Tag Archives: Microsoft

Decisions, Decisions… Android, iOS, Windows 8 or HTML5?

Article first published as Decisions, Decisions… Android, iOS, Windows 8 or HTML5? on Technorati.

The last month has introduced much new food for thought if you are trying to decide which mobile platform to build on first:

It has definitely been an eventful pre-Holiday Season in mobile.

Which Platform To Build On First?

With all these different metrics and shifts in leadership, which platform do you pick? The market share leader (Android)? The eCommerce leader (iOS)? The one most familiar to enterprise (Windows)? The one most open of all (HTML5)?

If you are Fortune-500 company with a big mobile budget the decision is easy: build on several. If you are smaller, you probably can only build one or two at most (or at least one to start on first). Which one do pick? The answer is actually simple—if you ask two key questions about your intended user base.

Question 1: What is the (Intended) Usage Pattern of Your Customers?

Notice that this question does not ask, “What is the Intended Usage Pattern for Your App?” Why? Because sometimes building an app is the wrong thing to do.

Apps are really fun to build. However, they require a lot from your customers. First they have to find the app. Then they have download and install it. Then remember to open up and use it. That’s a long chain of dependencies required for success.

If your customers use your product regularly—and this use is transactional or highly interactive in nature—then build an app. Open Table is a great example: I book dinner reservations several times a month, on the spur of the moment. It is much easier to do from an app, especially one that needs to interact with other Apps on my device (i.e., calendar, telephone, maps).

However, if your customers only use your services intermittently, don’t waste (their and your) time and effort with an App. Instead, use HTML5 to make your site work really well on mobile. The same is true if your customers only consume content from one source. There is no need to download an App to read a news site. As the Financial Times has shown, HTML5 is much better for this.

Question 2: If You ARE Building an App, What Are Your Customer Demographics?

If an App is the right thing for your customers, then you are really lucky: you get to pick from a great set of mobile platforms. The question now is which platform best suits your needs.

Whereas back end technologies are hidden from customers (allowing the freedom to pick based purely on technical considerations), mobile platforms are virtually “joined to the hips” of your customers. Picking a platform that your customers do not widely use will not provide the results you want—no matter how great the platform and app is.

To avoid this problem, pick the platform that best fits the demographics of your customer base. If you are building for gamers, build on Android (do the same if you are building for users in Emerging Markets). If you are building for doctors, build on Apple (do the same if you are building for high-end commerce). If you are building for internal enterprise IT use, Windows 8 or BlackBerry 10 may be your answer.

There are many ways to find out what platform you customers use most: industry analyst reports, Xyologic stats, or even your website’s Traffic by Operating System in Google Analytics. As long as you pay more attention to these metrics than the latest attention-grabbing mass mobile headlines, you will be using the right technology for your customers.

Cloud Computing: Its not just about access from anywhere

Article first published as Cloud Computing: It’s Not Just About Access From Anywhere on Technorati.

Too many extolling the virtues of cloud computing are ignoring its most transformational benefits

Cloud computing has definitely moved into the mainstream. You now see commercials from Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and others every evening on prime time Cable TV. CNBC has created a Cloud Computing Special Report for investors to learn more about it. Even government agencies are now moving to cloud-based solutions.

Unfortunately, one of the most touted reasons we see for using cloud computing – that it provides universal access to data and applications from the Internet – has nothing to do with what cloud computing actually is. This is simply what web-based applications have been doing since the 1990s. True cloud computing offers a whole lot more.

In October 2009, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published an excellent definition of cloud computing that calls out five essential characteristics that separate clouds from simple remotely hosted, web-based computing models:

  1. On-demand self-service
  2. Broad network access
  3. Resource pooling
  4. Rapid elasticity
  5. Measured service

I know, some of these terms are mouthful – especially to those who do “live and breathe” technology. However, they remove so much of the work and complexity that has so frequently made management of computing so painful and costly:

On-demand Self-Service (Think “Now”): With on on-demand self-service, you do not need to ask your provider to execute an “IT project” to enable you to use your application (or update it) to support a new business development. You can do whatever you need, when you need it – without the cost and delay of overhead managing your vendor.

Broad Network Access (Think “Convenience”): This lets you work wherever you need, whenever you need – from your work or home computer, netbook, tablet, or smartphone. Traditionally, this was done through browser, to bypass the need to install local software. However, the rise of (cloud-based) App Stores now allows us to install richer applications to access our data – wherever we are, on-demand.

These first two characteristics are what most people think of when talking about cloud computing. However, it is the next three characteristics that make true clouds stand out:

Resource Pooling (Think “Black Box”): Somewhere far away IT people are managing shared, redundant infrastructure across many data centers. They manage maintenance, business continuity, elimination of failures and bottlenecks, etc. You gain all of the benefit of these large-scale investments in time and resources – but without the need to do any work.

Rapid Elasticity (Think “No Limits”): You never have to worry about capacity planning. If you suddenly get a surge in traffic (due to an emergency or unexpected popularity) the computing resources you need are automatically – and immediately – available. You avoid slow-downs, timeouts and outages that waste time, cause frustration and turn away customers.

Measured Service (Think “Value”): Pay only for what you use – and no more. Rather than paying 100% for servers that you only use at 20% utilization, you pay for the exact number of resources you use, when you use them. The ideal cloud providers charge usage in terms that everyday people – not just IT systems administrators – understand and value.

cloudcomputing-180pxsWhen explaining these cloud computing characteristics to those whose “day jobs” are not in tech, I like to use the electricity analogy. When you buy a new television, you do not call the power company and ask them to initiate a project to set up your television. You simply plug it in and begin using it. If you don’t like where it is in your house, you unplug it, move it to a different room, and plug it in again. At the end of the month, you don’t pay for the power company’s generator and labor investments; you pay for the extra kilowatt-hours your television used.

Services that meet all five of these characteristics are so much more convenient and valuable than legacy computing models. That’s why cloud computing has the potential to be so transformational.