Everyone wants an App Store these days

Apple has changed the world with the iPhone. Developers (and users sometimes) complained there were no open APIs to build native applications. Apple noted the request and changed the world again with the App Store.

Everyone in the mobile space seems to be running now to create his own store. Google has launched its store called Market (also see a short review with some nice screenshots) and while at this time it’s all free, it is going commercial next year.

RIM has its own BlackBerry Application StoreFront.

T-Mobile, who is already benefiting from Google’s Market, is going to create its own based on Apple’s experience.

Now Orange comes with Orange Downloads.

There are probably more that haven’t announced it, or simply I haven’t heard of.

BUT, did any of these guys ever think that the great thing about Apple’s App Store is that it is one place and there’s no fragmentation? How are these guys going to cope with this? Replicating and renaming won’t solve those issues. They will all be just like the existing “Decks” or portals, simply on a pre-installed application. That will not make them win.

Attacking Google where the money is

Google is undisputed leader of search. It’s useless for me to describe how Google changed the world about it, but let’s talk about everything else Google is doing such as documents, e-mail and mobile OS’s, of course. All this is funded by ads, while they have some other incomes such as former-Postini customers and other Google applications customers, ads are what fund anything Google do.

A few other companies tried to beat them starting from scratch such as cuil, but I would say that so far none of them has been able to be a serious competitor. Now what if the money on the ads was taken away from Google? If Google had to focus on ads more, would they be able to continue spinning off new applications and services? Would they still be able to create great apps and give them away as open-source just to kill the competition (think of Google docs and Android)? (OT: doesn’t this remind you of Microsoft and Netscape and other products they gave away embedded for free to kill the competition?)

It seems to me like recently the competition and innovation in ads have grown a lot. In mobile, Google is a follower and while they do have HUGE power and have been able to sign great contracts with operators and big players, the leader in mobile seems to be AdMob (even though I don’t have exact numbers handy). Now, also in web ads there is more and more competition. I was watching a video today about Dapper that is bringing some innovation with a product called Mashup ads. I am not a publisher, so I can hardly tell if this is a killer for Google, but surely it is something new and interesting.

webKit the official mobile browser?

Initially Nokia announced the decision of using the webKit browser in their mobile devices in the S60 series and they called it S60 Browser (running on the S60WebKit). That was already a landmark, I think.

Apple of course boosted the users of webKit and Safari releasing the windows version of Safari and then Safari in the iPhone.

Google followed announcing webKit in Android and now with Chrome.

MOTOMAGX is a linux platform by Motorola. They use it for some of their PDA’s. The other day I received their newsletter that among the other things mentioned widgets for MOTOMAGX and guess what? The official browser is the webkit.

A lot of big companies are jumping on the webKit band-wagon, but I think my original question still stands, Will Apple share ownership of the webKit? It’ll be especially interesting to see how Google will contribute and try to take control of the platform as now they have a lot of interest in making sure it goes in the right direction. So far it looks like Nokia did not have much voice in the project, at least from what I see.

More open questions:

  • Where does this leave Opera (Mini)? Will there still be space for them?
  • What about the Mozilla’s Fennec mobile browser? If you want to know my opinion, they might be late to the party.
  • What about other browsers like Skyfire and Teashark?

Did Google affect how I search on search engines?

I use Google in 99.9% of my searches on internet. I use it so often, that sometimes it’s just to the URL of a site I know very well, but I can’t spell the address or do not recall exactly (I can never spell the URL of delicious, for example).

I have to say that I’m pretty satisfied with the results and most of the times I find what I am looking for within the first 3-5 results. This could be simply because Google is good, isn’t this the reason why we all use it?

Nevertheless, from time to time I try other search engines such as Ask or Yahoo! and hardly find better results. I’d say that on an average I find worse results.
Still, I have friends who use Ask or Yahoo! and say they are much better.

Now I wonder: “Are the results on Google better just because Google is better, or is it because I am so used to it that my search terms work well with Google? What if my search syntax was optimized for Google-searches? What if Ask had a much better catalogue, but used a different categorization?”

Of course, search engines should return the best result not matter what, but if my keywords are not “natural”, but adapted to the approach Google has to content, then it’s not the search engine that is wrong (maybe). So how can I objectively judge the quality of the results? Also, won’t the quality of results always be subjective?

Will Apple share ownership of the webKit?

Android SDK has been released. There are videos that explain how the platform works and that the browser is based on the webKit. This was a bit of a surprise for me, I think I was not even considering that Google could go for something that is not Mozilla/Firefox.

