Windows 10: Microsoft Take Step To Streamline Windows

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Microsoft skipped a number … and took its first steps to streamline the entire Windows operating system.

Microsoft was widely expected to announce Windows 9 today, the successor to its much-maligned Windows 8 operating system that introduced the “Modern” (formerly Metro) user experience dominated by a Start Screen instead of a Start Button of previous versions of Windows. Windows 8 (and later Windows 8.1) features a dual “Classic/Modern” interface that was both contrived and confusing. Microsoft only updates its Windows operating system about once every three years, so 2015 was widely expected to be time for Windows 9 that was expected to answer some of Redmond’s perplexing user experience questions.

But Microsoft opted to skip past Windows 9 and has announced Windows 10, coming to the public mid-year 2015.

Windows 10 for PCs and laptops skips the dual-persona noise of Windows 8, focusing on bringing enterprise-grade tools and experience. It combines the user experience of Windows 7 for keyboard and mouse users with elements of the Modern user interface for Windows 8. Microsoft promises that all of the user interface of Windows 7 apps that businesses have come to know will be able to work in Windows 10. At the same time, Modern apps will still be supported in Windows 10.

It is a bit of a reversal for Microsoft. In Windows 8, the default mode has been the Modern touch mode with the desktop hidden and Classic apps hidden in the background. For PCs and laptops, Classic style will now be the default, with Modern UI support tacked to the backend.

The Start Screen has been eschewed on Windows 10 for PCs, replaced by a new and improved Start Button that brings elements of both the classic and Modern Windows user interface. Essentially, the new Start Button looks like the button from Windows 7 with a flat “hubs and tiles” Modern interface tacked on to the side.

Microsoft is not completely ditching its touchscreen users on two-in-one tablet/laptops though, bringing a new Start Screen to touch users. It is the inverse of the new Start Button in Windows 10, with the Start Screen coupled with elements of the button tacked to the left side of the screen.

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Two Great Reasons To Update Your Apps To iOS 8

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Apple has presented one astounding reason for developers to get moving upgrading their apps to iOS 8: in its opening weekend of sales, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sold 10 million units in stores.

Apple broke its previous opening weekend iPhone sales and said it could have done even better if its supply chain could have kept up with consumer demand. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are expected to be available in 115 countries by the end of 2014.

Apple is setting itself up for a monster fourth quarter as consumers gear up for the holiday sales season. The fourth quarter has long been Apple’s best quarter with record iPhone sales. Demand seems to be as high or higher than it has ever been for the iPhone with the two new larger models.

Outside of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sales, Apple is seeing accelerated adoption of iOS 8 to old iPhones and iPads. According to mobile analytics firm Mixpanel, 30.95% of all iOS traffic is now coming from iOS 8 just five days after its official release.

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Given the surge in iPhone sales and the adoption of iOS 8, developers have a distinct incentive to update their apps or build new ones that take advantage of the more than 4,000 new application programming interfaces in iOS 8. The addressable market for iOS 8 apps has gone from zero to tens of millions in a little less than five days. Smart developers and entrepreneurs will be ahead of that trend.

To get priorities straight, Mixpanel also breaks down the adoption of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (as a percent of overall iOS traffic it tracks). The iPhone 6 is outselling the iPhone 6 Plus by a fairly large margin. As of Monday morning, September 22, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is garnering 2.74% of all iPhone traffic while the iPhone 6 Plus only registers 0.52%.

The discrepancy between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is likely attributable to two factors: Apple supply chain issues for the larger device and consumer demand for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. Everybody that has seen the iPhone 6 Plus has remarked that it is a beautiful smartphone, but it really is very big. Samsung has seen similar reactions to its large-screened Galaxy Note smartphones as has Nokia with the immense Lumia 1520. Phones that fall into the “phablet” category have definitive addressable markets, but often see sales lag behind smartphones in the 4.7-inch to 5-inch range.

The App Developers Guide To Winning iOS 8

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Every year, Apple performs one of the major miracles of modern technology: it flips a switch and ships a brand new version of its iOS operating system to hundreds of millions of people at once.

Apple has sold nearly 800 million iOS devices since 2007, many of those within the last couple of years. A conservative estimate of the potential user base of iOS 8 is perhaps 500 million, when considering the churn of people who upgrade their iPhones and iPads every few years.

