Jun 28

The Software Platform War; Seeing a cool VHS player with your betamax collection behind you

Apple, Google, Tech No Comments »

You can argue about iOS vs. Android. Ben would still come down on the iOS side, but you can see that he is at least thinking about it now. It is a debate. There used to be few to no features that iOS users wanted. Now there are plenty (from new: offline voice controls, to older: decent home screen w/ widgets and Intents).

It is fascinating to watch the old Steve Jobs All Things D interviews. At D2 in 2004 Steve talks about how, even though Apple is pretty good at the hardware thing, the differention is in the software. Folks can catch up on the hardware. Now, Apple has done an amazing job on the hardware, and their scale + deals + how they have taken so much of the work in house (e.g. their chips) has kept them mainly in the lead.

When I look at Jelly Bean I see some nice new features and a lot of important catch up (e.g. buttery scrolling and UI performance in general!) It also feels like most of the leaps in UX on the phone itself is to do with server side smarts. The Google Now work, and putting together info on “hey, head to the airport now! the traffic sucks”. This is great news for Google as they know the cloud and computing smarts. Apple has iCloud and is growing there too, but Google should enjoy fighting more of the battle in the cloud.

Even seeing new interesting features, I feel like I have deja vu from some old times. When I see the cool Nexus Q, it feels like I am looking at a great VHS recorder with interesting features…. but my collection is in betamax tapes. The digital lockers of Apple, Google, and Amazon are locking us in (even with some ability to get content out… like doing a tape to tape). It also feels like the days of having an Atari ST when friends had Amiga’s; ZX Spectrum vs. Commodore. It is frustrating to have to make a choice.

Competition may be good in that it will spur the horse along faster, but it sure can feel frustrating. That magical time when the content you wanted was all in the Web isn’t there in quite the same way (even with lockin on websites).

Until we get more hardware improvements (e.g. Glass) the battle field will be through client software and software in the cloud. An exciting battle for sure.

Jun 01

I will lay off of Android WebView….. and instead hit Google Maps!

Tech with tags: No Comments »

It is easy to make fun of the Android WebView. Ben and I had a slide on that in our talk yesterday. Painful, but easy. It’s almost as though the Android wing of Google doesn’t want the Web to be a great platform :/

We have a big fight for maps and location going on too, and next week will give us more information. iOS 6 is expected to showcase some amazing home grown (via 3 acquisitions) maps, and Google is trying to jump in and show that they have some life too ;).

The cynic in you may understand that the Android platform would be wise to make Google Maps amazing and easy to work with (their mapping, driving, and local functionality is fantastic!) but maybe have it be harder to work with other foundations.

If I owned a platform and NOT a mapping property, I would create interfaces so the developer would loosely talk to the system, and they would have a way to get a handle to the lower level to do fancy things that a particular provider had. An API / SPI model.

What do we have with Android today?

“To create a Google Map, you must extend MapActivity and implement a MapView in the layout.”

Wait, a MapActivity? Not just a view/component that you can pop in?

“Only one MapActivity is supported per process. Multiple MapActivities running simultaneously are likely to interfere in unexpected and undesired ways.”

If you wanted to use another mapping platform you can of course. OSMDroid is one example. They even have a wrapper so you could plug and play on the MapView layer, but note that you still live within the MapActivity bounds.

This becomes an issue if you want to ship on a device that may be Android but isn’t certified with Google goodness. A platform such as the Kindle Fire for example, where you don’t have access to the Google APIs. Now you have the pain of having separate builds.

I compare this to our mWeb codebase where we can flip a bit and suddenly the maps change between Google or Bing.

With WWDC and Google I/O coming up soon and soon-ish, I can’t wait to see these things go away :)

What headline would you most like to see? I wouldn’t mind some of:

  • “Android SDK updated with ChromeWebView that enables amazing WebView support!”
  • “iOS 6 delivers fantastic Siri and Gesture SDK”

But hell, I wouldn’t mind the small things…. “In mobile safari if you use native scrolling you can still tap the top menu bar and scroll to the top”, “iOS 6 auto-updates apps and doesn’t download unused assets. Finally.” etc.