Edouard Plante from Nurun’s Montreal office also contributed to this article.
This is the fifth installment of the Nurun IT Download, with the latest news stories in the technology industry with insights from Nurun experts.
Google released Android 4.3 in July, which brought significant updates to the system, such as restricted profiles, Bluetooth low-energy support, enhanced graphics system (OpenGL ES 3.0) and 4k-resolution support. Google describes Android 4.4 as “an amazing Android experience available for everybody.”
The bottom line: While the partnership with KitKat—right before Halloween—is interesting from a marketing perspective, the idea of making the OS available to everybody hints at less fragmentation in future versions of the OS.
2. Intel Introduces Chip Optimized for iOT: Intel announced a new family of systems on a chip named “Quark” which will be significantly smaller and more energy efficient than the (still small) Atom family. These types of SoC (systems on a chip) will be very appropriate for Internet of Things devices and wearable electronics. Very few details were given by Intel, but the industry speculates that Intel might have decided to use the ARM architecture, which is used in the majority of mobile devices.
The bottom line: The Quark line may be an interesting alternative to Arduino for prototyping, and more importantly, industrializing Internet of Things ideas. However, the lack of details provided by Intel does not allow us to know if this could actually be useful in our projects, or if this will be reserved for higher end products such as smart watches.
3. iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C: Apple unveiled an update to their iPhone line with two new products: the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. The iPhone 5C is a cheaper version of the iPhone 5, with a redesigned exterior. The iPhone 5S offers a few new features such as a better camera, Touch ID for unlocking the phone with a fingerprint, a new 2x more powerful 64-bit processor (the first phone with 64-bit) and a new Motion Coprocessor, which enables the phone to track sensors without using the CPU, resulting in greater energy efficiency.
The bottom line:
4. Samsung Galaxy Gear: Samsung launched its first smart watch called the Galaxy Gear. The watch offers a 1.63-inch screen (320×320), a 1.9-megapixel wristband camera and can connect to your Galaxy smartphone, letting you take calls and read emails without taking your phone out of your pocket. The watch will launch on September 25th for an initial price of $300.
The bottom line: As manufacturers enter the smart watch market, we are seeing a similar set of features that all have the inconvenience of being hosted on a watch that is too large. The technology features of the watch are interesting, but we feel the market is ready for a truly innovative product.
5. Microsoft to Acquire Nokia: Microsoft is acquiring the device and service divisions of Nokia and will license their patents, enabling them to build their own phones. Microsoft will pay Nokia 3.79 billion euros ($4.99 billion) for the business, and 1.65 billion euros ($2.18 billion) for its patents.
The bottom line: This acquisition is Microsoft’s latest attempt at growing its mobile phone business. While the company’s OS is having a hard time gaining traction in the market, building their own branded phones will allow Microsoft to operate under a similar business model as its competitors. We just need to see if it’s going to be too little too late.
6. Xbox One and PS4 Will Launch in November: Sony has confirmed that their next generation console will launch on November 15th in North America and on November 29th in Europe. On the other side, Microsoft will celebrate the eighth year anniversary of the Xbox 360 by launching the Xbox One in 13 markets (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK, and USA) on November 22nd.
The bottom line: After trailing behind in pre-orders and in public opinion after E3, Microsoft surprised us by not trying to launch their product before their competitor. We are eager to try out both products, and will update you after the launch.
This is the second installment of the Nurun IT Download, with the latest news stories in the technology industry with insights from Nurun experts.
1. Yahoo! acquires Tumblr: Yahoo! and Tumblr reached an agreement over the purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made a clear statement in regards to the acquisition, promising “Not to screw it up.” At Tumblr it’s business as usual, with CEO David Karp staying in charge and no major changes being made in the near future.
The bottom line: Analysts see the acquisition as a chance for Yahoo! to get closer to the highly coveted teenage demographic. Increasing brand awareness through Tumblr looks like an interesting plus for Yahoo!, but it’s the long-term level of integration between the two services that will show us if the acquisition was a good move.
2. A closer look at the new Kinect: The new Microsoft Kinect, available with the Xbox One later this year, features many exciting technology advancements. Full HD cameras not only increase the current quality of skeleton detection, but also add features like the detection of subtle gestures, balance, joint rotations and heart rate. It will also support up to six users simultaneously through a larger field of view.
