Category Archives: iphone

Windows Phone 7 gets decent launch, Stephen Fry’s blessing

I was not able to attend the press conference for Windows Phone 7 in person but watched the live webcast from New York. I was unconvinced by the phrase “Always delightful, wonderfully mine” which formed the basis of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s lead-in, but it got better.


Corporate VP Joe Belfiore did a live demo, explained how the team had aimed to simplify the phone and make it where possible seem one step ahead of the user, predicting the information you would want or the next step you wish to take. He also spent some time on enterprise features, especially Office and Exchange integration, which interested me as there is some ambiguity in how Microsoft is positioning the launch devices; consumer is the focus yet business-oriented features keep cropping up.


One of the 5 HTC phones announced today is the HTC 7 Pro which has a keyboard and seems mainly aimed at business users.

Ralph de la Vega from AT&T said that his company will offer Windows Phone 7 from November 8th in USA, initially from LG, but with  with 3 devices – LG, HTC, Samsung – available a few weeks later.

Belfiore’s demo looked good, despite a couple of failures from which he made a good recovery. He announced that the much-discussed Copy and Paste feature, which will be absent from the first release, will come as an automatic update early in 2011.

He also spent some time on the Xbox Live integration, which is one feature that is distinctive to Windows Phone 7 and strikes me as a smart move. A couple of XNA games were demoed and look good, one called Ilo and Milo that uses the accelerometer:


and a familiar one from EA, The Sims:


The best part of Microsoft’s launch though was not in the USA but in the UK. Celebrity Stephen Fry, known for his love of all things Apple, got up and and praised the phone.


The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones caught some of this on video, and I am going to quote extensively because it touches on something I’ve been tracking for years: Microsoft’s belated recognition of the importance of design:

I made no secret of my dislike of Microsoft over many years. I did think that analogy of a building site, of a Sixties grey office, is essentially what the environments they were making then were. Whatever I may think of this device (and I’m going to come to that in a moment) I think we can all admire the humility which which Microsoft have admitted to the fact that they now, I think, get it. They get the fact that all human beings whether they work in enterprise or in small businesses or are self employed, are human beings first.

You don’t judge the machines you use or the houses you live in or the offices where you work, simply by listing their functions. The first thing you do as a human being, whether you work for a large office or a small one, is say how you feel about it.

What I was always excited by when Apple produced things and then when HTC and other OEMs started making fascinating and enjoyable Androids, and even when RIM came out with the Torch, I felt pleasure using them. These are things, we carry them around at all times and our lives flow through and out of them. And the first feeling we should have is one of delight, so when I heard Mr Ballmer use the word “delight” I thought, oh what joy there is in heaven when a sinner repents. Because let’s be frank, Microsoft were grey, they were featureless, they did concentrate so much on enterprise and tickboxes for function, that they forgot that even the greyest number-cruncher in the corporation is a human being first, a father, a husband, a mother, a daughter, whatever, and that their experiences are based on feeling and emotion.

So when they did send me one of these about a week or so ago – I’ve got a few of them, and I’m not being paid – my first feeling was that it was just fun to play with. And I know that’s childish, but isn’t that how you think of cars and many other things we spend our lives doing? That it’s fun to drive. Yes you want it to be economical, yes you want it to get from A to B, yes you want various things.

People buy things because they feel that emotional engagement, they feel the pleasure of using it. I have felt enormous pleasure using this phone. Yes, because I’m not a paid spokesman, because I’m not any kind of spokesman for Microsoft, I can say that it has deficiencies; but then that was the thing about the iPhone that everybody felt, people who had Windows Mobile 5, as it then was, they laughed to scorn the iPhone when it arrived because it didn’t have all these functions. But if you remember the tedious horror of drilling down through the menus just to get a wireless connection, on an old WinMob phone, you will understand that it wasn’t about that, people embraced the iPhone because it was simple, it was closed, it was clear.

Now the closed environment is something you’re all going to be speaking about, the ecosystem, you’re all going to be speaking about how it positions itself against RIM and it positions itself, crucially, against the iPhone and the Android, and that’s a decision that only the market and the next year can make.

