2015 Tech Predictions Part 2

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Here is part two of my 2015 tech predictions. If you have not already checkout part one.

Now on with part two, starting with:

The Oculus Rift will not revolutionize anything

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I feel like I’m missing something when it comes to the new hype that surrounds Virtual Reality technology. A lot of smart people think that it we be revolutionary, but whenever I think of a VR headset I think of something that I don’t want to wear on my head.

Maybe I feel this way because I came of age during the first round of VR hype and saw how badly that failed because the basic technology really wasn’t there and because it became apparent that we didn’t want everything to be a “virtual” copy of the real world. (Unless we approach holodeck levels of VR I’m looking at you Star Trek and far away from you Lawnmower Man) Maybe we’ve solved the first hurdle, but until the tech is in Star Trek league I’m not sure that we will solve the second.

For those that want to say that you have to try it to believe it, I did try the Oculus Rift DK 1 was wasn’t that impressed.

Gaming? Sure. Training? Maybe. Revolution? Nope.

Big Bold Prediction: Facebook’s $4 Billion purchase of Oculus will start to look like a mistake by the end of the year when the Oculus Rift fails to deliver on the hype.

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The Chinese app market(s) will grow in importance

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The Chinese smartphone market is the largest smartphone market in the world, which means that the Chinese app market is equally massive and in 2015 app developers in the west will really take notice. We will see more developers (including independents) treat the Chinese market as being equal to, or almost equal to Google Play in terms of targeting importance.

We will start seeing more developers targeting one or more of the many Chinese app stores with their apps, and when they do they will also start integrating Biadu, Weibo, and other Chinese API’s into their apps destined for China in the same way that they currently integrate Google, Apple, or Twitter services now for the western market.

Note: The Chinese market, mostly from it’s many ASOP Android devices (versions of the Android OS that lack Google Services including Google Play) and the blocking by the Chinese government of many western software platforms/services (most of Google’s including an outright blocking of Google Play this year) means that the Chinese market is much different than the western market.

Big Bold Prediction: A Services ecosystem will arise to help western developers release their apps in China.

Microsoft will fail to capture the consumer imagination (again)

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I feel a bit mixed about this prediction, I mean I think it’s right, but I also think that with it being Stacha Nadella’s first full year as a CEO we might see some really interesting things coming out of Microsoft in 2015. One the other hand, Microsoft has never been very good at capturing the consumer’s imagination, so the prediction stands.

Microsoft will release Windows 10 in 2015 and we might see a big uptake from the Enterprise world which, by and large, skipped the much maligned Windows 8 release and stuck with Windows 7. (The Windows 8 press was so bad Microsoft skipped version 9 just to distance themselves from it.) But I don’t see everyday consumers caring any more. I don’t think they ever really cared about Windows to be honest, it just happened came on the PC that they bought, or it was the same as what they used at work.

Nowadays most people browse Facebook on the couch with their smartphone (while watching TV) leaving their PC to gather dust in the basement, which means that Windows 10 won’t interest them that much.

We might be do for a home computer upgrade cycle, and the timing of the Windows 10 release might allow Microsoft to post some good consumer numbers (but I don’t really think so) but the magic for the general public is gone (and I would argue that it wasn’t really there in the first place).

In addition to all that Microsoft remains a distant third place in the mobile race. An also ran, not from lack of trying or innovation, and I don’t see them gaining any ground on smartphones any time soon. In fact my far out prediction was them dropping Windows Phone itself.

Big Bold Prediction: Microsoft will sell less copies of Windows 10 in the first three months of release then they did of Windows 8. It will be more popular with the press and get better reviews, but the “consumer desktop” ship has sailed and that means fewer sales for Microsoft.

Extra Note: If Microsoft does deliver a well reviewed version of Windows in Windows 10 it will go a long way to helping the brand with enthusiasts, which is important in the long run, even if it doesn’t boost short-term sales.