Less than a day after the public launch of iOS 8, about 16.3% of all iOS traffic is coming from iOS 8, according to mobile analytics firm Mixpanel. By our conservative estimates, that means around 81.5 million people have already downloaded iOS 8. By early next week, more than 200 million people will have downloaded iOS 8.

So, no pressure or anything … but is your app ready for the latest version of iOS?

If you’re not, don’t worry. Developers often wait until the newest version of iOS is released before deciding on how they will take advantage of the latest features in the platform. In a short survey by Applause, 45.5% of developers had not yet begun preparing for iOS 8 shortly before its Gold Master was released.

To help guide you through all the new features in iOS 8 for developers, we’ve written a comprehensive ebook, “The App Developers Guide To Winning iOS 8.” In this new ebook we break down the new opportunities developers have around iOS 8 App Extensions, Handoff and all the new developer kits for health, fitness, photos and iCloud. Everything you need to know about iOS 8 app development, we have it in our new ebook.

If you’re curious about what’s new in iOS 8 or have specific questions about Apple’s latest operating system, download the book here.

Snafu For iOS 8 At Launch

You don’t ship a new version of anything to hundreds of millions of people without some significant issues.

The complaint users have with the iOS 8 launch in 2014 is that it is just too darn big. Users that are trying to install iOS 8 over the air need between 4.6 GB and 6.9 GB of free space (depending on your version of iPhone or iPad) on their device to get the update. For people that have 8 GB or 16 GB iPhones, that means that they have to delete nearly all their apps, pictures and music to get iOS 8 loaded onto their devices.

Many users have been able to mitigate the need for free data on their devices by downloading iOS 8 through the iTunes client on Mac or PC computers. iOS 8 still requires significant free space if downloaded through a computer, but not nearly as much as the over-the-air update.

Users and developers will eventually forgive and forget this latest transgression. They always do and new Apple continues to sell more iPhones every year. AntennaGate, The Fappening, iMessage and so forth … even when Apple does wrong, its customers and developers still buy smartphones and build apps.

Apple Watch: What We Know … And What We Don’t

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The iWatch from Apple is real. Apple went no-holds-barred in the announcement of its Apple Watch, a new wearable computer that is packs more features and functions than anybody could have rightfully predicted before it was announced.

Apps, dials, touch, voice, Siri, health, fitness, communications, drawing, emoji … Apple had the mother of all gee-whiz on stage demos during the Apple Watch announcement yesterday. From a 1,000-foot view, it is very impressive.

Until you realize that we actually don’t know anything about the Apple Watch.

Outside of the announcement and stage demonstration, Apple didn’t let anybody actually try out the watch during the hands-on period after the announcement. Apple had models wearing it running on treadmills, some fancy setups with a looping video and likely plenty of “look but don’t touch” Apple employees hovering over the available demonstrations.

We don’t yet know how apps will be made for the Apple Watch. We don’t know if they will be a form of app extension or custom-built apps through the WatchKit framework that Apple announced. The developer documentation and outlines for WatchKit has not yet been published to Apple’s iOS Developer Portal, so we do not yet know anything specific about the Apple Watch and how its apps will work. Apple has promised that developers will be able to make native apps for the Apple Watch starting in 2015.

Apple’s approach to the smartwatch market is directly opposite from that of Google. In Android Wear, Google announced its design guidelines and released a design primer in March, well before the official announcement of Android Wear at the Google I/O developer conference in late June. The software came before the devices, which we are now waiting to be released and iterated upon by manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Motorola.

Apple has a device, but no software … yet. The early 2015 release of the Apple Watch will effectively serve as the beta period for iOS developers to build Watch apps, when Apple does release the WatchKit documentation. We also know little about the internal components of the Apple Watch or what the battery life will be.

What do we know about the Apple Watch? Mostly, just the features that Apple announced which, on surface level, are quite impressive for a smartwatch. Let’s take a look.

Not One Watch, But Six

Really, Apple didn’t just announce one watch, it announced six. The Apple Watch comes in three varieties, each of which will come in two different sizes— 38 mm and 42 mm. The standard Apple Watch is scheduled to come out in early 2015. Apple also announced the Watch Sport and the Watch Edition built specifically for activity and style, respectively.