He added on Twitter:

Some will call me traitor, but I was pleased to stand on stage ad welcome Windows Mobile 7 into the world. Used it for a week. Like it.

This was a great PR coup for Microsoft, but more important, it shows the impact of something I wrote about in 2008: Bill Buxton’s arrival at Microsoft and his work to introduce design-consciousness to Microsoft and its OEMs:

Everybody in that food chain gets it now. Everybody’s motivated to fix it. Thinking about the holistic experience is much easier now than it was two years ago. What you’re going to see with Mobile 7 is going to give evidence of progress.

I thought the launch was good enough to make people want to try this phone; and considering Microsoft’s current position in the market that is a good result for the company.

Latest job stats on technology adoption – Flash, Silverlight, iPhone, Android, C#, Java

It is all very well expressing opinions on which technologies are hot and which are struggling, but what is happening in the real world? It is hard to get an accurate picture – surveys tend to have sampling biases of one kind or another, and vendors rarely release sales figures. I’ve never been happy with the TIOBE approach, counting mentions on the Internet; it is a measure of what is discussed, not what is used.

Another approach is to look at job vacancies. This is not ideal either; the number of vacancies might not be proportionate to the numbers in work, keyword searches are arbitrary and can include false positives and omit relevant ads that happen not to mention the keywords. Still, it is a real-world metric and worth inspecting along with the others. The following table shows figures as of today at (for the US) and itjobswatch (for the UK), both of which make it easy to get stats.

Update – for the UK I’ve added both permanent and contract jobs from itjobswatch. I’ve also added C, C++, Python and F#, (which hardly registers). For C I searched for “C programming”. (US) itjobswatch (UK permanent) itjobswatch (UK contract)
Java 97,890 17,844 6,919
Flash 52,616 2,288 723
C++ 48,816 8,440 2470
C# 46,708 18,345 5.674
Visual Basic 35,412 3,332 1,061
C 27,195 7,225 3,137
ASP.NET 25,613 10,353 2,628
Python 17,256 1,970 520
Ruby 9,757 968 157
iPhone 7,067 783 335
Silverlight 5,026 2,162 524
Android 4,755 585 164
WPF 4,441 3,088 857
Adobe Flex 2,920 1,143 579
Azure 892 76 5
F# 36 66 1

A few quick comments. First, don’t take the figures too seriously – it’s a quick snapshot of a couple of job sites and there could be all sorts of reasons why the figures are skewed.

Second, there are some surprising differences between the two sites in some cases, particularly for Flash – this may be because covers design jobs but itjobswatch not really. The difference for Ruby surprises me, but it is a common word and may be over-stated at

Third, I noticed that of 892 Azure jobs at, 442 of the vacancies are in Redmond.

Fourth, I struggled to search for Flex at A search for Flex on its own pulls in plenty of jobs that have nothing to do with Adobe, while narrowing with a second word understates the figure.

The language stats probably mean more than the technology stats. There are plenty of ads that mention C# but don’t regard it as necessary to state “ASP.NET” or “WPF” – but that C# code must be running somewhere.

Conclusions? Well, Java is not dead. Silverlight is not unseating Flash, though it is on the map. iPhone and Android have come from nowhere to become significant platforms, especially in the USA. Beyond that I’m not sure, though I’ll aim to repeat the exercise in six months and see how it changes.

If you have better stats, let me know or comment below.

Apple lifts restrictions on app development tools, publishes review guidelines

Apple has lifted its restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS (iPhone and iPad) apps, in a statement published today:

We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year. In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.

In addition, Apple says it is publishing the App Store Review Guidelines in the hope that this will make the approval process more transparent.

Good news I guess; but why? Maybe in part because the restrictions made little sense and were possibly unenforceable; and in part because Android’s popularity is putting pressure on Apple to be more developer-friendly. In practice, some apps that you would have thought breached the requirements apparently made it through the approval process; and those publishers of cross-platform tools which kept their nerve have their patience rewarded.

But what about Adobe? Apple’s development restrictions seems to trigger a significant change of direction, with work on the Packager for iPhone stopped, Android devices issued to employees, and evangelism for Android in Adobe blogs and tweets.

