Android 3 vs iPad?

Image from TechRepublic. If not visible, it's been deleted from their site

A nice picture of Google’s Silicon Valley campus fronted today’s email from TechRepublic, recalling my first visit there some years ago. Google has been showing off Honeycomb, the next version of its Android OS. ZDnet discusses what’s been happening in the Android tablet market, including (apparently) a high return rate on Samsung tablets, and other upcoming developments including, of course, the imminent iPad 2.

Google posted a video of the launch on YouTube but, oddly, the only direct link to it that I can find is on a Google Mobile blog post that’s actually about the new Android apps marketplace. Click from here!

There’s lots of coverage in the trade press; search for it, and take your pick!

• Google Honeycomb launch, 2 Feb 2011, YouTube video (53 minutes)
• A Sneak Peek of Android 3.0, Honeycomb, Google Mobile blog, 5 Jan 2011
• Google’s Honeycomb Event Kicks Off Today, Watch It Live!, Android Center, 2 Feb 2011
• Google details Honeycomb, shows off apps (photos), TechRepublic, 2 Feb 2011 (as it says on the tin: photos, not reports)
• Android Honeycomb’s task: Make us forget about first-gen Android tablets, ZDnet, 2 Feb 2011


iPad: the new business imperative

I facilitated an event in London last weeek dealing with the integration of iPads (and other post-PC devices) into the corporate environment. The organisation had to move the event into a bigger, more central venue: there were at least three times as many takers as for most normal events.

The event itself was under Chatham House rules, so this is not a report. Anything in this posting comes from my pre-event research. But simply: the size of the response to this event shows what a topical topic this is (if I may put it that way). And yes, the stimulus from the “Christmas present factor” (or other ways that top executives acquire iPads and then demand to be able to use them) is real; but so too is the portfolio of business uses and softer, but no less real, benefits that are emerging.

From my own past life, for example, I know that pharmaceutical sales reps will jump on any device which starts up very fast, is lightweight, is minimally intrusive into a conversation, and yet can hold the amount of data that’s needed, support a clear presentation, and capture post-interview comments easily. Reps get very little time for “detailing” with a doctor. In the time a conventional laptop can start up, you’ve lost them. The iPad takes three seconds, or thereabouts.

There are certainly some issues which challenge a conventional corporate IT approach. The issue of securing corporate data on user-owned devices bubbles to the top, not least since some of the demand comes from the highest levels of the organisation where the information is the most sensitive. There’s the fast-moving consumer market, which means that by the time enterprise IT has evaluated a device it’s no longer available. There are issues about expensing (or not) the data element of a mobile access plan. And many more. One snippet that caught me out for a while: a new meaning for the acronym MDM. The M and D being Managed are Mobile Devices, not Meta Data, now!

There are, I guess, three corporate attitudes to the iPad and other smart consumer devices. They can all be rationalised, but I suspect are actually emotional and instinctive. So: does your enterprise see the iPad as a headache, to be banished if at all possible? Or as an inevitability, so that you’d better be accommodating? Or as an opportunity, worth exploring to identify real business benefit?

Here are some links from my research, which will give you points to think about.

• Deploying iPads and other post-PC devices: workshop, Corporate IT Forum, London 27 Jan 2011 (reports available for members)
• How to Secure the Corporate Data on Your iPad or iPhone: Gartner, 15 Dec 2010, ID G00208576 (I was fortunate to catch an early open-access copy of this document; it’s now for-fee only)
• ABi (Anything But iPad) Business Tablets Face An Uphill Slog In 2011, Ted Stadler, Forrester blog, 5 Jan 2011
• Good on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Good Technology provides management tools for enterprise mobile devices

You may also find these interesting in this context:

• Own Nothing. Control Everything, Forrester Research, 22 Jan 2010 (members only full access) discusses the issues regarding enterprise assets stored on user-owned devices.
• Own nothing – control everything: five patterns for securing data on devices you don’t own, Andrew Jaquith (Forrester), Computer Weekly, 8 Sept 2010, a public version of the Forrester report
• Forrester Wave: Data Leak Prevention Suites Q4 2010, 14 Oct 2010; this report is available via CA

Be aware of … NFC

An IDC Insights community blog post by Aaron McPherson alerted me to a technology I probably should have been aware of: near field communication or NFC. Wikipedia says NFC is “a simple extension of the ISO/IEC 14443 proximity-card standard”, related to RFID. For contactless payments via smart phones, the application that McPherson is discussing, it’s an alternative to 2D barcodes such as Starbucks are using to emulate a Starbucks Card on a phone.

