Sunday, 2 June 2013

Mobile cloud trends: Apps let enterprises handle the risks of cloud computing

The overwhelming need to provide centralized management and security for multiple types of mobile devices is driving the increased adoption of mobile cloud computing and mobile cloud applications.

This is especially true for organizations adopting a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy. Over time, mobile devices will be able to access many of the traditional mission-critical business applications.

The growing acceptance of the mobile cloud has led to several notable trends in IT. Here's a rundown of those trends, the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing and some thoughts on how they might affect organizations going forward:

Cloud trends in mobile applications

Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm Gartner Inc. says that the mobile applications market is highly competitive and attracting the interest of many stakeholders. Gartner predicts that end users will spend about $15.9 billion on mobile applications in 2012, and those investments will in turn drive hardware sales and new technology innovation.

As the workplace becomes more mobile, with about 140 million smartphones and tablets entering companies in 2013 and more than 60% of enterprises endorsing BYOD strategies, custom mobile apps will emerge as a way for corporations to streamline how they do business.

A survey by AppCentral shows that about 19% of enterprises have in-production app stores. Enterprise applications stores are the direct result of BYOD strategies. Companies such as CDW and General Electric have implemented private stores to help take the burden off IT to move apps to individual devices or upload each application to a public app store.

Because more than 60% of corporations are implementing BYOD strategies, according to some estimates, many different types of mobile devices may be in use within a single corporation. It is too costly to provide native apps for all of these different types of devices, paving the way for mobile cloud apps that can be built once and used with many different mobile devices.

New technologies such as HTML5 and jQuery Mobile are enabling mobile cloud applications developers to build apps with more polish. Mobile cloud apps have the big advantage that they can run on many mobile device platforms that have standards-compliant Web browsers and are much less expensive to build.

Mobile hybrid apps are being used in those cases where on-device features are needed but the mobile cloud app is the preferred mobile app choice. A hybrid app is one that is written with the same technology used for Web apps and mobile Web apps, but is hosted or runs inside a native container on a mobile device. A Web-to-native abstraction layer enables access to on-device features that are not accessible in mobile Web apps.

Independent retailers will begin creating public app stores. BestVendor and Listio are examples of two directory sites that could grow to compete with Apple.

Mobile cloud trends

In the near future, as developers move away from native apps, the world will see more consumer applications built as mobile cloud applications -- software that resides in the cloud but is accessed via an interface or browser on a mobile device.

The rise of mobile cloud applications can be attributed to the rising cost of deploying and supporting native applications and the fact that development tools are getting better all the time. HTML5 and CSS3 adoption is on the rise, making it easier to design and build mobile cloud apps. Basically, an HTML5 specification tells a Web browser what to display and a CSS3 specification tells the Web browser how to display it.

According to Gartner, corporate employees using smartphones and tablets for business purposes represent about 75% of the mobile cloud app market. The mobile cloud app market is expected to exceed $9 billion by 2014.

For more on mobile cloud computing

Learn to create the right cloud environment for mobile application development

Get the developer's perspective on mobile cloud applications vs. native applications

Corporations are getting pressure from their customers to build mobile cloud apps or make existing applications available via mobile devices. If they fail to do so, they are in danger of losing ground to competitors.

Mobile network operators (MNOs), such as Vodafone and Verizon, and other cloud vendors such as Global One are entering the mobile marketplace with mobile clouds that compete with other non-MNO vendors.

The resource-poor nature of mobile devices is driving the adoption of mobile cloud computing. Mobile apps are becoming more powerful as processing power is offloaded from mobile devices to the mobile cloud. Mobile devices that are 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) compatible, which support bandwidth intensive apps and reduce latency issues, are helping to open markets for mobile cloud apps.

Security is a continuing issue for adopters of mobile technology. Some companies believe the risk of using mobile devices to access and update corporate data is too high. As a result, some companies allow mobile devices read-only access to corporate data, but not write access. Other companies, such as some financial institutions, allow customers to update their accounts using mobile devices. Authentication mechanisms are available to control how mobile cloud apps use data, locking down sensitive proprietary data while making less risky data more available.

A new approach to security for protecting mobile devices from malware and intruders is being examined. With this approach, multiple mobile cloud protection engines (virtual servers) run security programs that analyze a device activity file that each mobile device periodically uploads to them. Each mobile device has a software agent program installed to create the activity file. This approach promises to provide much better security for mobile devices than with a mobile device running a single security program.