Since Apple is not changing its mind about runtimes, but only about development tools, this change of mind does not enable Flash on the iPhone; but I guess Adobe could now revive its cross-compilation work. On the other hand, Apple’s pronouncements have caused disruption for Adobe and perhaps served more as a wake-up call: this is a closed platform with one owner and therefore a risky target for investment.

Ten reasons the Apple iPhone 4 beats the Android HTC Desire

I’ve recently been trying the Android-based HTC Desire for some development research. I’ve also been using the iPhone 4 since its release in the UK. How do they compare? Yesterday I posted Ten ways the Android HTC Desire beats Apple’s iPhone. Now here’s the opposite – ten ways the iPhone is better. Conclusions then? Maybe in another post.

1. The iPhone gets left alone by the operators, presumably at Apple’s insistence. When the OS is updated, everyone gets it at around the same time and from the same source – Apple. Contrast this with Desire, the software for which is customised by each OEM with different apps and possibly some bits missing. Orange UK removes Google Talk, for example. Right now everyone wants Android 2.2 “Froyo”, but whether you have it or not depends on which operator you are with and/or whether you are willing to hack your phone a little to remove the branding.

2. The iPhone is more beautiful. The Desire is not bad, but purely as a design object does not come close to the iPhone with its smooth lines and solid, cool metal and glass construction.

3. The iPhone is a better music player. Not surprising given that it evolved from the iPod family of devices. iPod for iPhone is delightful to navigate, does videos and audiobooks, and integrates with iTunes for buying songs over the air. Now, you could always install Amazon MP3 for Android to enable OTA music download, whereas – no surprise – this is not available for iPhone. The speaker is better on the iPhone, not that you are likely to use it much for music.

4. The battery life is better. My Desire is only a month old, but I struggle to get a full day out of it if it is used with any intensity for wi-fi, 3G internet, web browsing and so on. The iPhone normally makes it. Neither is great of course – there are simpler phones that last for a week, though they do much less. The Desire’s battery problems are mitigated by the ability to carry a spare, though given the way the back case clips on I suspect it might break if frequently removed and refitted.

5. The iPhone has better text input. It is not too bad on the Desire, bearing in mind that it is a touch device only, but the iPhone has that great press-and-hold edit bubble that lets you move the cursor (though the Desire has the optical joystick which also works for this). Another iPhone advantage is that if you touch the wrong letter, you can slide to the correct one, whereas the Desire keyboard uses this gesture to enabled accented characters and so on, which is less useful for me.

That said, the iPhone has its annoyances. Here’s one that drives me nuts. There must be a lot of people at Apple called Tom, because whenever I type my first name it wants to correct it:


At this point, if I hit return I get Tom. If I hit spacebar, I get Tom. In order to keep what I have actually typed, I have to tap the word Tom, which is counter-intuitive as it feels like selecting it, then it goes away. Having mentioned it here, I am sure someone will point out a way to fix it; please do.

6. App availability is better on the iPhone and the quality is better. I say this with reluctance, because the iPhone App Store is also full of rubbish, but overall I find the standard slightly higher. This is actually logical: the Apple App Store has a higher barrier to entry, both financial and in terms of developer skills. In addition, the App Store is nicer to use than the Market, and works better. In my case I had to open a port on my firewall before I could download from the Market at all.

7. The iPhone scores on “it just works”, with greater UI consistency and a sense that Apple has thought about all the common actions on a smartphone and made them work well. Often the iPhone goes one better and makes everyday apps fun to use. The messaging app on the iPhone, for example, is attractive as well as functional. The Desire equivalent is effective, but dull. The single main button on the iPhone makes it quick to learn, whereas the Desire’s five buttons (Home, Menu, Trackpad, Back and Search) give you more to think about, and mean more frequent switching between touching the screen and clicking a button. The Desire is missing some basic things out of the box, like a notes app, though you can add one for free from the Market.

If money and freedom are no object, I’d suggest iPhone over Desire for someone who wants to get on with their work and not tinker with their phone.

