Another mobile OS bites the dust

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The smartphone OS market is incredibly competitive, made up of just 3 main players. In the UK Android is in the lead with 51.9%, iOS in second with 39.5% and Windows in third with 8.2%, leaving just 0.4% for the rest of the market.

Firefox OS by Mozilla is one of these other OS’s, however this week Mozilla announced it is now throwing in the towel after just a few years of pushing FireFox OS on Smartphones. These were aimed at the low-end without great success. The OS will live on as an open source project but will cease to support smartphones as they were not able to offer “the best user experience possible”.

Firefox OS is not the first in exiting the smartphone market with other examples in smartphone history including: Symbian, Bada, MeeGo, Palm OS and WebOS.

There are also other current OS’s making up the ‘other’ category with Blackberry, Sailfish OS, Tizen and Ubuntu Touch.

Android was the latest introduced platform that has found large success, overtaking at-the-time most popular OS Symbian, back in 2010.

So why have we not seen any companies make a significant impact in the mobile market since Google’s entry with Android?

We’re seeing both a maturation of the smartphone landscape and costs of entry skyrocketing, even with these two large factors it is possible that the ‘other’ category could increase in market share instead of diminish over the next few years as we see more informed consumers looking elsewhere amongst the mature and arguably creatively stagnant platforms.

Microsoft gives founder of Acompli the reigns to Outlook

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In December 2014 Microsoft acquired mobile software developer Acompli for $200 million who had developed very popular and critically acclaimed email clients for iOS and Android. Shortly after the purchase Microsoft rebranded these to “Outlook” keeping the functionality and compatibility to other mail providers that critics originally praised.

The rebranded Outlook app has also seen critical success under Microsoft and Microsoft own Windows 10 mobile app currently in development shows signs of its inspiration.

Microsoft announced this week that Javier Soltero the founder of Acompli has been officially but in charge of Outlook on all platforms, including the web, smart phone, tablets and most importantly PCs.

Before Microsoft purchase Acompli Javier was used to a team of less than 75 so being put in charge of one of Microsoft most used applications must be a daunting task.

With the great critical praise and innovative design shown thus far, Javier lead versions of Outlook in the future is definitely one to watch. We are likely to see mobile only features such as the focused inbox make the jump to desktops and we are likely to see new innovations that only make sense with the larger screen real estate on the PC.

As interesting as this is for the future of Outlook, it is as interesting for Microsoft itself, Microsoft is showing they recognise great, unique talent, even if from outside the company until recently and letting them lead large and established products that may otherwise face complacency. Of course with any leadership shift this does introduce new risks but taking the opportunity to crucial to grow in a hugely competitive field.

3D scanning is coming to a smartphone near you

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3D scanning, used to make models which could be manipulated on a PC or printed on a 3D printer, requiring sophisticated depth-sensing cameras.  These 3D cameras can be both very expensive and much larger than a regular camera sensor, both traditionally being barriers to bringing the technology to mobile in a more mainstream way.

Microsoft, no stranger to 3D camera technology, has developed multiple commercial versions of its Xbox Kinect 3D motion camera and has shown off several prototypes on miniaturized, mobile versions of 3D cameras. They have now announced a new, software driven approach to bringing 3D scanning to the mass market called “MobileFusion”.

MobileFusion doesn’t rely on any special 3D hardware but is entirely driven by an app being developed for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The main focus for the app is to create digital versions of real life objects that can be then printed on a 3D printer.

The trick to using a single camera to capture depth is that it needs to be slowly moved around the object, so it does take longer to capture, however the cost and availability bonuses of the app should make this an exciting addition to the phone’s feature set.

The reason why this is a major step forward is that currently 3D scanners are very limited and conversely, most people own a smartphone.  This remarkable technology will let anyone capture digital copies of real world objects be it at a museum, outside, in home or in the office.

With many more 3D objects available and the power to create them at ease, 3D printing may get its shot at mainstream success beyond the current niches that have adopted the technology so far.

Microsoft focuses on cross platform play during Build 2015 conference

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Microsoft’s annual developer event ‘Build’ took place this week.  Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella took centre stage to introduce a slew of announcements to excite developers – and importantly grow the Windows ecosystem.

The theme of the show was cross-platform compatibility:

The first demo was ‘Docker’ – a tool that allows applications to be containerised on servers. The advantage being that they are more light weight requiring just the application, binaries and libraries instead of the guest OS as well.  They also showed off its true versatility with running Linux applications on a Windows server and vice-versa.

  • Microsoft also announced a new coding application called ‘Visual Studio Code’ launching and available on the same day for Windows, Linux and Mac – enabling developers a holistic platform with the same tools to code for free.
  • After servers and PCs the focus went to mobile but the theme stayed on compatibility. The strongest criticism of Microsoft’s phones has always been the app-gap with Windows Phone having fewer apps available than iPhone or Android.  Microsoft has announced its plan to make it as easy as possible for developers of apps on competing systems to bring them over to Windows.  On the Android side, Microsoft has including an Android sub-system into Windows 10 for phones, meaning developers can use the same android code and Windows Phone will direct the API calls to the Android sub-system whilst keeping the user interface Windows-like. For iPhone apps the converting is done via Visual Studio. Developers will be able to open an Apple Xcode project’s into Visual Studio which will the convert the apple specific API calls to Windows 10 equivalents.   Both these types of converted apps (Android and iPhone) will of course not only work on just Windows Phones but tablets, PCs and even the Xbox will be an option.

This altruistic approach to not just Windows but providing tools across competing platforms seems very anti-Apple – and a strategy that could play very well to budding developers worldwide. These are the same developers that drove the success of both iPhone and Android devices today. Microsoft will need the support of these developers if it hopes to succeed in its lofty goal of 1 billion devices running Windows 10 in its first three years!