Mobile clouds centralize the management and security of mobile devices, placing mobile device users into a safer, more controlled environment. This is being driven by the plethora of mobile devices of differing types, with different operating systems.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Article: How Wearable Computing Will Change Everything, Including Apple

> How Wearable Computing Will Change Everything, Including Apple
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> Sent from my iPad

Monday, 1 April 2013

Location Data Can Uniquely Identify Cellphone Users

A new study demonstrates how easy it is to identify people from the location-tracking data on their cellphones. 

Location Tracking
Location Tracking Rendering by Christine Daniloff/MIT of an original image by Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye et al.
Just a few data points from a location-tracking cellphone are enough to identify most people, a new study found. It doesn't matter if those data are "anonymized" so they aren't linked to any identifiers such as address or phone number. Just four random points are enough to put names to 95 percent of the anonymized users in a cellphone database.
The study fits in with growing evidence that fairly publicly available data—cellphone location data is open to many location-tracking apps, for example—is not as anonymous as you might think.
The research team, including technology researchers from the U.S., Belgium and Chile, looked at 15 months' worth of location data from 1.5 million cellphone users in a "small European country." The data weren't particularly detailed. They simply tagged people by their closest cellphone tower once an hour. Many apps get similar data from Apple and Android.
The team then figured out the math to identify 95 percent of the phone-users from just four randomly selected data points. Given 11 data points, they could identify all of the users.
The danger of being able to identify cellphone users so easily is that you could deduce some pretty private information just from where people go. You could see if someone attends certain religious or political meetings, visits an HIV/AIDS or reproductive clinic, or hangs out with an ex or a business rival.
At the same time, cellphones and smartphone apps aren't about to give up tracking their users' locations. Looking at my own phone, it's hard to identify which apps don't track my location (The AllRecipes Dinner Spinner, maybe?) Sometimes I really appreciate the geo-location, like when I'm looking for a nearby restaurant, or lost in the city.
The new study's authors don't come down hard on one side or another. "This formula is something that could be useful to help the debate and decide, okay, how do we balance things out, and how do we make it a fair deal for everyone to use this data?" Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, one of the study's authors and a doctoral student at MIT's Media Lab, told MIT News.
De Montjoye and his colleagues published their work in the journal Scientific Reports.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Tablet computers

Difference Engine: Smaller still is smarter

Jan 1st 2013, 20:25 by N.V. | LOS ANGELES


WHO really needs a tablet computer? Fashionable as they are, such devices are neither fish nor fowl. Even when fitted with a fast cellular connection, tablets still make terrible telephones. And lacking a proper keyboard, a serious amount of storage and professional-grade applications, they cannot compete with even the lightest of laptops when it comes to getting work done.

Fortunately, for Apple and other tablet makers, the public thinks otherwise. Some 122m tablets were reckoned to have been bought in 2012—a figure that IDC, a market-research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts, expects to grow to 172m during 2013. Meanwhile, Apple's world-wide share of the tablet market (currently around 54%) is continuing to slip as Android tablets (now 43%) catch up fast and Microsoft flexes its muscles. Android tablets will knock iPads off their perch this coming year, forecasts Finvista Advisors of Hyderabad, India.

Last year, your correspondent was one of the millions who hoped an iPad would meet all his online needs. He was thrilled with everything about the device except its size. After a month of ownership, he went back to taking a laptop on his travels. The iPad has since been relegated to doing casual duty in the living room.

With a screen measuring 9.7 inches (24.6 cm) along a diagonal, the iPad is way too big to fit in a pocket. Though it is lighter than a MacBook Air, that still means carrying a shoulder bag to stuff it into for convenience and safe keeping. Which makes toting a tablet just as much of a hassle as lugging a laptop, but without the latter's better keyboard, faster processor and greater storage capacity.

Imagine, then, the delight on hearing news last summer about Apple's forthcoming iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch screen. Perhaps, finally, there would be a pocket-sized gizmo capable of fulfilling the role your correspondent's sorely missed palmtop computers played in the past. With their six-inch screens, scaled-down keyboards and instant-on performance, palmtops from the 1990s onwards offered little more than two-fingered typing and wimpy wireless connections. But their great saving grace was that, being genuinely pocket-sized, users took them literally everywhere. For reporting on the run, such portability was hard to beat. Your correspondent, living half-way around the world, even slept with his palmtop under the pillow, to check e-mail and news during the night.