Bonus Round

Here are some off the wall predictions that I don’t really think will come true but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if they did:

Xiaomi’s app store will crack the west

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Xiaomi’s Mi App Store will be the first Chinese app store to crack the western markets. They have a popular brand outside of China and Hugo Barra’s past credentials will go a long way to assuring potential users that Xiaomi’s app store is safe.

Google Glass will be taken off the market

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Given the public criticism and the decline in developer and consumer support Google glass will quietly drop off of Google Play and fade in history. (Perhaps as a product ahead of it’s time?)

End of Part two

That’s it for part two, I’m not sure if there will be a part three or not. If I do find the time I’d like to cover the Internet of Things and hardware a little bit, which I think will be a big deal in 2015. We are also planning on covering 2015 predictions on The Incoherent Podcast so stay tuned for episode five, where I will probably go over these predictions and maybe go a little bit deeper.

2015 Predictions Part 1

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2014 has come and gone, so let’s take a look ahead to 2015.

With the start of the new year I thought it would be fun to post some of my thoughts and predictions for what will happen in technology in 2015. I know that everyone and their dog as “prediction” posts around this time of the year, but I thought it would be a good way to work through some of the ideas for my own personal use (perhaps on a podcast or two). I also like the idea of keeping a record of predictions and then seeing how many of them were true at the end of the year. Sort of like a theory scorecard.

Note: I’m not totally sold on using the word “predictions” for what this (and hopefully a few more) post contains since I’m really theorizing on what I think will happen, as opposed to actually predicting a specific outcome. But since everyone uses “predictions” I thought I would stick with that term. If I was more courageous I’d probably make bolder predictions!

Now, with that out of the way, and in no particular order here are my 2015 predictions (theories):

The Apple Watch will be a huge success

The Apple Watch will sell very well in 2015. I’m thinking somewhere north of 30 million sales (not a number I came up with on my own). I’m still conflicted when it comes to the Apple Watch, but something about it and the category it is trying to create triggers something in my gut.

I want to point out the fact that it’s tethered to your iPhone (cutting off all the Android devices out there and the times you want to leave your phone at home). That the use cases for the device are relatively unknown. That there are too many new methods of input. That we don’t know anything about the battery yet. That the cost is too high and the replacement cycle is too quick for a luxury good.

But even with all of those issues something about the Apple Watch makes me think that it will be a success. Maybe it’s the similarity to the way I feel about the Apple Watch today and the way I felt about this first iPad (I didn’t get it). Maybe it’s Apple’s past successes as a company, I’m not sure but something tells me this is a product that will succeed.

Part of my reasoning is that I think that we are getting to the point where we need to enter a new era for our connected lives. We live in a world where we are all connected nearly 100% of the time and I feel as though the mobile phone paradigm wasn’t setup for that. The smartphone got us there, but I don’t think it’s sufficient for the network that it created.

Maybe I’m wrong about the Apple Watch, but I think that all these connections will give rise to something new in 2015 and it just might be the Apple watch.

Big Bold Prediction: Apple will sell 10 million units in the first quarter and 30 million units in the first year. This will allow them to capture: 90% of the smartwatch market. I actually predicted this in the third episode of The Incoherent Podcast: Weird Statues.

Android will have an existential crisis in 2015

Android will face it’s biggest growing pains in 2015. Google has done a lot to make Android one of the best (if not the best) mobile operating systems to use. It’s the dominant mobile platform on the planet, accounting for 84% of the smartphone sales worldwide, so what’s the problem?

Profits for one. Developers are still making less money on Android then they do on iOS. The Android first app development that has been predicted by those who worship at the alter of market share, has still not come to pass. And it’s not just developers, handset makers are struggling too. Witness the decline of Samsung and HTC.

But also witness the rise of Xiaomi, who is now the 5th largest phone seller in the world, and a phone seller that sells a non-Google controlled version of Android. What does that mean for Google as they try to tighten their control over the operating system by bundling more and more features into their Google Play Services? You have hardware manufacturers struggling when selling your operating system, and others succeeding selling a version of your operating system that you no longer control. (Don’t forget about Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, and Micromax…)

Android isn’t going anywhere but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a version of Android that will differentiate from, and compete with, Google’s version of Android. This could happen on a global scale, or on a regional scale as it already seems to be doing in China. Cyanogenmod perhaps?

