does Oracle, but they are still part of Google's tribal council.

OpenSocial is cool and all, but its just an umbrella for every type of social networking site out there: from the silly to the business-minded. Facebook by making their development platform proprietary, also created an ecosystem for younger developers with new ideas to flourish. If any web site can be ported to the OpenSocial platform to run on all social networks, old web giants like Amazon and Ebay can retake their deserved place on the top of the web hierarchy. I am sure Amazon will be happy to combine their recommendations database with your social networking data.

But don't expect the outcasts of OpenSocial to stay on the sidelines for long. In the midst of all this excitement over Social Networking platforms and Google's attempt to standardize on html and javascipt, people have forgotten about Instant Messaging, a communications service that has more users than Myspace or Facebook.

For years Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL have talked about using standards to integrate their IM networks. But they have been extremely slowly to carry through, probably realizing their networks are worth more when they are kept separate. Now that Social Networking has eclipsed IM as the cool technology, expect a deal from Microsoft and Yahoo, one that excludes Google of course since no-one uses Google Talk. A linkup between MSN Messenger - Yahoo Messenger - Facebook, that would really shake up the game.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Google OpenSocial not everything its made out to be

TechCrunch was first to break the story, Google plans open an API alliance for Social Networks: Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle. While the media is chalking this up as a Facebook killer, its really Google trying to play catch-up. There's at least 2 huge problems with a federated approach to social network platforms.

1) Every network has it own culture: from a developer perspective that's ten times worse than each network having its own API! Worse because technical problems can be overcome with more technology and more investment, but if your desired audience is fragmented across multiple social networks, you are not going to get traction.

2) Multiple identities: millions of people belong to one or more of these networks but using different identities. I am not talking about the software problem of mapping your identity from one network to another. I am saying I keep my Friendster and my LinkedIn identities separate for good reasons. And the last thing I want is some app from some unknown 3rd party provider being able to connect the dots.

On the other hand, this is very good for Facebook developers. Now, your facebook app can offer you the option of pulling in data from any other social network. You no longer even have to leave Facebook.

Its should also be great for consumers and thats where Google deserves the credit. If it is done right, hopefully consumers won't have to enter the same data twice, using different interfaces. If Google cares about privacy consumers will have full control over how data is used. Hopefully, what it doesn't become is an ad network that can spy on you regardless of which social network
you are using.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Facebook Haters

Facebook fan-boys face-off against Jason Calcanis

Another post by over-the-hill Facebook Haters.

Even though I think Facebook is more quantity than quality, these people's comments clearly label them as Facebook haters. Here are the common "gripes" directed at Facebook

1) Facebook is a fad

Yeah, so was Youtube and Blogger. Facebook may be on every news cover, but it doesn't change the fact that 50 million young (and some not so so young) people have signed up for the site and emptied out their relationship data.

2) Facebook is not innovative technology

I am not even going to compare FB to other web2 sites, because frankly Facebook has lot more technology than most other web2 sites that were hailed as innovative when they first launched (Ie. you vote on user-submitted links but we don't call it voting!).

Facebook is not Google and likely will never have as many brains as Google does. But Facebook is the new platform for developers, just ask the people who created 5500 new applications in the space of a few months.

3) Facebook is not the next Google / MySpace / AOL

See above

3) Facebook is over-valued

No comment there.

4) Facebook won't find a job for me / find a date for me / butter my toast / ....

Facebook still reminds me of a dorm network for college kids, and if you are too old to care then go some f*** place else!