When the iPad Mini hit the shelves in early November, therefore, he was waiting eagerly with dozens of other enthusiasts for the local Apple Store to open. But, despite half an hour of hands-on experience, he actually left without buying one. A couple of weeks later, he accepted the inevitable and ordered a Nexus 7 tablet from Google with its Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system (since upgraded to 4.2).

The biggest disappointment about the iPad Mini was its surprising lack of innovation. For those grown accustomed to Apple always stunning and delighting by ratcheting up the level of technology with each new product, a device that comes with innards based on aging (obsolete?) hardware is a serious let down. All the more so when the customer is expected to pay a whopping two-thirds premium ($329 vs $199) over comparable devices from other respected makers.

The Mini's touch-screen display, for instance, uses technology from Apple's pre-Retina era, dating back to iPads of two generations ago. The Mini's dual-core processor, with its stingy 512 megabytes of random-access memory (RAM), was lifted from an iPad that went on sale back in March 2011. Its graphics engine is also two generations out of date. By no stretch of the imagination could the iPad Mini be called cutting-edge stuff.

In an era when tablet designs are refreshed at least every six months, users today should expect nothing less than a quad-core processor, one gigabyte of RAM, and a screen resolution offering a good deal more than a paltry 163 pixels per inch (ppi). The seven-inch displays on Android tablets like Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD both provide 216 ppi. Barnes and Noble's ground-breaking Nook HD delivers 243 ppi. And Apple's own Retina display is capable of 264 ppi on a full-sized iPad and a stunning 326 ppi when crammed into an iPhone 5.

The Mini's only redeeming feature is its exquisite packaging, being a quarter thinner and weighing less than half as much as its bigger sibling. Even so, one cannot help but think that the late Steve Jobs—had he ever been persuaded (doubtful) to bless a four-fifths-sized iPad—would not have allowed the Mini out of the door in its present state. Nor, for that matter, would he have permitted a half-baked product like Apple Maps to see the light of day. Perhaps there is some truth in the claim that, in the absence of Jobs, Apple is now more interested in litigation than innovation. If so, it is a sad day for all who have championed the company for its creativity and pursuit of excellence.

Those disappointments, and more, your correspondent might have excused if only the Mini had been a little narrower. At 5.3 inches wide, it is still too bulky to hold comfortably in one hand, and way too wide to fit in a pocket. That means lugging it around in a case, just like its bigger brother. In comparison, seven-inch Android tablets like the Nook, Fire and Nexus measure five inches or less across, making them far easier to grasp in one hand—and capable of being carried in an inside or back pocket.

The Mini's size problem stems from the 4:3 aspect ratio of the original iPad—a format inherited from old-fashioned cinema screens, cathode-ray television sets and computer monitors from days gone by. As such, it remains a handy shape for displaying web pages. But it wastes precious screen area when showing films and videos, leaving large black "letterbox" bars top and bottom.

By contrast, practically all seven-inch Android tablets have adopted the 8:5 aspect ratio of today's wide-screen television sets and flat-panel displays. Apart from being close to the "golden ratio" of 1.62:1, based on a logarithmic spiral and beloved of renaissance artists and modern designers alike, the modern display format uses the screen area more efficiently, especially when showing video.

There is a good reason why Apple has stuck with the iPad's boxy format. The 275,000 gorgeous apps that have been composed especially for the iPad would have had to be rewritten if the Mini had a screen of different proportions. Android tablets with seven-inch displays can get away with simply scaling-up the 700,000 or so apps developed for Android phones of similar proportions.

Those Android apps would, of course, look a lot better if, like the iPad's, more of them had been written specifically for a tablet's bigger screen. But the point is that apps developed for Android phones with four-inch screens are good enough when scaled up and mapped over the high resolution seven-inch displays used by the Nook, Fire and Nexus.

Your correspondent lives in hope that Apple's next edition of the Mini will have a true seven-inch screen and the 16:9 proportions of the new iPhone 5. That would be a real one-handed, pocket-sized tablet that could double as an e-reader for books at bedtime. He would carry such an iPad everywhere and even sleep with it under the pillow. In the meantime, the Nexus 7—with its flawless multitasking, top-notch notification scheme and more than adequate apps—will do just nicely, thank you.