Big Bold Prediction: A hardware manufacturer will release an Android phone with a differentiate custom version of Android (outside of China) that users will actually want to buy.

App discoverability will become (more of) an issue

There are 1.3 million apps in Google Play and 1.2 apps in the Apple App Store, this makes discovering new apps very difficult. I think this difficulty could give rise to new competing app stores or paradigms (that might actually succeed outside of China) that will differentiate based on discoverability and not necessarily the number of apps.

Big Bold Prediction: A successful and relevant app store or discovery engine for apps, not Google Play or the Apple App Store, outside of China.

Bonus Round

Here are some off the wall predictions that I don’t really think will come true but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if they did:

Microsoft will drop Windows Phone

After years of sub-par sales, low low market share, and billions of dollars spent (advertising, development, keeping Nokia on board and then buying Nokia) Microsoft will finally drop Windows Phone.

Super far-out prediction:

Microsoft will fork Android

Not wanting to be left out of the market entirely, after dumping Windows Phone, Microsoft will fork Android and release a Microsoft service based version of Google’s baby on their own hardware. This has the added bonus of tying into my Big Bold prediction for Android above.

Stay tuned…

That’s it for now, in part two I will give you some of my thoughts on China, VR, Microsoft’s relevance outside of the enterprise, and a few other topics.

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The Chinese App Market Project…Paused?

So the Chinese App Market Project has paused for the moment. I’ve made some strides in this area but I’ve also switched jobs after spending 14 years with my previous employer. The job switch has forced me to learn another language (C#), which I have been doing in what little spare time I have.

There have also been a series of non-super-serious family incidents that have taken up more of my time. Maybe this is what life is like when you have a family with two small children: moving from one small crisis to the next, then it’s 10:30 pm and all you want to do is have a beer on the couch or go to bed.

I have also found that I have been nurturing a more holistic appreciation of the tech world lately. I feel that this is an expansion of my previous perspective. I feel that in the past I was very much concerned with the nuts and the bolts of tech, and lately (while still being concerned with bolts) I’ve found myself appreciating the larger perspective. Trying to look at the system as a whole to develop a greater understanding of all its many parts, and thinking about how this will play out in the future.

For the moment it’s all mobile for me. I can’t get away from the fact that for the foreseeable future all signs seem to point to mobile taking over more and more of the world. Cheaper hardware, the way we work shifting based on mobile (think about how the PC or the web changed your job). What was your job like 25 years ago before everyone was using a PC? How did it change 15 years ago when the web took off? How will mobile change the way you work? This is what I spend my walks thinking about.

The Chinese App Market Project

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Introduction

If you follow me on twitter, read the few posts on this blog, or if you know me in real life then you know that I am quite interested in the Chinese app market. You can read the reasons for this interest in my Some thoughts on Mobile post. In short the main reasons for my interest are the numbers of people using Android in China (largest smart phone market in the world) and the way in which the ecosystem developed, mainly without Google Play as the central and de facto app store.

I decided to try to learn more about the Chinese app market in the same way that I had taught myself different programming languages and techniques in the past: pick a project and try to build it. I’ve always found that I learnt the most when I actually had a goal in mind and then worked towards it. In this case it is a bit different, in order to learn about the Chinese market I will try to introduce one of my apps into the market and try to reach a certain level of success.

The Goal

In Short:

Make $30.00 in a one month period via AdMob in China. Or (if it is possible to track) get more than 1000 downloads within China

Both goals are not that crazy, but wanted to set something that was attainable given that I am trying to do this in my spare time and I’m not really sure what is possible given legal and cultural differences. I chose to go for a money target as my first goal since I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to track the installs properly within China, and I will need to learn more about which analytics APIs work within the great firewall of china.

Please keep in mind that I do not speak Chinese in any way shape or form. I only speak English and a wee little bit of Canadian French, so I will be relying on Google Translate for much of this project.

