Google I/O 2014 – Material Design, a metaphor

Gogle I/O 2014 Material Design

Design, as we know it, has evolved over centuries. The design that we experiences in everyday life, be it industrial design or art or engineering has had an evolution that matured it to the current form and experience. Software is a much recent phenomenon, going by the age of the sector itself. Design in software technology has just about recently started to see fundamental principles and philosophies being applied. Apple did skeuomorphism, Microsoft did tiles and Google was furiously iterating with its users to design its software better. Till now, they never clearly defined a philosophy that governed their design. It had always been guidelines for designers and developers to help develop on their platform.

At 2014 I/O, Google introduced what is already been seen on their web applications and mobile OS as their new design philosophy. Material design. Have a look at the video playlist below to understand what Google plans to do with this design philosophy and how it got inspired and what vision it sees brought forth with a philosophy that’s materialistic, metaphorically speaking.

LG and Motorola are back in the game.

Motorola's Moto X Android Smart Phone

Motorola’s Moto X Android Smart Phone

It seemed that Apple and Samsung were the only two big players in the market that were at the top of their game. People anticipated new product launched by them with excitement and rumor mills. The galaxy lineup and the iPhone series are followed by consumers and tech experts for the next big innovation. Nokia is playing catch up, with a handicap namely Microsoft. Blackberry, with its flawed vision for an operating system seems to be heading no where. The rest, it seemed, were at the bottom of the game. There seemed to be no challenger to the two giants. So it seemed.

This year has been great for many reasons.

Firstly, the Android operating system has evolved into something beautiful. Its user experience is at part with iOS and perhaps even better. With an evolved user base, they can now take the risk of having gestures control the OS other than the on screen buttons.

Secondly, hardware has gotten better with time. The next generation phones will have a default 2 Gb of RAM to run the apps. And with dedicated processors for graphics and quad core power, the Android operating system is feeling more snappier.

Thirdly, Google challenging its OEM’s with the nexus line up seems to have worked. Hardware manufacturers seem to be innovating and introducing unique features to make their product look unique and competitive in the market.

It turns out, two players are challenging the market leaders as we head into the second half of 2013 – Motorola and LG.

Continue reading

Blackberry and Microsoft’s achilles’ heel in the Smartphone dominance

Achilles' heel for Blackberry and MicroSoft

Achilles’ heel for Blackberry and Microsoft

The once powerful giants had fallen. New blood and an invigorated rival had these goliaths. So much so that surpassed them to their scaled heights seemed impossible. But in the world of business where nothing is constant, the future is an open field as long as the moves are right.

Microsoft dominated the operating system battle and so did RIM in the smart phone market. This was untill Apple and Google came in and chalked out their own territories and drew new battle lines. And Microsoft and RIM saw themselves outside the boundary line, watching their dominance crumble, like mere spectators.

I don’t intend to get into the history of how things evolved to where it stands right now. But I see both Microsoft and Blackberry (ex-RIM) ready to battle out and claim their own stakes in this battle to reign in the mobile space. Simple put, the future is about mobility and the winner takes it all. The looser is doomed to perish. It’s as brutal as it can get in the world of business.

RIM rechristened itself to Blackberry and got a new lineup of phones and a well designed operating system in place. Microsoft and putting all its bets on Windows 8 and has enough dough to pump in and get the new life into an otherwise stagnated operating system. Its has new alliances and with that a new line of products coming out both in the desktop and the mobile space. To their credit Windows 8 is unique and seems to be trying hard to look different and give users an experience that’s very 8-ish.

So will it work for these two now? I think the answer lies in what your competitors are doing, and doing so correctly. It’s in developing an ecosystem for the users. An experience that flows from the hardware to the operating system to the softwares (or Apps) that work on the device platform. And from what we have learned from the Android and iOS battle is that it’s all about the App Store. User crave for apps and the more that you have to offer, the better. Android for one didn’t even care if an app was as useless as loading something that turned on the device LED. Apps of all kinds were on the store. It was all about number. ‘We got a million apps’, wow! like the users care. Actually, the developer community did. Developers swarm around a platform like flies to a light if they know its going to make them some money. They would make an app for a platform if its being consumed by a lot of people. The platform and thereby its users are a market for the developer. Selling your app becomes that much easier when there is only one store from where people are buying stuff.

Blackberry and Microsoft failed early on (and so did Symbian) as their platforms were either not developer friendly or were not enticing to the developer community to go ahead and make apps for. So have they learned from their mistakes. I think they do. But the catch is in getting the same developer community to start making apps for their ecosystem. Both Blackberry and RIM are going great length in supporting the developer and making it a lot more developer-friendly and commercially lucrative to build apps on.

But will it work? That’s another story. It will depend on how excited the consumers get with the new offerings. A consumer would be excited to see how many of their favorite apps are available on the new platforms. Absence of their favorite app on these stores would be a let down and probably might make you go against a purchase decision or probably word-of-mouth publicity.

App store

Apps makes the platform matter. (Image from Mashable.com)

So will the once upon a time market leaders be able to pull it off? I believe they would. The bigger question is, will hey evolve and not stagnate like they did before. One thing that this market space has taught us is that you can never rest even if you are at the top. Period!

Ridiculousness of the one-click shopping

Ridiculousness of the one-click shopping

Amazon One-Click shopping is absurd to say the least

It just occurred to me that the epitome of an online shopping experience should be the ability for a user to shop for a product with just one click. But then its not the case (mostly) because of a certain patent that Amazon has over this idea. In fact the patent extends from shopping cart to the name one-click.

This case simply highlights the absurdity of the patent regime in the US. How can a user task flow be patented? e-Commerce Shopping cart optimization is the most obvious one that any business or usability analyst would come up with. Perhaps every online retailer had a simplified process on their mind. It’s probably Amazon who thought of patenting it. And with that, create problem for other retailers in providing similar benefits to its customers. Continue reading

Apple iPad mini is a boon for consumers of 7 inch tablets

Samsung, Sony, Amazon, Apple and many more have 7 inch tablets in the offerings

Samsung, Sony, Amazon, Apple and many more have 7 inch tablets in the offerings

How many of you out there want to own a 7 inch tablet? Probably quite a few I am guessing. Most of us look at alternatives ranging from international brands like a lot of Indian brands. In the international segment, I can think of Samsung with its Galaxy Tab and Amazon with its Kindle Fire. Then there is Google with its Nexus too. But when you start exploring the local and Chinese market, things start getting really crowded.

Apple, a late entrant to the 7 inch tablet space just released the iPad mini. Now I am sure there would be a lot of people dissecting this device for its pro’s and con’s. But end of the day, the benchmark for the 7 inch tablet has just moved from the Galaxy Tab to the iPad mini.

What has caught my imagination is the fact that the pricing for this premium product is so damn competitive. And Apple has good reasons to do so.

What it means for consumers like us is that the other manufacturers will follow suite and either crank up the specs of their tabs or lower the prices even further or probably do both.

Consumers are doing to benefit from this slug fest and it is just about to get bigger. Coming to think of it, I also suspect that iPad might end up cannibalizing a lot of the competition in the coming few years. Unless they strike back with some radical strategy to give it back to the behemoth that Apple is in the tablet and smartphone space.