Anyway I think this is great news and means that the webKit will keep growing and more sites will work on my Mac. Actually most sites already work, but sometimes I have to fire up Firefox or Camino, especially for AJAX-intensive sites.

Anyway, today, during Future of Mobile, I asked Dan Appelquist (another happy Mac user) if he thought Apple would let any other company take control of the core of the browser. My feeling, so far, is that Nokia is using the engine, but more in their own separate silo and not with Apple… And I have to admit this feeling is not because I think Nokia is evil and do not want to share, but actually because Apple wants to have full control on the browser and does not care to get changes and updates from Nokia!
Dan, on the other side, thought that Apple would have to let go a little bit of control on it so that Google and Nokia would get some space in the project.

Well, it looks like he knows what he’s talking about, see this post on Surfin’ Safari about Android committing changes to SVN.

Now I’m even happier.

RSS reader and sharing

I am a bit in a middle ground these days jumping from one reader to another and also between sharing my favorite articles between two different services.

I used NetNewsWire (a Mac RSS reader) for almost 2 years now and I’m very happy with it. Joining newsgator also gave me a web (2.0) interface for free that is nicely integrated with the client. Since I really don’t go very far without my notebook, I never used it.

Recently James Pearce brought to my attention the beauties of the mobile version of Google Reader. The mobile version is very simple and effective at the same time. Like most Google products, it does it’s job efficiently. I also enjoyed sharing my favourite articles via Google (and also temporarily embedded them in this blog).

Nevertheless, I could never find myself entirely comfortable in the web interface, especially when I am on an airplane with no connection (if the feed provide the full articles, I can read them even when offline).
Anyway, the reason why I tried Google reader was to be able to access the feed on my mobile. I tried to access the website of newsgator hoping to use it with Opera Mini, but unfortunately their interface is too advanced for a small screen. Browsing around the web site (probably the first time in at least 1 year) I discovered that thanks to the iPhone-wave, they have launched a mobile version. So thank you iPhone!
Now I’m happily back to my Mac-client, have a mobile version and even found a way to share my favourite articles.

But of course there’s always something that’s missing. How do I add to my shared items pages and links that are not in my regular feeds? I still haven’t discovered this. So here’s a news item I wanted to share:
Red Hat and Amazon Team Up for Enterprise-grade Cloud Computing

Google’s GWT

Transcoding is a hot topic these days in the mobile community. Google’s GWT has come up a couple of times in some conversations I had in the last 2-3 weeks. I never wondered how they decide to transcode or not, anyway.
I gave it a shot today using cURL and an emulator to get access to some devices quickly.

How I did it
I got on http://www.google.com/m and searched for “WURFL test”; I left the default “Web” setting. As expected my http://t.wurfl.com was the first link. I clicked on it and got to the page, the layout was unchanged, but that’s not a surprise, it’s so simple. Scrolling down I noticed that the user-agent string is not my phone’s, but an ugly generic MSIE user-agent string. Scrolling down a bit more I noticed the standard chrome provided by GWT that lets you disable images or request the page in the original source.

The solution
I sent an e-mail to Sean Owen, who is in the W3C MWI with me. Surprisingly he replied on a Sunday and was very helpful. He explained me how their crawler is able to mark mobile sites and make sure the GWT will not transcode anything. The problem is that at the moment this magic feature is available in the US only and will be rolled out to the world soon. Since I left “Web” in my search I got the web version of my site (t.wurfl.com has a very basic device detection that provides different markup based on the Accept headers). US users should already get the mobile version of t.wurfl.com. Anyway, Sean also suggested a trick that now provides the mobile version to all mobile users without any other update required. I added the following tag in the head of the page:
<link rel=”alternate” media=”handheld” href=”http://t.wurfl.com/index.php”&gt;

Seconds after the update I requested again the page with the emulator and got the mobile version.

PS: if you want to get a mobile page using cURL you can do this:
curl -D – -A “Nokia6600” “http://www.google.com/gwt/n?u=t.wurfl.com/&#8221;

You will see the page source and the HTTP headers sent by the server. Read the manual for more commands, cURL is super-powerful!

More Apple and Google cooperation

Apple has hired some IM specialists (such as Justin Wood of Proteus) over the years and Jabber has been part of iChat for a long time now, but the support of Google Talk in the next release is actually not simply a Jabber-news, but another sign of the on-going cooperation between Google and Apple.

I wonder how much cooperation exists or WILL exist between Mozilla, Firefox, Camino and the Wekkit and Safari.

Read the full article at Appleinsider, Apple places full-screen QT, ZFS, more hidden features in Leopard.