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"trends" category

How Mobile Devices are Shaping Websites and Software - Part 3

13th October 2015

In part 3 of this article we will focus on a case study which illustrates how difficult it is to predict what the next trend in popular technology will be by discussing the achievements and failures of what is possibly the most contentious operating system of all time - Microsoft's Windows 8.

In part 1 of this article, we alluded to the fact that the usage patterns of mobile devices are very different to those of desktop usage, so why make an OS that runs on both pc's and mobile devices? Critics of Windows 8, of which there are an abundance, claim that there was no benefit. They dismiss Windows 8 as the by-product of a panicked reaction by Microsoft to falling pc sales and profits.

When the software was first released, one of the first negative observations mentioned was that Windows 8 machines did not boot to the familiar desktop screen but to the touchscreen-friendly and contemporary looking 'start' screen called 'Metro'. Users were at first left with no explanation as to how to navigate this digital Mondrian painting: Steven Sinofsky, the lead decision-maker for Windows 8, mistakenly believed the radically new operating system was intuitive enough for new customers to use without explanation.

Only after months of condemnation and Sinofsky's departure from Microsoft was the option to boot to desktop made available in Windows 8.1 (a.k.a. Windows Blue) along with other legacy options loyal Microsoft customers were missing such as the start button and a beginners help tutorial to make Metro understandable. Conversely, more recently, some users who managed to navigate the original edition of Windows 8 have been angered by being forced to upgrade to 8.1. Suffice to say, substantial damage has been done to Windows 8's reputation and many people still find the transitional mechanism between Metro and the desktop clunky, especially on a pc.

Market figures point towards Windows 8 being a flop. Although license sales in the first six months equalled those of Windows 7, this was mainly due to an ultra-cheap introductory offer. Once the offer ended, license sales reduced rapidly. The rate of decline in pc sales wasn't dented by the new operating system, despite the heavy promotion, and some say it may have sped it up.

It is worth noting though, that tablet sales running on Windows 8 and Windows RT have done quite well, taking 7.5% of global sales. Although this is small compared to the 48.2% share for iPads and Android with 43.4%, it is still a reasonably respectable figure, considering the difficulties of competing with price and a lack of apps. Microsoft have also given no option for a mini-tablet, the current consumer favourite, although other manufacturers have now introduced mini-tablets running on Windows RT or Windows 8.1, such as the Dell Venue 8 Pro.

And finally, perhaps it's possible that Windows 8 could be paving the way for things to come: its design is revolutionary and it could take a few years for people to get accustomed to the change. Hybrid laptops/touchscreens such as Microsoft's  'Surface Pro 3' are becoming more affordable, compact and ergonomic and it's possible these may help Windows 8 win through in the end - it'll just be a case of waiting to see which route consumers take.

In the final part of this article we will explain the different methods of web design and find out what it means to make your website 'future proof'. We will also discuss the rapid growth of the app market.

Wristwatch computing - will it work?

13th February 2013

There has been a large amount of speculation very recently that Apple is working on a new wristwatch computer.

Of course, wristwatch computing is not new.  As far back as 1980, I was able to play with a wristwatch calculator (with bright red LEDs) which could perform very basic calculator functions including addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.  The buttons were fairly fiddly but it did the job.

Science fiction for a long time heralded wristwatch communication - from Dick Tracey to the Power Rangers - and that too has been a reality for a little while - LG for example brought out a wristwatch phone a couple of years ago.

But the universal computing/communication device has of course become the smart phone, which provides a screen big enough to see things on, and big enough to tap out messages.  Does it end there, or is there a 'next step' - onto the wrist?

Proponents of the technology may argue that with an ultra-high definition display, a wristwatch-sized device can still display useful information.  And that we don't need keyboards any more, given the ability for phones to recognise the human voice and act on it.

So if size is perhaps not an issue, what's to stop this new gadget becoming Apple's next massive hit? If anything, I'd say it's the inconvenience of having to have it on your wrist.  

Think about it - a phone can be in any position.  It can be propped up or held close when you're reading; it can sit on a car dashboard; it can be held at arms length when you're sitting on the tube with no room to move your elbows.  Having to move your arm to a particular position to use a device would effectively kill it for me.

Have you had any experiences with wrist computing?  Let us know!

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