8. The iPhone has a better screen. 960 x 640 vs 800 x 480, and is a little better in sunlight than the Desire.

9. I prefer the Exchange app on the iPhone. For example, I use a lot of folders, and the iPhone shows me these on the main screen. On the Desire, I have to click Menu, then Folders, then select a folder from the pop-up window.

10. The iPhone has smooth, attractive transitions between screens. For example, if I am on the home screen and tap Mail, I get a nice zoom animation. On the Desire, screens typically just appear, or there is some lag and brief ugliness. It all contributes to a smooth-as-silk impression operating the iPhone, whereas Android feels rough and ready by contrast.

All these things are relative. Next to my old Windows Mobile 6.0 phone, Desire is delightfully smooth.

Ten ways the Android HTC Desire beats Apple’s iPhone

I’m just getting started with Android development, for which I got hold of an HTC Desire. And I’ve been using Apple’s iPhone 4 since its release in the UK. So which is better? There’s no satisfactory quick answer to that, though the two phones are certainly comparable; perhaps too much so, judging by Apple’s lawsuit. I thought it would be fun though to do a quick couple of posts on how they compare, of which this is the first. Reasons to prefer iPhone coming next. The following points are based on the Desire running Android 2.2 “Froyo”.

1. You can plug in a micro SD card to expand the storage. Apple does not support this with the iPhone; it may be because it wants to control what goes on the device, or because it uses storage space as means of selling more expensive versions of its devices.

2. Related to (1), you can copy a file to the phone by attaching it to a PC and using the filesystem. To do this with the iPhone you need additional software, or a solution like Dropbox which copies your document up to the Internet then down onto the iPhone.

3. You don’t need to install iTunes to get full use of the device. Some like iTunes, some do not; it is better on the Mac than on Windows, but it is great to avoid that dependency.

4. You can share your internet connection without fuss, either by creating a portable wi-fi hotspot, or through a USB connection.


5. Adobe Flash works on Desire. Coming soon is Adobe AIR, which will enable developers to create Flash applications as well as Flash-driven web content.

6. The platform is more open. Developer registration is only $25.00 (vs $99 for iPhone) and there are fewer restrictions concerning how you develop your application, what sort of app you create, or what language you use. The standard language is Java, which is easier to learn and more widely used than Apple’s Objective C.

7. The Desire has instant screen switching. Press home when already on the home screen, and you get thumbnails of all seven screens; touch a thumbnail to bring it to the front. Widget support means you can put those screens to good use too – not just for storing app shortcuts.

8. The battery is removable. The obvious advantage is that you can carry a spare with you.

9. It uses a standard USB cable. A small point perhaps; but it is easy to lose your cable or not have it with you, and being able to use a standard cable is convenient.

10. There’s no issue with the antenna when using the Desire without a case.

Samsung Galaxy Tab – among the first of many iPad clones

Samsung has announced final details and specifications of the Galaxy Tab, a tablet device running Android 2.2 “Froyo”.


It has a 7-inch1024x600 multi-touch screen, 1.00 Ghz processor, GPS, wi-fi, 3G internet, 1.4 megapixel webcam, 7 hours battery life if playing a video (I imagine much longer than that in normal use) and 16GB or 32GB RAM plus optional MicroSD.

Apple’s iPad has a 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 screen and better battery life – 10 hrs while playing a video, according to the specs.

So why would you buy a Galaxy Tab? Well, it is smaller and therefore handier, though you will squint a bit more. It has some freedoms that the iPad lacks, such as Adobe Flash, MicroSD, and FLAC playback. It has a camera. You will not need iTunes in order to interoperate with a PC.

I imagine the main reason, though, is that the Galaxy Tab will be cheaper – even though I cannot find prices anywhere, it is inevitable. This and other would-be iPads will be positioned as cheaper alternatives.

This will not harm Apple at all. It likes to occupy the premium ground and does so with great profitability.

But could the Galaxy Tab be better than an iPad? Well, it will be for certain tasks where the iPad is lacking – see above – but it will lack the careful design and attention to detail which characterises Apple’s device, and of course will not be compatible with all those iPad apps – though in some cases there will be Android equivalents.

