Tag Archives: apple

Open source rules, and it’ll kill Apple

“Both [Microsoft’s] C# and [Apple’s] Objective-C are unsurprisingly almost invisible [on GitHub], because they’re both ecosystems that either don’t encourage or actively discourage open-source code.”

From ReadWrite

Most people who know me know that I’m not exactly an Apple fan.

I am a big open source fan though, and the two are connected. As a believer in free software principles I despise the restrictive, closed systems of Apple (not to mention it’s overpriced, locked down hardware).

I’m constantly surprised that so many of the free software advocates I know or come across are Apple fans.

But Apple will, in my opinion, fall based on this. People don’t like to be restricted, they like their freedom to use their tech in the way they wish. Actively discouraging open source is putting Apple at odds with the vast and growing number of developers committing to free software principles.

Update: This view on the dramatic fall of Unix and rise of Linux illustrates my point entirely. You can’t beat a good open source community.

Ubuntu for mobile… damn that’s exciting!

Over the Christmas and New Year holiday I wanted to get something done that I’d been planning for a number of months: replace Windows 7 on my PC with Ubuntu, ridding myself of any Microsoft software (I think).

I’d long ago abandoned Microsoft Office in favour of Libre Office and have had my Samsung N130 netbook running Ubuntu for more than a year. Using my netbook had shown me that it was possible so over several weeks I listed all the software I used on my Windows 7 PC and next to each I listed Ubuntu alternatives. Finally, I was satisfied that it was time and the expected Christmas lull gave me opportunity time to back up (which took ages!) and make the switch.

It worked (on the second attempt) and my Acer Z5101 (with 5GB extra RAM, I might add) is now completely Windows-free and running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

The Excitement

During all this I noticed a countdown on the Ubuntu site. There was no mention of what it meant so I made a mental note to return when the timer was up. I didn’t need to in the end as plenty of tweets made it obvious: Ubuntu is moving into mobile.

There have been some doubts about whether it’ll work or even if Canonical have what it takes to build a mobile OS. Only time will tell so I remain open minded but it certainly excites me. As most who know me will testify to, I’m a big Android fan and that’s partly because it’s a Linux-based operating system, as is Ubuntu. That’s partly why I’m excited because it gives the mobile world an alternative to the increasingly dominant Android system on the same free and open terms.

Android to Ubuntu

A bigger reason though is the suggestion, from Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, that Ubuntu’s mobile OS will be developed with Android in mind so that apps built for Android will also work on Ubuntu devices. This is fantastic news! For Ubuntu it kinda makes sense as it potentially gives them a ready-made app marketplace to tap into instead of having to build their own. But what excites me is the potential that as a consumer I could flip from one OS to the other, retaining all the same apps that I’ve learnt to love or tolerate (it happens).

It also strengthens the attraction of both Android and Ubuntu to mobile developers. Too often at the moment developers build apps for Android after iOS. If Ubuntu was to steal market share off the likes of RIM and Windows Phone (’cause let’s be honest, that’ll be another MS flop…) it’d create a Linux mobile OS dominance that would take precedence over iOS for app developers who would know that developing for Linux (rather than Android/Ubuntu specifically) means developing for the largest share of the mobile market. Of course, there are nitty gritty details to get around (different devices need different solutions) but there’s a solid foundation to work from.

HTML5

Long a bug bear of mine is that all too often we see native apps developed (often for iOS only at first, or at all) when a HTML5 app would do just as good a job, and in doing so would be naturally cross-platform, excluding no-one and benefitting everyone (with a smartphone, obviously…).

So when Mark Shuttleworth said that HTML5 apps would be treated as ‘first class citizens’ in the Ubuntu ecosystem I nearly leaped out of my chair! Giving HTML5 apps access to the same features of the OS as native apps allows developers to provide the same experience across multiple devices at a much lower cost. Instead of developing for iOS, then again for Android, then again for Windows Phone, then again for Blackberry (…..no, I’m joking, no-one cares about CrapBerry anymore), you just develop once in HTML5 and deliver the same app to every device.

That will make development cheaper which will give the consumer either lower prices or more bang for their buck. It will also prevent the ridiculous monopoly situations like Apple’s app store where it takes 30% of all revenue (including in-app purchases) that only serve to increase the costs to the consumer, because HTML5 apps will have the freedom to process payments however they choose.

Integration

There’s probably a better word.

