Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mobile Ajax

Ajax has gained significant following as a way to create Rich Internet Applications (RIA). For discussion of various RIA technologies you can refer to my paper Rich Internet Applications Pick Up Where HTML Stops.

Mobile Ajax FAQ by Ajit Jaokar, Rocco Georgi and Bryan Rieger provides wealth of information on how Ajax applies to creation of mobile applications. The topics include (among others):
  • Is there a Mobile Ajax checklist/minimum requirements?
  • Why should one do Ajax on mobile phones / what problem does it solve?
  • What are the options to Mobile Ajax?
  • What existing Mobile Ajax frameworks, toolkits and libraries should I use?
  • Which browsers support Mobile Ajax?
  • What are the (current) hurdles in implementing and running Mobile Ajax applications?
FAQ gets into a good level of details and is a good read.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reading mobile blogs with Yahoo Pipes

There is no shortage of information sources for voracious readers. Domain of mobile software development is no exception. Quality and relevancy do vary of course. When it comes to the mainstream media I find Information Week and its Mobility Tech Center the most informative. Outside of traditional publications FierceMarkets and its sites – FierceWireless, FierceMobileContent and in particular Fierce Developer – offer the most relevant content.

You can subscribe to variety of sources with your favorite blog reader. Now Yahoo Pipes offers even easier access to information you want to access on regular basis. Pipes allows you to remix data feeds and create information mashups. You can combine information from multiple sources and create a single feed of information you are interested in.

As a quick experiment I created a feed combining the most recent items from this blog, FierceDeveloper and Information Week mobile blog. You can find result at

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mobile user experience by Google

Stephen Wellman from Information Week summarized talk by Google user experience designer Leland Rechis recently. You can find the write up at the InformationWeek's Mobile Weblog.

Here is the excerpt:

"Wellman breaks down mobile users into three behavior groups:
A. Repetitive now
B. Bored now
C. Urgent now

The repetitive now user is someone checking for the same piece of information over and over again, like checking the same stock quotes or weather. Google uses cookies to help cater to mobile users who check and recheck the same data points.

The bored now are users who have time on their hands. People on trains or waiting in airports or sitting in cafes. Mobile users in this behavior group look a lot more like casual Web surfers, but mobile phones don't offer the robust user input of a desktop, so the applications have to be tailored.

The urgent now is a request to find something specific fast, like the location of a bakery or directions to the airport. Since a lot of these questions are location-aware, Google tries to build location into the mobile versions of these queries."

The model looks good. The only change I would make is renaming "bored now" with "available now". "Bored now" suggests need to be entertained. "Available now" is much broader. It encompasses entertainment but also covers “I have a spare moment, I better use it productively” mindset.

The three behavioral models suggest three different categories of applications supporting specific user needs.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mobile Voice Recognition

Mobile devices have some annoying limitations. In particular, data input using tiny keyboards is cumbersome. Output capabilities and screen size are less of a problem. If you could only talk to the device and get results displayed on the screen you could make phones much more user friendly.

The topic of my master thesis was speech recognition using neural networks. It was a while ago - I will not mention the exact number of years :-). Technology has made a lot of improvements since then. Many companies have deployed speech recognition in call centers to replace traditional IVR systems and improve customer experience. Desktop products such as Dragon Naturally Speaking have been available for a number of years. Underlying standards such as VoiceXML have matured.

Speech recognition is also making progress in the mobile space. Nuance, the leading provider of speech solutions, is promoting its Mobile Speech Platform. Applications include mobile search and mobile messaging. Search responds to voice commands such as

“Find restaurant near Union Square, San Francisco”
“Weather in the Bay Area”
“Call Bob Tekiela”

Messaging combines dictation software with Text To Speech (TTS) engine enabling users to speak and/or listen to emails, IM or text messages.

Other companies working on mobile speech recognition include:
VoiceBox Technologies

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mobile Ruby

Ruby is rapidly gaining popularity in the crowded world of programming languages. Ruby on Rails web application framework in particular is getting recognized for its elegance, simplicity and shortened application development time. Computerworld has just listed it among “The Top Five Technologies You Need to Know About in '07”. Revolution Health, startup founded by Steve Case, is the most prominent recent example of a site built using it.

Ruby for Symbian OS is I believe the first attempt to make Ruby available to the developers of mobile applications. The languages has been ported to the OS and Symbian has started work on extending it with a set of mobile libraries.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Rollable Displays

I did not have the chance to participate in the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona last month. I did however check the mobile awards bestowed at the conference. There are quite a few prizes to receive in categories such as best game, best music service, best video service, best enterprise service, best handset etc. What stood out for me was the innovation award received by Polymer Vision, a spin out from Phillips.

Mobile devices, at least to the users accustomed to PCs with broadband connectivity, have a number of limitations:

  • limited screen real estate
  • cumbersome user input
  • constrained network bandwidth

Polymer Vision, with its rollable display, is addressing the first of these. The idea is to make a big screen available in a small device. The screen stays hidden in the device when not used. The user rolls it out when accessing the device. Rollable screens, rollable keyboards, high bandwidth, speech recognition are all on the wish list to make mobile devices easier to use. Polymer Vision is certainly helping to turn this vision into reality.

Do not rush to the store to buy a phone with a rollable screen yet. The company is planning to start manufacturing commercial quantities of the first generation, 5 inch displays this year. Telecom Italia is planning to market Cellular Book, the very first device using it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

iPhone Closed To Developers

The iPhone launch, as pretty much everything coming from Apple, created a lot of excitement. I am not going to go over the benefits, feature set etc. You can find it on the Apple site Apple site. Wikipedia also provides a good overview.

What is interesting to developers is that Apple called iPhone a “closed platform” which indicates that there will not be a public API. However interested parties can call Apple developer relations for more information. iPhone runs a stripped down version of OS X and it is certainly capable of running 3rd party applications. “Inside the iPhone: Third Party Software” offers a good discussion on the topic.

It appears that the iPhone will support 3rd party applications but only from partners approved by Apple. It certainly makes it more difficult for developers.

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