Further, all the same doubts which were expressed about the iPad before its launch apply here as well. Do you really want a smartphone and a tablet and a notebook, and if not, which one will you abandon? Is it worth yet another contract with a mobile provider just to keep your tablet connected? It is possible that although Apple can make this category work, others will struggle.

When I played briefly with a Dell Streak, a 5-inch Android tablet, I found myself thinking that it will be a good deal when they sell them off cheap. Without that incentive, it is too big for a phone, too small for much else other than watching videos on the plane.

I would like to try one of these devices, of course, but whether they will succeed is an open question.

Open season for patent litigation makes case for reform

It seems to be open season for software patent litigation. Oracle is suing Google over its use of Java in Android. Paul Allen’s Interval Licensing is suing AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Yahoo and others – the Wall Street Journal has an illustrated discussion of the patents involved here. Let’s not forget that Apple is suing HTC and that Nokia is suing Apple (and being counter-sued).

What’s next? I was reminded of this post by former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. He confirms the supposition that large tech companies refrain from litigation – or at least, litigate less than they might, refrain is too strong a word right now – because they recognize that while they may have valid claims against others, they also most likely infringe on patents held by others.

The gist of Schwartz’s post is that Microsoft approached Sun with the claim that OpenOffice, owned by Sun, infringes on patents held by Microsoft thanks to its work on MIcrosoft Office:

Bill skipped the small talk, and went straight to the point, “Microsoft owns the office productivity market, and our patents read all over OpenOffice.”

Sun’s retort was in relation to Java and .NET:

“We’ve looked at .NET, and you’re trampling all over a huge number of Java patents. So what will you pay us for every copy of Windows?”

following which everything went quiet. The value of .NET to Microsoft is greater than the value of OpenOffice to Sun or Oracle.

Oracle, however, seems more willing to litigate than Sun; and I doubt it cares much about OpenOffice. Might we see this issue reappear?

That said, Microsoft also has a large bank of patents; and who knows, some of them might be brought to bear against Java in the event of legislative war.

The risk though is that if everyone litigates, the industry descends into a kind of nuclear winter which paralyses everyone. Companies like Interval Licensing, which seemingly exist solely to profit from patents, have no incentive to hold back.

Can any good come of this? Well, increasing software patent chaos might bring some benefit, if it forces countries like the USA to legislate in order to fix the broken patent system.

Protecting intellectual property is good; but against that you have to weigh the potential damage to competition and innovation from these energy-sapping lawsuits.

We need patent reform now.

Review: Tapworthy – designing great iPhone Apps by Josh Clark

Developing for iPhone is a hot topic. Many developers are not only having to learn Apple’s Objective C and the Cocoa application framework, but are also new to mobile development. It is a big shift. Josh Clark is a iPhone designer, and his book Tapworthy is about how to design apps that people will enjoy using. It is not a programming book; there is not a single snippet of Objective C in it.

His book illustrates the power shift that has taken place in computing. In the early days, it was the developer’s task to make an application that worked, and the user’s task to understand how to use it, through manuals, training courses, or whatever it took.

There are still traces of this approach in the software industry, but when it comes to iPhone apps it has reversed completely. The app creator has to build an app that the user will find intuitive, useful and fun; otherwise – no sale.

An early heading reads “Bored, Fickle and Disloyal”. That’s the target user for your app.

Clark’s point is valid, and he does hammer it home page after page. You will get the message; but it can get tiresome. His style is frank and conversational: some readers will love it, others will find it grating after a chapter or two.

Even if you are one of the latter group, it is worth persevering, because there is a ton of good content here. There are also numerous short interviews with developers of actual apps, many of them well-known, discussing the issues they faced. The persistent issue: we’ve got a complex app, a small screen, and intolerant users, how on earth do we make this seem simple and intuitive?

Constraints like these can actually improve applications. We saw this on the web, as the enforced statelessness and page model of web applications forced developers to simplify the user interface. It is the same with mobile. Joe Hewitt, author of the first generations of Facebook for iPhone:

There is so much stuff that is actually better on the small screen because it requires designers to focus on what’s really important.