The App

To try to achieve this goal, I chose my latest app illuminate. This was the my latest app, and because of my interest in localized markets (including China) I was careful to put all of my strings in string resource files for easy localization.

illuminate is monetized with AdMob ads (banners and interstitials) and was first released on January 25th, 2014. Up until the initial writing of this post on May 4th, 2014 it has only made $1.47 within China. This low number wasn’t that surprising given that it was not translated into Chinese and was only available within Google Play and the Samsung App store.

The First Steps

The first step was obvious: translation, so I bit the bullet and got the strings translated into simplified Chinese via the Google App Translation Service. The translation cost less than $15.00 for both the store listing and the in-app strings and was ready in a couple of days. I was really impressed with the service and if this works I will use it again.

I then uploaded the app to Google Play, Samsung’s app store, Amazon app store, and the 1mobile app store may 4th, 2014. I chose to add 1Mobile because I heard that it did well in China. I also used a localized direct download on this blog (http://selsine.com/美图饰-把文字加到图像上/) because I had heard that direct app downloads are also popular in China. Illuminate is also listed on Xiaomi’s app store: http://app.xiaomi.com/detail/59840 but this was version 1.0.7 taken from Google Play and I’m not sure if it will be updated with the latest translated version.

FYI: 美图饰-把文字加到图像上 is the translated name of the app: 美图饰 comes from “illuminate” and means “Mito Ornaments” or “Beauties Ornaments”, I honestly don’t really know what mito means or why it was translated like that but I put blind faith in the translation company and have assumed that it makes sense locally. 把文字加到图像上 comes from “text on phones” and means “The text added to the image”. I added that last bit (Text on photos) to my store listing to give people an idea of what an app titles illuminate would be for.

I also setup a weibo (often known as the Chinese twitter) account and tweeted or weibo’d out the link to my app a few times.

The next Steps

Now that I have the app translated my next step will to try to get the app listed on some popular Chinese app stores. I have heard that some Chinese app stores will take apps from Google Play and automatically listen them, but I can’t say for certain that this will happen. As I succeed or fail at this project I will track my progress on this blog.

Until next time!

I find myself alone on a Saturday morning programming

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As the title says, I find myself with a precious few hours alone on a Saturday morning and I spend them eating in front of my old PC adding text alignment options to two of my Android apps: MemeToad and illuminate.

The good news is that it works:

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The bad news is that I seem to have a programming problem.

Thoughts on the week of march 30th 2014

This last week as was a busy one, both professionally and personally. Lots of stuff going on.

Android in China

Lots of my brain power was spent thinking about Android in China again. I started off the week reading a blog post from December 2013 on the Intel Developer Zone site: Android in China: An Undiscovered App Market?

The blog cites some interesting numbers:

There are now over 270 million active daily Android users in China

It is the largest smartphone market on the planet.

  • Most Android device sales (52%) come from users upgrading to new Android phones; 48% are users purchasing a smartphone for the very first time
  • A large part of Android growth (45%) is focused in rural areas and small cities

Seems like a lot of the growth coming from first time users is coming from rural areas of China. The theory would be that many of these first time Android purchasers are actually buying their first computer every and going online for the first time using that Android device. This means Android is their primary (as in the the one that they learn on) platform.

The post also links to an article on ReadWriteWeb: 7 Things App Developers Don’t Know About the China Mobile Market (But Should) which has some interesting information especially in the income and payment department.

Xiaomi continues to do well

This comes from a post on Tech in Asia: Two Xiaomi phones crack top 10 rankings for global smartphone sales in February: report. This surprised me, I knew that Xiaomi was doing well, had expanded into Singapore and was looking to expand into India, but I didn’t think that any of it’s phones would crack the top ten.

Given that they seem to like flash sales and selling out all of their inventory I didn’t expect them to rank that high. I thought you’d see other Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE up there instead, and maybe those manufactures sell more in terms of overall numbers, but those sales are spread out across many different devices, whereas Xiaomi sells fewer models. Xiaomi also tends to sell their devices at a low cost and make their money back with their services.

Note that there are only three companies in the top ten: Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi.

