Mobile Links for week ending April 5, 2014

An analysis of apps in the Apple App store by price, ratings, etc. Some interesting insights, including that 60% of the apps in the app store have no ratings.

WWDC 2014 tickets will be offered via a lottery You have until 10am PDT April 7 to register for a chance to attend, and people will be notified that evening. Given the limited size of the conference, which has maxed out at 5000 attendees to maintain a 5 attendees-per-Apple-engineer ratio, this is my first chance to go in years.

This analysis of Apple’s Arm processor micro architecture suggests that there is a lot of untapped power that iOS apps aren’t using yet.

This new tool provides a quick way to generate code to animate iOS transitions.

With Amazon’s new Fire TV and a rumored new offering from Google soon, this may very well be the year that iOS apps move to the Apple TV. The LA Times compares the current crop of TV boxes here.

Clearly the streaming media race is heating up: Amazon is rumored to be going after Spotify with a new streaming subscription service soon.

Speaking of Spotify, their newest version on iOS is beautifully designed, and very in-line with the iOS 7 aesthetic, with a content-forward look-and-feel. I haven’t had time to completely explore it, but really like what I see so far.

Microsoft has announced Cortana, their answer to Siri and Google Now. While the reference to the character from Halo probably resonates with the Xbox crowd, it seems like an obscure choice to pick for an already underdog mobile platform. I had no idea who Cortana was myself, having never played Halo. The interesting thing about the feature is that it’s powered by Bing — this may be the time for Bing to actually shine, the Bing team has some great technology that has been largely ignored, but maybe mobile is the right venue.
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WWDC 2012 Sell-Out – sign of platform health, or symptom of bigger issues?

It’s very disappointing that the WWDC announcement occurred the way it did. So far, my developer’s account still hasn’t even received an official announcement from Apple, and being on the West Coast, the conference was sold out before I woke up.

This is more of a problem for Apple than just a few disappointed developers in California, though. Lack of reliable information about iOS slows the adoption of new features, and the biggest value of WWDC is the hands-on labs. While user uptake of 5.0 is very high (over 80% of the install base), developers need time and information to absorb new features. The iOS announcements at WWDC are also largely under NDA, leaving developers no way to share information until the official release.

The model of holding one conference close to Cupertino and driving 1000 engineers to Moscone for a week is not sufficiently scalable for today’s developer demand. In the past, Apple has done some road shows where they send people to major cities to talk up their new technologies, but even that is an unreasonable amount of scarcity. The development forums and Apple’s current paid support structure are very hard to search and navigate, and the forums are very light on things like submission policies, acceptance, etc. The large media company I’m currently working for has dedicated Developer Relations support, and even they have issues getting answers; you can imagine what it’s like for smaller developers who don’t.

I think it’s high time for Apple to build and staff permanent dedicated Developer Relations Centers in key cities. These should be staffed with working software engineers (not just evangelists) who can provide detailed help with tools, libraries, and policies, and escalate tougher problems to Cupertino. These places could also be a great focal point for training classes and other services to developers.

Another way they could mitigate the information gap might be to provide developer services at key Apple Stores, with features like a regular schedule of talks, a showcase of apps developed by local developers, and a Developer’s Genius Bar to help navigate questions about the HIGs, content standards, and other policies. More importantly, it gives Apple a much better way to listen to the community and prioritize new features and policies. This is a very low-cost and low-risk way for Apple to do developer outreach.

Waiting for Steve

Headed to the WWDC keynote line shortly. Even this year, when there appears to be no large hardware announcement lined up, nobody is taking chances. Macrumors reported 30 people in line 11pm last night.

The WWDC hall makes it obvious what the focus is this year: Lion plus iOS plus iCloud. With emphasis on the plus, I suspect. Much speculation abounds about all of these, but from the conference schedule so far, there seems to be a push to unify interfaces between iOS and Lion above and beyond what we’ve been told so far. Things that used to be presented on separate tracks, like UI design, etc. now are joint iOS/Lion sessions.

The Mac App Store already seems to be pulling developers from iPhone into iOS proper now, so it looks like they are dissolving the walls between the platforms. One dead giveaway is that they appear to be changing the UI layout system to something that will be much more resolution-independent.

There are some 32 sessions scheduled that are TBA, which means they are about stuff that will be announced in the keynote. Some of those sessions are scheduled to be given more than once due to room capacity and scheduling conflicts.

Stuff I’m hoping for:

  • a killer update to Apple’s HTML5 authoring tools — iAd Composer and Dashcode have a lot already, let’s get them unified into something that will really kill Flash.
  • a framework for syncing apps between mobile devices, desktop, etc. using the cloud.
  • Apps on Apple TV.
  • Better notifications on iOS 5, along with some sort of home-screen capability

Anyway, off to brave the cold.