Saturday, March 29, 2008

Zemanta went public

Five days ago.

And the guys are receiving quite some positive feedback which they more than deserve. I won't go into details about what they are doing and how - they have some interesting videos on their web site that you can check out, as of wednesday you can download Zemantas plugin for Firefox and try it yourself, but the best testament of their technology (at least on the page you are looking at now) can be seen in my blogposts since I began using and testing it at the beginning of February.

Even before I began using their technology as a novice blogger I also had an opportunity to work with their technology in London (on Wordpress plugin) for a brief period of time. Even back then when their technology was still in its infancy I was often pleasantly surprised about the results it returned. But as I left London and didn't have any actual contact with their technology for 2 months I was even more shocked when I saw to what extent had their product matured and how useful it actualy became when I started to look at it as a user and not as a developer.

At several occasions it proved at least as useful tool as Google - if not even more. One such example would be when I was writting a blog post and sometime during the process I took notice of articles that it suggested to me. The good thing was that those articles weren't strictly from the topic about which I was writting about - which may, based on ones intuition sound as something one would want to avoid at all cost. But it turned out that the articles that it suggested had helped me develop my ideas a bit more thoroughly.

Google is a very useful tool for searching precise information but it fails when you would want it to cover a bit broader field of knowladge. Either your search is very precise and in the process loses any interesting bits of information that could turn out to be useful for developing ideas and gathering knowladge, or its too broad and you get a whole bunch of information (majority of which happens to be useless to you) that quickly overwhelms you and causes you to lose focus.

In part this is a result of the method used for searching - Google has to find good information based on few keywords, Zemanta has the advantage to extract data based on a lot more input information. While Googles way turns out to be more useful the majority of time, Zemantas way is more useful when you are writing something like blog post (or any other piece of writing, for that matter) that can benefit from general links and related articles (besides images and tags that Zemanta also provides).

Since Zemantas product is still in alpha phase I am more than eagerly waiting to see how its technology will mature and what kind of suggestions can give me in my future posts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tiger users still a majority

Source: FlickrI was more than a bit surprised yesterday when I first saw the statistics published by Omnigroup regarding their userbase and what kind of operationg system their users are using. Sure enough, this data is not a definite indicator and probably only Apple can give more accurate data, but its probably good enough that we can at least draw some conclusions from it.

Omnigroup develops whole bunch of different applications that are focused both on business users and on home users. I haven't been able to find any statistics about how large their userbase actualy is and will for the time being presume that their large array of products gives a rather good sample of users - if, however, anyone finds this jumping to conclusions too quick, feel free to enlighten me in the comments. ;-)

On the first sight of data I was almost a bit disappointed about the number of Leopard users. 32% of Leopard users seemed rather low for a system that was relesed at the end of October and had brought with it a number of interesting and exciting features. But then I gave the whole idea of 32% another thought - if one third of users on a particular platform upgraded in roughly six months to the flagship version of some companys operating system, that doesn't sound that bad. Since Microsoft released Windows Vista in a recent past it could even make a rather interesting comparison of the speed of adoption of a new platform.

It turns out that only 8.7% of Windows users had opened their hearts to Vista (either voluntarily or when they purchased their new computers). Since Vista was available in retail stores on 30. January of 2007 this means that it was present on a market for about 420 days, which in turn means that its approximate rate of adoption is about .02% of Windows users per day or about .6% per month. For Leopard, this rate is almost ten times higher - since its introduction on 30th October of 2007 it was present on a market for about 150 days and was adopted at an avarage rate of .2 %. per day or 6% per month.

Based on the data that I used this means that Mac users are migrating to newest platform at almost ten times the rate of Windows users. This puts Apple in rather favourable position compared to Microsoft. If Microsoft has to maintain compatibility for such a long time (if adoption rate would be constant this would mean Windows XP would still be in usage for about 10+ years after Vista was released - until 2017 or more) it means it can not implament new features at a pace Apple can - or at least it can not make them requirements at until a large majority of its users migrate to a new platform. Apple on the other hand can implament new features and declare the old ones as deprecated far more easily and more often.

(Luckily Microsoft doesn't wait for 10+ years for its users to upgrade - Windows XP will enjoy full support until 14th April of 2009, after which it will enter Extended Support that will last until 2014, although personally I think Microsoft will extend both full support and Extended Support.)

For developers this means that when Apple said Carbon would not enjoy 64-bit benefits that can be found in Leopard and encouraged developers to get their hands dirty with Cocoa, developers can sleep a bit easier knowing that their users will shortly follow the development cycle that Apple dictates. On the other hand developers that had huge code bases written with Carbon probably enjoyed a number of sleepless nights after first hearing Steve Jobs about implamenting 64-bit support only for Cocoa.