Microsoft’s Build Conference

Microsoft held their developer conference build last week and there were a few interesting things that came up during the keynotes. One was Microsoft’s desire to appeal to it’s .Net developer base, a base that has felt ignored by Microsoft over the last couple of years.

As a former MFC programmer I know what it’s like to feel left out in the cold as another newer technology (in my case .Net) is pushed forward. Since most of the .Net developers didn’t jump into Metro development (written in HTML5 I believe), keeping them happy makes sense. The thing about developers is that once they leave you behind, it takes a heck of a lot to win them back. Again I speak from experience here, we left MFC and have basically left Microsoft technologies behind.

There was also the demonstration of Windows 8.1 Update (Microsoft really has the worst names) and the next release code named Threshold. They showed an upcoming version of the once-dead Start Menu and the ability to run metro apps on the desktop in these weird floaty things called..umm….windows.

Paul Thurrott has some interesting thoughts on these changes: Updates to Windows 8.1 are a Step Forward, Not a Retreat but I remain puzzled by Windows 8 and the changes they are making. As I hinted at above aren’t these changes just the things that we have been using since Windows 3.1 or Windows 95? Why should we be impressed that there is Start Menu or that we have the ability to run certain apps as Windows? Especially windows…I get those in all desktop operating systems that I use. Strange.

It’s important to note that I have only used Windows 8 a handful of times on a desktop without a touchscreen so I’m just basing this on what I’ve read. It’s also important to note that I have almost no desire to use Windows 8, nothing there makes me want to upgrade anything.

Some thoughts on Mobile

If you are reading this then you probably know me, in which case you probably know that I am a computer programmer and that I spend my days doing android stuff for Andromo. Most of my job has been writing code that ends up in the apps that people build using Andromo, I’ve also written large parts of the builder code, and recently learnt some Ruby and helped out with the website redesign.

Another part of my job that I have really started focusing on since late last year was trying to help promote Andromo to a wider audience. The theory being that a larger audience for the product means more subscribers, which means higher revenue for us. A simple equation but I’ve found getting attention for Andromo to be more difficult then I originally thought.

I thought that this post was about mobile?

I’m getting there. One of the areas I targeted to help grown Andromo’s business was the non-English speaking world, specifically China to start and broadening my targets over time. Because of the population of China, and the dynamics (Google Play and many of Google’s services are not allowed in China) I thought that the Chinese market would be very interested in the apps that could be created with Andromo.

I was also interested by charts like these:

Photo by: charlesarthur

Photo by: charlesarthur

What I found, exploring the Chinese market, really surprised me. I found a mature ecosystem that had developed independently of Google Play and Google’s influence. Instead of one app store I found hundreds of app stores and companies like XiaomiWandoujia, and Tencent doing things in very western-startup sort of a way (especially Xiaomi <Looking to future growth, Xiaomi will build its own campus> and Wandoujia<Wandoujia, One Of China’s Leading App Stores, Lands $120M In New Funding Led By SoftBank>). Of course I had heard of these companies before having put a concerted effort into following the mobile tech world since we launched Andromo in 2011, but this was the first time I really looked at Huawei and ZTE and the rest.

Of course my interest and focus is late, people have been talking about China and smartphones for years. I’m focusing on it as the growth is actually going to be slowing down, only a 30% (I cannot remember when I read that) growth projected for 2014. But still look at the above graph and compare the yellow bar for China (or India) with that of my home country of Canada, we’re still taking about massive growth and massive potential. But how can we tap into that potential with a product like Andromo? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Working on this at work has taught me a lot about the different markets around the world, but I still haven’t been very successful at getting things to happen. I’m not sure why exactly, it could be a language issue (our website is not translated into languages other than English neither are portions of the resulting app), it could be my approach, our product, or some combination of all three. I have managed to have some interesting email conversations with some of these companies, as well as the odd Skype meeting (which has been very interesting) but nothing concrete as of yet.

I close with a tweet that I think is great and sums up much of my feelings on the matter:

The astute among you will recognize both the chart and the tweet from a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago at work.