So what’s in the book? After a couple of scene-setting chapters, Clark drills down into how to design for a tiny touchscreen. Be a scroll sceptic, he says. Chapter 4 then looks at app structure and navigation. Chapter 5 takes you blow by blow through the iPhone controls and visual elements. Then we get a chapter on making your app distinctive, a chapter on the all-important start-up sequence and how to make seem instantaneous, and a chapter on touch gestures.

The last three chapters cover portrait to landscape flipping, alerts, and finally inter-app communication and integration.

Throughout the book is illustrated in full colour, and the book itself is a pleasure to read with high quality paper and typography. 300 pages that will probably improve your app design and increase its sales; a bargain.


Lies, damn lies, and Apple’s antenna-gate

Apple’s iPhone 4 is still relatively new; and I when I pulled it out of my pocket at a social occasion last weekend someone said, “isn’t that the new iPhone?” and another, “isn’t that the one with the aerial fault?”

Another person then showed his iPhone 4, with shattered screen. His had been dropped, an expensive slip of the wrist.

So there we have it, the two worst features of Apple’s new phone – fragility, and a dodgy antenna – exposed to all.

I have first hand-evidence then that the antenna issue is well-known. But how much will it affect sales? I received an email today from Opinium Research. According to their survey of 2000 UK adults, 26% are less likely to get an iPhone 4 because of this widely reported fault.

Pretty bad for Apple then – a quarter of their market gone. Well, no. This is an example of “ask a silly question”. If you ask someone, “does the antenna issue make you more or less likely to buy an iPhone 4,” what do you expect them to say? In fact, 13% of them said it was a non-issue, while 57% said it was irrelevant because they are not in the market for an iPhone 4 anyway.

The right question would be: “Have you changed your mind about getting an iPhone 4 because of the reported fault with the antenna?” I expect many fewer would tick the yes box.

Useless survey then. In my view the phone is fine, the antenna issue is minor, and Apple’s free case offer will sort it for most people.

Going back to my social occasion, by the end of the party Apple had at least one more would-be customer, despite the antenna and despite the fragility; and given that the phone is still out of stock everywhere I don’t think the company need worry too much – though its reaction to this wave of bad publicity has been interesting to watch.

Incidentally, I also had a briefing on Windows Phone 7 today – more on that later.

HP will not do Android or Windows Phone 7 smartphones – but what chance for webOS?

HP’s Todd Bradley, Executive Vice President of Personal Systems and formerly CEO of Palm, was interviewed by Jon Fortt at CNBC. Fortt asks some great questions which mostly get woolly answers, but did get this statement from Bradley:

We will not do a Linux, Android phone. We won’t do a Microsoft Phone … we’ll deliver webOS phones.

I will be interested to see if HP sticks to this commitment. HP is Microsoft’s biggest customer and huge in business systems, but that does not necessarily mean it can make a success of a mobile platform on its own.

Mobile platforms stand (or fall) on several pillars: hardware, software, mobile operator partners, and apps. Apple is powering ahead with all of these. Google Android is as well, and has become the obvious choice for vendors (other than HP) who want to ride the wave of a successful platform. Windows Phone 7 faces obvious challenges, but at least in theory Microsoft can make it work though integration with Windows and by offering developers a familiar set of tools, as I’ve noted here.

RIM Blackberry is well entrenched in the Enterprise and succeeds by focusing on messaging and doing it well. Nokia and Intel will jostle for position with MeeGo.

It is obvious that not all these platforms can succeed. If we accept that Apple and Android will occupy the top two rungs of the ladder when it comes to attracting app developers, that means HP webOS cannot do better than third; and I’d speculate that it will be some way lower down than that.

You have to feel for HP, which has supported Microsoft’s failing mobile platform for many years – with the occasional lapse, remember when it became an OEM vendor for Apple’s iPods? – and now has decided it cannot rely on the company in this area. That is understandable. However, HP is heavily invested in Windows. It may be choosing just the wrong moment to abandon ship; or it may find that doing its own thing with webOS is no better. Google Android would have been a safer though less interesting choice.