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.

Microsoft Windows 8 update 3 – preparing for phablets and more

Microsoft will be updating the Windows 8 operating system soon and it will be getting better and all set for phablets. It might take a while since its just initiated the developer release program to allow the developer community and enthusiasts to experience what Microsoft would be bringing on board with the new update to the operating system.

WPCentral released this video where they installed and previewed the operating system build shared in the developer release. Its not a major overhaul but some of the changes are subtle and improving on the features and user experience in a positive way.

Here are top 5 highlights of the change in user experience that one can anticipate –

1. Application closure in preview carousal: On long tap of the ‘back’ button, you can not only view the running applications, but also close them without access them.

2. Drive mode: The drive mode along with bluetooth can be programmed to swtich the phone automatically to call only, auto reply or any other setting for safe driving without handling the phone. Once you set your external bluetooth device (say, the hands free device in you car), whenever you get into your car, the phone will automatically disable texting and/or auto reply to any incoming call. This is a very handy feature to be introduced by Microsoft.

3. Manage the phone storage: Finally, you can delete data on your phone or preview how much memory is being consumed by apps and media on your device. Best of all, you can clear temporary files from your internet explorer browser.

4. Ease of access: Some tweaks have been made to the accessibility of the phone to make it much more accessible to the differently abled folks.

5. Tile display: Though not specifically explained, the tiles can now carry the date, time and calendar event tile too. Not more will it be accessible only on the locked screen.

Watch the demo of the Windows 8 Update 3 below. Its been posted by WPCentral and the article was Sam Sabri.

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!

Some Evaluation and Rant About Windows 8

This video is from a channel on YouTube called Blogphilofilms. It tries to make a cirical evaluation of the pain points of Windows 8. If you look at it from a usability perspective, there are points that get highlighted that are spot on. But, missing out on the balance view, it ends up sounding like a rant. But, never the less, it does have a point to make about the new Microsoft OS.

Bottomline: An Operating System should facilitate a users enjoy the device and the applications that a user would like to use and perform tasks. When engaging with the operating system itself becomes a task, then it is a problem. As simple as that.

What professionals think about Windows 8

Windows 8 on different platforms

Windows creating an ecosystem to adapt on various platform

Windows 8 was launched with a new hope for Microsoft and the reaction was mixed. Many people loved it but then they were equally confused about what Microsoft was trying to do to the new operating system.

Those who hate it have compared it with the appriach taken by A.O.L years back with tiles UI which had failed miserably for the business. Others have disected the operating system bit by bit and criticed it on sites, blogs and the likes.

How does the average user react to Windows 8? Well, I am sure there are plenty of surveys out there giving you a sneak peak of things to come for Microsoft. I for one believe, its a new begining for the operating system. Its flawed, but a good start non the less.

Continue reading