The bottom line: Microsoft confirmed on their technical blog that the SDK and Windows version of the device will be available in 2014. We should expect to see some interesting applications of the technology in retail settings, including interactive store displays and window installations.
3. Chrome introduces conversational search: Already available on Android through Google Now, Google has launched a Siri-like conversational search tool in version 27 of Chrome. You can now search Google using your voice, and Chrome will answer your questions. You can then continue to discuss the same subject using only pronouns.
The bottom line: As much as we want to be excited about this feature, there are still a lot of limitations that need to be addressed if it is to be used efficiently on a daily basis. Breakthroughs in voice recognition patterns will surely help, and it’s good to see Google continuing to work on new features that will continue to make the web more accessible.
4. WiFi network beats speed record: The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany managed to deliver 40 GB of data per second over a distance of roughly one kilometer using high frequencies (240 GHz).
The bottom line: As bandwidth requirements for movie streaming and gaming continue to increase, such as those needed for 4K digital movies, wireless technologies need to evolve to support these kinds of speeds. These kinds of results indicate that consumer technologies with higher wireless speeds will become available over the next few years.
5. A new smart lock for your home: The August Smart Lock is a Bluetooth Low Energy door lock that is controlled through an app. It allows the user to provide single or multiple entries to anyone with a smartphone over a specified period of time. The August Smart Lock will be available before the end of the year for $199.
The bottom line: Innovations like this continue to push the Internet of Things to new heights. We can see devices like the August Smart Lock being incredibly useful to those who use vacation and rental platforms like Airbnb.
6. Google introduces the HTC One Google Edition: After announcing the Galaxy S4 Google Edition at Google I/O, Google and HTC announced the HTC One Google Edition will go on sale starting June 26th. The highly praised phone will be available without the HTC Sense layer and will receive Android updates as quickly as Nexus phones.
The bottom line: Google is clearly changing its strategy concerning flagship phones for their mobile operating system. Making sure that the best Android phones are available with the stock version of the OS will clearly increase sales of those phones. It will be interesting to see how Google positions its Nexus phones after this.
7. Microsoft brings back the start button: After confusing customers by only displaying the start button when users navigated to the bottom left corner of the screen, Microsoft is reinstating the start button in Windows 8.1. Just as in the past, it will always be present in the corner.
The bottom line: It’s not easy for a company with such an established user experience to change things that are so central to their user base. Using Windows 8 installation rates as a base augment, it will be interesting to track the other changes Microsoft will need to make.
Recently, I had the chance to attend Live! 360 in Orlando, Florida, a four-in-one conference with presentations focused on Microsoft development (Visual Studio Live!), SQL server building, developing and managing (SQL Server Live!), SharePoint building, developing, implementing and managing (SharePoint Live!) and Cloud Computing (Cloud & Virtualization Live!).
On the whole, the presentations and keynotes were excellent, with my favourites being:
There are many more, but the list is too long to discus in-depth, so let’s focus on the first three listed above.
I knew of Rocky Lhotka from having read some of his articles, but had never seen him present at a Microsoft conference and I’m pretty happy that it is done now! Looking back on it, Rocky was by far my favourite presenter of the week (I’ve also got to give a mention to Stephen L. Rose – what a great pitch seller!). Rocky was really sticking to his point, was funny and really knew how to keep the crowd focused. He talked about the Windows 8 development platform and how Windows 7 developers will have to adjust their skills to follow the wave. Then, before getting in the code, he talked about the WinRT platform and its languages projections, application models and how development will now be more in sync to avoid performance bottlenecks and enhance the overall responsiveness of our applications. It was a great day.
Keynote: “Windows 8 and the Flexible Workstyle”
After a great day at Rocky’s workshop, I headed to the opening keynote by Stephen L. Rose even though it was late. I was so convinced by his speech that I wanted to throw out my iPad and Galaxy Nexus and buy a Windows 8 Phone and the new Microsoft Surface tablet.