At the end it is only fair to write a honest disclaimer - both Omnigroup and W3Schools say that their data is not to be fully trusted, to which I can only add that you should trust my conclusions even less. I only did some quick math with basic data that both of these companies provide online in an effort to see how users of different platforms view flagship products of their beloved company and how this love is translated into purchase of new operating system or new computer. This data clearly misses all those users that had migrated either to OS X or to Windows from other platforms (and probably a bunch of other edge cases). Basically my analysis is just a quick look on a subject that is almost impossible to analyse with great certainty and should be treated in that manner.

Monday, March 10, 2008

iPhone SDK and Apple's deal to developers

Source: FlickrWhen Apple held their press event for the announcment of SDK previous thursday I was watching closely what will come out of it - after all, there was a whole bunch of rumors and predictions about the direction that Apple could take and how it can either win the hearts of developers or burn in hell with it's platform by it's side.

As far as I'm concerned I think Apple more or less won my heart. Although I already downloaded[1] the iPhone SDK and installed it, I haven't yet programmed anything with it - one notable obsticle is that I am far more into web development and have almost no experiance whatsoever with Objective-C. But as I spend more and more time reading about Objective-C and watching various iPhone Application Framework videos of what can be done (and how) I am becoming a bit more confident to say that Apple's aproach is the right one.

Not only does a developer get a stable enviorment that Apple itself used to develop it's mobile version of OS X and has a lot of similarities with desktop/server version of OS X (this is one of those things that any Mac developer will appreciate because they can start programming without having to re-examinate yet another platform), they also get access to huge userbase that is accustomed to using iTunes and ready to pay for things they like.

App Store, the store which Apple will use to distribute software among users and give them a one-click-away solution for purchasing all software ever developed for the platform is what in my opinion distinguishes Apple's platform from other already developed and marketed solutions. It will be installed on iPhone and integrated into iTunes and therefore have a tremendous userbase - and it's userbase is what gives Apple an edge over it's competition. It is consisted of people that pay for their music, are a bit more tech-savvy than avarage population and will therefore appreciate the ease of use and user experiance that Apple will give to them. And gladly pay for the software that will be useful to them.

Business model used also seem rather fair to developers - if you want to charge for your applications you get to share 30% of your income with Apple and remaining 70% gets into your pocket. I find it a bit less friendly if you are prepared to give your application away for free - you will still have to get yourself iPhone Developer Program account that will cost you $99 per year - but I do not mind paying up those 99 bucks if they provide good enough value with their offical support.

Another very pleasing sight is how other software companies began stepping up their efforts for an emerging platform - my biggest surprise was Sun's announcement that they will develop Java for iPhone. I understand how they can develop it with the technology provided but I am very interested knowing how they will bypass various legal issues. Not that I mind if Java is developed for iPhone - on the contrary, I will be more than pleased to use a whole bunch of already developed Java applications.

How will all this come together in reality is yet to be seen in July when Apple will relase final version of SDK and give users second version of it's iPhone software that will include support for applications from 3rd party developers. I will however try to get familiar with Objective-C and start playing with SDK soon - and hopefully there will be a follow-up to this blog post in near future that will discuss my experiences with development itself.

[1] you need to have Apple Developer Connection account in order to download the SDK - free account will do

Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Apple Cripples Non-Apple Software"

Source: FlickrIt didn't come as no suprise to me when I first saw this sensationalistic title appear on Slashdot two days ago. But it was sad to see how a wonderful piece of work like that produced by Vladimir Vukićević in his blog post got distorted and taken out of context (or at least part of it) for the purpose of the argument.

As Vladimir was looking how to give Firefox 3 for OS X some performance boost he did quite some research and testing to locate origins of bottlenecks that made OS X version of Firefox a black sheep in the past - at least compared to it's Windows and Linux siblings.

During his research he discovered that Apple was using some undocumented methods to give Safari some boost in performance. Not realy a very nice thing to do for sure, yet he still emphesized that there are other non-programaticall ways for gaining the same boost. But the news of Apple's Evil had already began to spread in the wild and blow out of proportion.

Personally I think Apple was right this time not to publish this part of API - David Hyatt himself said that this code was more of a hack and they themself are not happy with that part of WebKit's code. As any developer knows publishing hacks is never a realy good idea - even using hacks is not a good idea but sometimes due to time constraints or some other reason you just have to use them.

One one side, using them can get you in such an awkward position as Apple has arguably found itself in, yet publishing information about them is still wrong - you lose the ability to fix the problems and remove hacks in the next release and are faced with maintaining them for a forseable future. Unless, of course, you want to be hated by developers using your API for making such (dramatic) changed over night.

But one is still left wondering if there are some other hidden and undiscovered cookies in Apple's jar. They are, after all, only a company and even if most of it's empoyees are open-source minded, there probably hides a genious or two in the dark corners of Apple that thinks otherwise and could destroy Apple's reputation on this matter and create a picture of another company with Microsoftish malpractice.