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Wednesday Webinar: “Making Your App Useable: Remote Unmoderated Is The Future Of Mobile Testing”

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Join us on Wednesday for the first of a two-part webinar series around usability testing.

Usability testing extended outside the lab to where users live, work and play empowers companies to deliver winning mobile experiences. Remote unmoderated testing isn’t a nice-to-have methodology that complements traditional usability testing; it’s an essential component of usability testing and represents the future of usability testing for mobile.

During this webinar you will discover:

  • How to build a world-class mobile usability testing strategy
  • Why remote unmoderated testing is the future of mobile usability testing
  • Mobile usability testing best practices that all companies need to embrace today

Join our Lead Usability Expert, Inge De Bleecker next Wednesday, September 17th at 1PM EDT to discover why remote unmoderated is the future of mobile testing.

Register for our webinar today!

Apple Makes Big Entrance Into Mobile Payments With Apple Pay

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Editor’s Note: This article comes from our friends at Prolific Interactive, a digital agency in San Francisco and Brooklyn that provides design, strategy and engineering to companies for mobile product development. The article was authored by Russ Wallace, managing director of Prolific Interactive in San Francisco. It has been republished here with permission.

Apple announced today its NFC payment system, Apple Pay. We expect it to take mobile commerce mainstream, so below is a quick recap of the announcements and some of our takeaways.

Key Announcements Regarding Apple Pay

– Apple Pay comes with every iPhone 6 & iPhone 6+ (the two models introduced today). While this means all currently existing iPhones will not support Apple Pay, adoption of new iPhones is very fast: in the US, the iPhone 5S and 5C represented over 5% of all active iOS devices just one month after release. We should see similar adoption with the iPhone 6 models.

– Support for Apple Pay launches in October 2015 in the US, with international support coming later.

– Activating payments on Apple Pay is powered by NFC (more on NFC below), which is supported in 220,000 retail locations around the US already. The user will simply tap their phone against an NFC payment terminal and then (optionally) swipe their fingerprint to use Touch ID for authentication.

– Security is handled via the new Secure Element chip, which means that no payment info is actually shared with merchant (more on security & privacy below).

– The API will be available for developers in iOS 8, expected to be released around the same time as the iPhone 6 (September 16).

Apple’s Support For NFC Could Mean Big Things

NFC stands for “near-field communications,” a radio transmission protocol based on RFID technology that allows your phone to communicate with nearby devices. NFC is notable for its low power requirements but also its small range of communication (typically only a few centimeters). It gained popularity with Android users and overseas markets, but prior to the iPhone 6 NFC has not been supported in Apple devices.

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6 Things You Need To Know About The iPhone 6

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Bigger and bolder, Apple has finally embraced the large screen. Apple latest iPhones were announced today and it comes in two variants: the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Each is bigger  and more powerful than any iPhone Apple has ever made.

In its announcement today, Apple referred to the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus at the greatest phones every made. It is a bit of hyperbole that Apple has been prone towards in its iPhone announcements through history, a legacy of the late Steve Jobs. But nearly everything about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is bigger and badder, a worthy successor to Apple’s smartphone franchise and likely to be the most sought-after gift this coming holiday shopping season.

What do you need to know about the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus? Let’s break it down.

Screen Size And Resolution

Apple has finally broken out of its mold and listened to what people want. Consumers want bigger screens on smartphones. Thus, mobile app developers want bigger screens on because that is what consumers want.

Well, Apple has delivered.

The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch screen with a 1334-by-750 screen that translates to 326 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Good news for developers, this is the exact same pixel count as the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S and iPad Mini with Retina Display.

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The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen with a 1920-by-1080 resolution with 401-ppi. The new pixels-per-inch count will be what developers are going to focus on because it is this metric that will directly effect what their existing apps will look like on larger screens. To this end, Apple has created a desktop-class scaler in the Xcode integrated developer environment to deal with all the new screen sizes and (limited) pixel variation among iOS devices. Apple also employs the Adaptive Layout feature introduced in iOS 7 (and advanced in iOS 8) to help developers make apps that fit any of its device sizes.

