Watch Out!

13 Sep

With the market for wearables being currently much smaller than anyone expected, I admire Apple for sticking with it.

Microsoft didn’t, and yet again abandoned a promising product line in the band, rather than investing in it.

I wonder what Satya’s master plan is?

Probably just cloud everywhere.

Not a bad plan I suppose, but ask Apple how it feels having the vast majority of your income come from one product.

You’d think Microsoft would already be wise to this having stood by to watch Windows become less relevant as the world moved on to the mobile platforms they largely overlooked.

Band was only ever going to be a bit player, but it could have been another piece of the services puzzle to pull people in.

Possibly a bit like Apple is doing with their watch.

Now we’ll never know, apart from watching Apple continue to innovate and iterate with their Watch.

Haven’t we seen this happen before?

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Time to Look Again at FireFox?

1 Sep

Eons ago all we had was the Mosaic we browser (not strictly true, but that was the big one).

No matter, Netscape came to the rescue with many of the Mosaic team on board, added the blink tag, and started charging for essentially the same thing.

Somewhere along the line Microsoft woke up to the internet and started knocking out their own Internet Explorer for free, eventually bundling it with the OS and taking 95% market share.

A lot of people took issue with this, and it formed the core of the anti-trust lawsuit that shaped Microsoft to this day.

I was suspicious of Microsoft abusing their powers back then, but I could see the logic in using the same rendering engine in the browser for the OS itself, I quite liked IE3 (the proprietary extensions and lack of standards didn’t concern me back then), and Netscape was large and wasn’t yet free.

After a while my Main browser became IE. It worked well for me. Netscape faded away.

Somewhere later along the line Netscape transformed into FireFox in an attempt to right some of the wrongs that Netscape had come to be known for (primarily bloat) and to claw back some of the gains made by Internet Explorer which would see it reach 95% market share.

It worked to a large extent. FireFox was more standards compliant, lighter and faster than IE, and gradually millions of people started to switch.

But as time went on FireFox also started to suffer from bloat. Microsoft had all but lost interest with IE failing to make any significant updates for years. And then there was Chrome.

Google launched its own web browser that was sleek and the world started to take notice. Chrome was to eventually take the crown from a neglected IE, and a struggling FireFox.

Microsoft tried to fight back with later versions of IE, and subsequently Edge (which has become my primary browser, with Chrome always on standby), while FireFox and others like Opera carved out more of a niche market and held onto their respective diehards.

But now it appears the Mozilla Foundation has been hard at work reworking FireFox to correct its ills and prepare it for a bright new future. But with the likes of Edge and Chrome providing a very good gateway to the internet, is there still a place for FireFox on my desktop.

I have some good memories of FireFox being a good browser, and am interested in taking a look out of curiosity, but I’m not sure this is enough to spur me into action.

Has anyone out there used the new release? I’d be interested to know what you think.

If I do give it a try, I’ll be sure to let you all know what I think.

It’s Started…

3 Aug

So I made the first step towards moving back to Android. I ordered a Moto G5 Plus for my partner (one day before the G5S variants were announced, typically) to replace her two year old Lumia 640XL.

I managed to find an online store selling them for £50 less than anywhere else, but I’m not going to tell you the store name as it’s been a few days now and the order is still in “processing” status (so I’m beginning to get a little bit concerned about the site being just a scam).

For years I sold family members on Windows Phone/Mobile as I still genuinely believe that for non tech savy people it’s the simplest mobile OS out there. But Hayley was increasingly asking about apps that didn’t exist on the platform. These same apps are not going to magically appear even if the C-Shell variant of Windows ever appears either. And what with Microsoft yet again seemingly abandoning the platform, using an alternative is now regrettably a no-brainer.

Good work Redmond.

So now I find myself going into the Google play store and seeing what’s new, checking what I already have in my library, and what I can spend my money on.

That’s money that Microsoft won’t get to see…

The loss of my beloved OS will be a bitter pill to swallow initially, and I mourn the loss of the one app running everywhere future, but I’m actually starting to look forward to the change in some ways.

Right now I wonder if I’ll ever find a reason to go back to a Mobile Microsoft solution.

Perhaps if they really do have something magical up their sleeve. But right now I very much doubt it.

Time Gentlemen, Please…

28 Jul

Windows Phone/Mobile is dead.