We were also able to make our mind between Surface and Surface Pro and I saw that even Surface is good, Surface Pro is going to be so great! Biggest differences between these two:
Like I said before, Steven L. Rose was so excellent that 10 minutes before the end of his presentation when he announced that he was going to take question from the crowd, I said to myself, “What? Already?”
Presentation: “What’s New in Windows Phone 8 for Developers”
I attended a conference by Nick Landry, a Montreal native who spent the past eight years working in New Jersey. Professionally, I don’t do much mobile development, but I’ve always been really interested in it. That said, I went to his presentation with no real expectations other than to learn a little more about developing for the Windows Phone.
And it was greater than expected! We learned a lot, including what makes Windows Phone 8 so unique and some impressive stats:
A few of you may wonder why people bother to develop apps for the Windows Store when only 2.6% of mobile phone users in 2012 used Windows devices. According to IDC (International Data Corporation), there will be five times more Windows Phone users in the next four years! That’s a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 71.3%, making it by far the largest among all companies.
We than explored the subject more in-depth and learned many new Windows Phone 8 features, including what’s new, what the advantages are for developers, and we also talked a little bit about the update dilemma between WP 7.5 and WP 8. We also learned how it can compile data in the cloud, how the activation policy, the tile templates and sizes work. Finally, we reviewed how it is possible to develop and deploy using whatever technology makes sense, whether it is web-based, email or an app. Great subject, great presenter, I had a great time!
Overall, the quality of the presentations at Live! 360 was simply amazing. I hope to attend next year and share more about Microsoft technologies with you.
Ready for another social network? Microsoft is opening up its social network – the aptly named Socl – to the public. Originally a research project by Microsoft Research FUSE labs, Socl was meant to be a social search tool for students. Launched in beta last year to Microsoft employees and university students, it enables people to connect based on shared interests and activities. Much more Pinterest than Facebook, the new network is driven by visual content. Users can create collages made up of links, images, captions and videos.
Will you be joining Socl?
When it comes to storing stuff online, the options are endless: Dropbox, iCloud, Google Docs, MegaUpload (RIP), Flickr, the list goes on and on. But as the amount of data we produce increases – everything from tweets and calendar entries to Facebook chat history and YouTube videos – so does the amount of energy and resources needed to process and store it all in the cloud.
For today’s Internet giants, finding innovative ways to improve the efficiency of data centres is essential, not just for the environment, but also for the bottom line. Pike Research predicts that by 2015, investment in energy efficient server farms will reach $41 billion. Many companies have already begun to explore cutting-edge technologies to keep server farms costs down:
A group of Facebook engineers were given the challenge of building the mot efficient and economical data centre possible. With every aspect designed from scratch, the new Prineville, Oregon facility uses 38% less energy than other Facebook data centres and cost 24% less to build. To share their findings, Facebook created the Open Compute Project, an industry-wide initiative to promote an open-sourced approach to data centre engineering.
Google uses a variety of methods to keep its data centres around the world up and running. In Finland, they converted an old mill into the world’s first seawater-cooled data centre where cold water from the Baltic Sea is pumped through the building to cool it down. At its Georgia, USA facility, Google uses recycled waste water to keep things cool, and in Taiwan, air conditioning is used at night and a thermal energy storage system keeps the facility cool during the day.
Unlike other companies that use cold cooling processes to control temperatures, eBay runs its Phoenix, Arizona data centre at 115 degrees Fahrenheit (most data centres run somewhere between 65-80 degrees). With temperatures so high, they are able to use hot water to cool the facility, which significantly reduces the amount of energy used and the cost of operations.
Microsoft’s newly expanded data centre in Dublin, Ireland is cooled using air from outside of the building. The new facility doesn’t require any water for cooling, which make it 50% more efficient than traditional data centres.
The company’s data centre in Maiden, North Carolina runs primarily on renewable energy sources and utilizes chilled water storage and outside air for cooling. Apple says that new additions to the facility will include the country’s biggest end user-owned solar array and the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States.
It seems the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can do with Microsoft’s Kinect. The Chaotic Moon Labs created a Board of Awesomeness aka a Kinect-controlled longboard. Our good friends at Odopod used it to create an interactive window installation. And then there’s the group of scientists that are using the motion-sensing device to study glaciers in Norway. One thing’s for certain… Kinect is one awesome piece of technology.