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Everything You Need To Build iWatch Apps May Already Be In iOS 8 Beta

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Apple’s iWatch is near. Apple is expected to make its entrance into the Arm Race tomorrow in conjunction with its announcement of the iPhone 6. The iWatch is expected to be beautiful and useful, integrating the core components of iOS 8 into its functional aesthetics.

If you have been developing new apps with the iOS 8 beta all through the summer, you may be skeptical that an iWatch is on the way. Nowhere in the documentation or developer libraries for iOS 8 is there a section that discusses smartwatch app development.

iWatch?! What iWatch?

Take a closer look at what is actually in iOS 8. If you have studied iOS 8 through the beta period this summer, there is a good chance that you already know everything you are going to need to build iWatch apps.

To note, the following description of how iWatch apps might work is a best guess based on the information we have before Apple announces the device or releases any developer documentation.

A Lesson From Android

It may seem counterintuitive, but how iOS handles iWatch apps may be well informed by how apps are developed for Android Wear.

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It Means More When Apple Does It

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“To ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception one should consider what practical consequences might result from the truth of that conception—and the sum of these consequences constitute the entire meaning of the conception.”  ~ Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, “the father of pragmatism,” in Maxim of Pragmatism, 1905.

It means more when Apple does it.

Apple is like a fickle journalist: if it doesn’t break the story, it may not cover the story at all. Apple has been the first to popularize the Mobile Revolution with technologies like the iPhone and iPad, biometric authentication with Touch ID and digital assistants with Siri. At the same time, Apple has ignored innovations until they matured, coming late to the party on Near Field Communications and 4G LTE. Apple is methodical and thoughtful by nature, striking at soft spots in the competitive landscape and disregarding others until the time is right.

This week Apple will reportedly dive headlong into two industries that entrepreneurs have been trying to disrupt for decades yet Apple has seemingly ignored: health and payments. With the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 Apple has a chance to succeed in these two massive (and massively frustrating) industries where near every other technology company has failed.

Why? Let’s call it the Essence of Apple.

Apple does two things that are endemic to its worldview that will be effective in disrupting the health and payments markets: 1) it is extraordinarily pragmatic and; 2) it is one of the most revered and respected brands in the world.

Branding plus pragmatism (backed up by one of the biggest corporate war chests in history) allows Apple the chance to take its time and make the most effective entrance into difficult-to-penetrate industries, starting this week with payments and health.

Apple & Health

Fundamentally, I think that Apple will have a hard time of penetrating the health market through the use of consumer technology. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t done everything it can do to succeed.

We’ve already seen Google go down the health road with its now-discontinued Google Health software only to flame out miserably before shutting down the service in 2011. A countless number of startups across the United States have tried to break into the health market, only to find a backwards industry that doesn’t want to change, a government that implements draconian (and necessary) regulation on health-related information sharing and entrenched, wealthy interests that can crowd out any up-and-comer.

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Microsoft’s Cortana Gets Smart In Lumia Denim Update

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Windows Phone 8.1 is getting an update for the first timesince its public release that introduced the Cortana digital assistant in April. Announced at the IFA conference in Berlin this morning, Microsoft is planning on giving Windows Phone a series of competitive features to battle Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android this fall.

In tandem with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, Microsoft is also rolling out Lumia Denim, a new software update exclusively for Nokia Lumia devices. Foremost among the new features is a “Hey Cortana” feature that allows users to activate the digital assistant with their voice without pushing a button. Voice activation has been available in Android smartphones for a couple of years while Apple’s Siri is getting voice activation with iOS 8.

In addition to Denim, Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 brings updates to Cortana, making it available to the United Kingdom and China as a beta release and India, Canada and Australia as an alpha. Cortana will have improved natural language recognition, car kit integration for contacts through Bluetooth, calendar improvements and snooze reminders for alarms.

According to Nokia Conversations blog, Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 will include several new features in addition to the improvements to Cortana:

  • Live folders to organize apps into tile folders on the homescreen.
  • Customized Start screen where only specific apps or games are available.
  • The ability to select individual text messages to merge into a message stream, delete or forward.
  • Customizable snooze times in the alarm app.
  • Consumer facing VPN service for public and home Wi-Fi.
  • Improved download speeds from websites using Internet Explorer.
  • A live tile for the Windows Phone Store in the United States that shows featured apps.

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