The trigger is a third party report that Apple is planning to provide NFC in its next iPhones and iPads, following similar announcements from Google (Android) and from Isis, a joint venture of Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.

McPherson is sceptical of the viability and impact; he says that around 15% of payment terminals in merchants in the US have forward-compatible capability. He thinks that’s a small number; I’d suspect it’s quite a good base.

He certainly has a point in looking for a strong alliance of financial institutions, vendors and potential users to push the technology. But it takes quite a lot to get highly competitive mobile telecomms providers into a joint development, so there must be something out there: and indeed, the Isis press release makes it clear that financial institutions are on board.

But I’m not aiming to contribute to that discussion; and McPherson’s post is US-centric anyway. Just, primarily, to put up a flag for another potential complication in the technology of payment-via-smartphone and another very short-range communications technology. The NFC Forum is the industry association; check it out.

• NFC Forum
• Apple to roll out NFC: Will the Industry Follow? Aaron McPherson, IDC Financial Insights, 26 Jan 2011
• Near field communication, Wikikpedia (accessed 3 Feb 2011)
• AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless Announce Joint Venture to Build National Mobile Commerce Network, Verizon press release, 16 Nov 2010
Starbucks Card mobile app for iPhone, Starbucks (accessed 3 Feb 2011)

An audience with … Donald Knuth

The BCS and IET this year honoured Donald Knuth in its Turing Lecture. Knuth is now professor emeritus at Stamford. His achievements are legendary. Computer scientists will recognise his name primarily from The Art of Computer Programming (TAOCP), of which he has just published the most recent volume in a lifetime series. Others may know him better from the TEX typesetting program; I count myself an early adopter though for me it gave way to WYSIWYG word processing when that arrived on my desktop.

Most honorands give a lecture. Knuth, citing Richard Feynman as his inspiration, offered a format akin to “An audience with …”, inviting questions on any topic. Well, more or less; he did block one or two! but with four hundred people onsite at the IET, and countless more watching the Internet relay, there were plenty to go on.

The format meant that I can’t report a strong view of the future of IT, or a retrospective on a very influential life, or anything like that. And you can watch the whole session online, or perhaps attend repeat events in Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow. But a few nuggets.

Inspired by a fringe event at an Object Technology conference some years ago, and by the fact that Knuth is also a recognised organist, I asked about computing paradigms which have parallels in music. He’d just answered a previous question with a put-down on the subject of re-use (“we don’t re-use; we re-edit”) so I didn’t refer to the many examples of re-use in the music of baroque composers such as Bach or Handel but to concurrency in works for the organ (two hands, two feet, all potentially working independently).  Don’s response mentioned combinatorial techniques (his main recent focus) and the use of form and constraints (such as sonata form, in music).

In the next answer, to a question about trends in programming languages, he asserted that there will always be complexity, there is no optimum language, and “It’s going to get worse”. He likes special purpose languages; but “the fundamentals are not subtle – I like whatever is supported by a good debugger”. And he prefers languages “close to the way the machine works”; I take issue there, since the world’s worst language was designed the way an IBM machine of the 1960s worked and the language is still around but machines aren’t like that any more.

Other questions covered Jevons Paradox; the Lithos font; and agile programming (which gave him a track to plug his other recent book, “Selected papers on Fun and Games, with a nice c-t ligature on the front cover title. As a typographer myself I may have been the only other person there to appreciate this..).

He talked about archiving historic code: how do you do this? We are better at preserving hardware than software. Some is only available now as program listings, and OCR isn’t accurate enough.

And why “The Art of Computer Programming” not “The Science …”? As he said: Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else.

A couple of other impressions. He showed pages from his books, directly on screen, using a technology I thought had disappeared long since: the epidiascope. But this one was computer-driven via the main screen. Perhaps that mix of ancient and modern epitomises a man who, as the bio we were given says, hasn’t had an email address since 1990. Typography is an ancient skill, craft or art (or all three) and yet Don Knuth almost single-handed brought it into the computer age: the same mix of ancient and modern, and still evolving. A giant of the computer age.

• Donald Knuth: Wikipedia (accessed on 2 Feb 2010) with bibliography and other aspects not mentioned here
• An evening with Don Knuth – all questions answered, Turing Lecture 2011 (1 Feb 2011); click the link on the mugshot to open the replay
• Don Knuth’s website at Stanford
• There are many links for TEX: try Google!
• The Lithos font (it’s an OpenType font, so there are many potential sources, but this reference from Linotype shows a fairly complete family set)