One thing I don’t think was mentioned (at least not enough) in the Ubuntu announcement (see video below) was the user experience that can be expected when moving between different Ubuntu devices. Google Chrome is a huge part of my everyday digital life and one of it’s best features for me is that I can open Chrome on any one of my devices and see the most recent sites I’ve visited on each of those devices. For example, I could be reading an article on my PC then pick up my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and carry on reading as I walk downstairs to sit on the sofa, without having to do anything silly like email the link to myself – opening Chrome on the tablet presents me with a list including that article that I just tap once to open up.

Having a similar level of integration at the OS level would be fantastic, and I really hope Ubuntu considers this. One example I keep thinking about is games. I’m very fond of playing Solitaire and do so on my Galaxy Tab and my Galaxy S3 using the same app, always trying to beat the high score. However, each device has a different high score because they don’t talk to each other. How great it would be to simply sync the two!

Or imagine the article scenario with Google Chrome mentioned above, ported to a document in Libre Office. I might start to write a little document out on my tablet whilst sitting on the sofa but decide it’d be more comfortable to do it on the PC, so I just head upstairs, open Libre Office on the PC and it greets me with a quick link to just open that same document (of course you can do this with Google Drive, but what if I’m offline or using my own personal cloud?).

That kind of cross-device user experience is what really gets me behaving like a 5 year old on Christmas morning. It’s why I love using my phone to queue YouTube videos to play in the YouTube app on my TiVo 🙂

Patent wars: the evil afflicting tech that will only harm consumers

Being a follower of the ‘patent war’ between mobile/tablet manufacturers recently I’m disappointed at today’s news that Samsung has been ordered to pay £1.5bn in damages to Apple. I’ve long been of the opinion that the patent system, especially in America, is fundamentally flawed and this case is another example of why.

First thing to make clear is that I’m not surprised at the verdict. On paper, Samsung have violated the patents and the reports I’ve read clearly showed, to me, Samsung had a not-so-strong case.

What gets me is that the case ever happened at all.

In June a US judge through out a case brought by Apple whilst calling the US patent system “chaos”. There are numerous examples of ridiculous patents, such as this one from Apple that patents software updates, and companies like Microsoft and Apple are openly setting up companies to act as ‘patent trolls‘ whose sole purpose is to destroy competitors through expensive litigation.

Apple is abusing the patent system in order to maintain its dominance in a blatantly anti-competitive move. Far from going to trial, the cases (all of them, including the ones brought by Samsung, Google, Motorola et al) should have been thrown out and the companies investigated under competition law.

Verdicts like that against Samsung will only serve to harm consumers in the end.

Apple created great products that consumers wanted to buy, making it the most valuable company in the world. Apple executives are now seemingly abandoning that philosophy in favour of a protectionist offensive. The rapid growth of Samsung into the smartphone market and the rise of Android, now the most popular smartphone OS, has them scared and so they’re fighting back.

One reason given for Samsung’s success is it’s wide range of phones, compared to Apple’s limited range of one (current model) very expensive phone. Apple also ignore industry standards on connectors, instead choosing to force consumers into using their own connector, a hidden cost to them. Instead, the likes of Samsung use the industry standard connections which, for example, allow me to connect my SGS3 to my HDTV for as little as £10 rather than the extortionate £35 Apple charge. Consumers are wise to this price difference and recognise they can get a similar or much better phone than an iPhone for a much more reasonable price.

Far from protecting consumers against ‘confusion’ this verdict will strengthen Apple’s position in the market and allow them to keep pushing out the same overpriced products (errm, hello, £25 for a 10in cable anyone?!) instead of responding to consumers who have quite clearly demonstrated they want the choice on offer from Samsung.

This is Why Android Will Beat the iPhone

Apple are going to lose out to Google and others in the battle for the mobile market unless they book their ideas up and give users what they want.

Case in point: Opera.

Via InformationWeek I’ve learnt that iPhone users will have to go without the Opera Mini and Opera Mobile browsers because Apple won’t allow them into the App Store.

This is a great shame. I’ve heard good things about the Opera browsers and although I do love the iPhone browser I believe in giving users choice.

Google, on the other hand, with the Android Marketplace, are allowing any applications to be added to one’s Android-powered phone.

Flexibility will be a key selling point of the Android phones. Freedom and flexibility will allow Android user’s to adapt their phones to suit their needs, while Apple try decide user’s needs for them.

Give user’s what they want and they will reward you with loyalty. Restrict them and they’ll go where the grass is greener.