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"technology" 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.

How Mobile Devices are Shaping Websites and Software - Part 2

30th July 2015

In 'Part 1' of this article we talked about how mobile devices have changed the way we use and access information on the web. Here we will discuss the historical shifts in popular technology trends.

The problem (and the thrill) for technology companies trying to keep pace with the speed of innovation is that the fundamental drives and habits of consumers alter as new 'disruptive technologies' become available. As it is very, very hard to predict what the next habits of mainstream society will be, large companies need to gamble, or risk losing out to smaller, innovative businesses - of course, the bigger they are, the further they have to fall!

desktop computer and various other devices

An example of a major, historical technological shift was IBM's misjudgement of the importance of the pc. In the early 1980's, the company was the leader in the IT market - in both software and in hardware. They then approached 19 year-old college drop-out, Bill Gates who was a co-founder of Microsoft, to provide them with an operating system; the way history progressed could have been very different, had they not allowed the young Gates to maintain property rights of his product. Nobody at IBM expected the pc market to grow as it did. The company regarded pc's as an exciting gadget, not the direction of the future. Their choice to instead focus on mainframe computers (powerful commercial computers for various large-scale applications) preordained their near demise - they failed to profit as desktop computers increased in popularity and in 1993, IBM created a media storm when it reported massive financial losses. The reasons behind this were cited as a combination of increased competition and a changing market.

Another of the largest technological revolutions to date revolves around Microsoft's rival, Apple. In 1997 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, but was ironically saved when Microsoft invested $150 million in the company. Microsoft's thinking behind the move was partially to prevent accusations of monopolizing the pc market but also to continue its promise of developing Mac versions of its software. Of course Apple then created its own innovative market opportunity by focusing on mobile devices: creating the i-phone and the i-pad. This takes us to our present day situation, where Microsoft has been left behind for not adapting to the mobile trend in time. In a startling change of fortunes, Apple is now the world's most valuable company.

As awareness of the nature and increasing frequency of disruptive technologies increases, companies realize that to stay relevant they need to predict future trends. As part of their search for direction, Microsoft have made an attempt to bridge the gap between various mobile devices and pcs/laptops and to consequentially win back pc users: the new "touch-first" operating system which could run on any platform: Windows 8. As you're almost certainly aware, there was a fair amount of media criticism when this OS first hit the shelves... Part 3 of our article will analyize the positives and negatives of Microsoft's latest operating system Windows 8.

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