This time it’s for real.

Now it’s only the die hard fan boys remaining, as we wait for each new security and bug fix to arrive.

Windows 10 Mobile itself will be supported for several more years to come, and with devices like the HP Elite X3 it has to be, but as far as new features go, for all intents and purposes, that time has passed. I am aware of only one new feature in the Mobile Fall Creators update.

Microsoft has moved on, and now it’s become undeniable that I have to do the same.

I’m not happy about this. Windows Phone had a tiny usage share inside the U.S. In many places in the rest of the world however, usage hit or was close to double figure percentage.

I’ve always been able to survive with the lack of apps, but recently there’s been time after time where something I need just isn’t available. On top of everything else, that has now turned into one time too many.

It appears that Microsoft will follow yet another reboot to their mobile strategy with the release of full desktop based on C Shell at some point (I thought Windows 10 had already more or less achieved this already), but at this point I’m beyond caring. The apps I’m missing aren’t in the full Windows Store, so they won’t be on the mobile devices either, by the very definition of the platform.

Perhaps if one day the apps arrive, I’ll take another look, but I only have a limited amount of money, so making the switch each time becomes increasingly hard to justify.

I love the Windows Mobile OS and don’t relish the thought of moving back to Android, but this time my hand has been forced.

And once I’m in, I’ll be all in.

If Microsoft aren’t using Xamarin, why should I?

4 May

Microsoft, in a move that many developers were hoping for, purchased the really rather brilliant company Xamarin. Xamarin provides a tool to write cross platform apps from one code base, namely C#. Brilliant! Now the promise of being able to develop for iOS, Android and Windows from the one code base could become a reality without costing a fortune!

Microsoft also purchased Wunderlist. This will gradually be retired in favour of their new application, Microsoft ToDo. Microsoft recently released clients for Windows, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

None of which were written in Xamarin apparently.

Why?

I can’t find any details of which Microsoft first party apps for iOS and Android are written in Xamarin, but I suspect it’s not many.

It should be a case that virtually all Apps from Microsoft should be written in Xamarin (with the possible exception of those requiring a significant of low level access, and even then I’m not convinced they couldn’t be coded partially in Xamarin if it’s as good as portrayed).

Microsoft used to be the best at eating their own dog food. If they are indeed doing this, isn’t it time we were told?

Buy Cheap, Pay More.

27 Apr

As noted in an earlier posting, I got myself a new laptop last August. This cost me the thick end of £1,800, so was a considered purchase by all accounts.

More recently (early this year) my company, after much kerfuffle, eventually replaced my ageing work laptop with a new developer spec machine.

Developer for them…

When I asked about the possibility of getting something with a touch screen the IT department representative laughed out loud with out a hint of irony. The response was something about “There’s only two touch screen laptops in the company, and you have to be on the board to get one. They cost upwards of £2,500”, accompanied by a look that said “you’re an idiot”.

Hmmm…

“Wow!” I said (really, I said “Wow”). “That must have quite a specification.”

“They have an i7 and 32Gb of ram”

“How much do you spend on the normal laptops for developers then? What spec will I get?”

“They’re about £1,900. Core i5 with 16Gb of RAM and 512Gb SSD. You won’t need more than that.”

A good call considering he doesn’t have any idea what it is I actually do… however, I diverge,

“But I purchased this very laptop here, 4K touchscreen, Core i7, 32Gb RAM, 1Tb M2 storage, 3 year extended warranty, additional battery/charger for £1,800. I think you’re being ripped off…”

“Yes, the touchscreen laptops cost £1,800. The one you’ll get is £1,200…”

What?!!

OK. Whatever. If I’d asked for a Apple machine they only seem to supply top of the range MacBook Pro or Air models, depending on your role (not needs) so at least the money is there for them I suppose.

Still at least I got a new machine, similar to those of my peers.

Unfortunately the build time on my current project is in the region of 90 to 120 seconds with one of these machines.

Benchmarking on something more… capable… we’ve seen sub 35 seconds. It doesn’t sound a lot but multiply that by four (now over eight) developers, and add on testers, and you lose valuable time every day. That ultimately cost the client money (and now us money as we move into a fixed price project structure), and us as the users of these machines become that little bit more frustrated.

Still, it’s a step up from what I had, but I can’t help thinking will need replacing sooner than if they spent that little bit more to begin with.

Sounds like a false economy to me, but I dare say there’s some accountancy rule coming into effect here, and not just penny pinching and status protection.

Still, I look forward to when the client asks for the project to become touch aware (as they have before) and nobody is able to test this due to a lack of hardware…

As an aside, here’s the relative SSD benchmarks for the two machines:

E5470

Company Dell Latitude E5470

XPS15

Personal Dell XPS15 (9550)

So what is going on with Windows 10 Mobile?

25 Apr

From everything I read, nobody knows.

At the moment it just seems to be speculation as to where Microsoft is heading with Mobile as it appears no sources seem to know, or at least nobody is telling.

In some ways this is becoming the norm for Microsoft, which appears to be managing leaks, or at least the media, far better than previously. Take for example the release of the Surface Studio, there was very little chatter about this before the official announcement and what was available was posted with uncertainty by the respectable news sources.

And so we see the same thing with Windows Mobile. Speculation but nobody calling anything concrete other than for the purposes of click-bait. From my own perspective through reading various we sites I can imagine the following panning out:

  • With the release of the Feature2 branch windows Mobile is essentially being put into maintenance mode to keep enterprises and partners happy for the next several years (think HP with their Elite X3, or the various police forces and governments that have adopted Windows Mobile). This has happened before – I was still doing the occasional piece of work for Windows CE less than 2 years ago and devices were still being manufactured and sold running this OS. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t still the case – if it works, etc.
  • Windows Mobile has lost in the consumer space for now, and any work being done now is primarily for enterprise. Look how much new functionality was added for consumers in the Creators Update. Of course the occasional minor feature will continue to trickle out until the next re-boot is announced.
  • With the C-Shell initiative full Windows 10 on ARM is expected. Yes Windows Mobile was largely Windows 10 recompiled for ARM, but not completely. With the move to XAML (most recently in UWP, but also in WPF to some extent) responsive applications have been a reality for some time, so a well designed app can more easily scale to different screen sizes. The main thing full Windows is missing is a telephony stack and it’s job done (an oversimplification perhaps, but even as a worst case scenario the code is there ready to be ported).
  • The hardware is almost there too. The Snapdragon 835 has even been shown to run full Wn32 apps at (what looks like) full speed.
  • Those apps may be too small to use on a phone screen but… Continuum…
  • The Windows store isn’t anything to get excited about yet, many of the Windows developers I work with barely know of it’s existence, let alone understand it. But with Project Centennial hosting full Win32 apps, the Snapdragon 835 emulation, and the expected announcement of Windows Cloud in the next few days (which reportedly only runs apps from the store), perhaps the store will grow legs.
  • Everything is coming in place with the new vision, with the current minimal Windows Mobile user base, why wouldn’t you make the switch now the planets are aligning?

Bear in mind that this speculation is drawn up through third party sources within the echo chamber of the internet (i.e. Site A reports something speculatively, Site B picks up on this and re-reports, site C sees site A and B reporting it, so it looks likely to be true and reports as such, site A sees site C confirming their speculation and reports this is true, etc..)

There’s a couple of things that could prove this theory wrong:

  • Feature2 branch could be a “we never got rs2 finished on mobile. We need to sort this stuff out then we can merge back with the PC rs3 branch.
  • Microsoft said they had a mobile strategy. They didn’t say that strategy included Windows. Perhaps letting Google and Apple take the OS development pain, and making money off the back of them is a cleverer move, at least in the near to mid term (as a loose analogy SEGA did this after the Dreamcast by becoming a publisher for other platforms rather than making their own hardware). After all, Microsoft is no longer “The Windows Company”, it really is all about services now. Last time I checked Windows was only the third biggest revenue generator at Microsoft.

Essentially, who knows?

The one thing I do know is that I’m planning the switch to Android for family soon, at this point in time it’s the right choice for them. I shall do this with a heavy heart though.

I’m even considering the move myself. After the amount of effort I’ve put into Windows Phone and Mobile over the years (and reward from that to be fair) I’m not looking forward to it. But at the end of the day I’ve got no choice.

And the trouble is Microsoft, once I’m back into Android, I’m unlikely to look at coming back for the next 2-3 years minimum. So whilst I’m still happily tied into Microsoft services for now, I will be more exposed to the competition than currently. And you know what that means…