07/17/13

A Free Yet Legal Copy of Microsoft Office on Your Tablet With Cloudon

imageLet’s make the most of the summer with a bit of light reading and what I would call the application of the week: cloudon. I have selected a number of applications which I find particularly good or changed my way of working, or of entertaining myself, unless it’s both. This week, I will dwell on the cloud on iPad application, which I find really extraordinary, and I really wonder whether these guys are making money out of this and how. Is this the latest mystery of the new economy?

We will start with a visit to the application website in order to confirm that the application is available both for android and iOS. The application is available for both iPhones and iPads, and I will focus on the iPad version here in this blog post.

image

Step number 1: once the location has been installed, fire it up. First and foremost you will have to fine-tune the settings so they have access to your online cloud discs: four spaces are available with cloud on, which you can use concurrently. As far as I’m concerned, I have set up Google drive and Skydrive (by Microsoft’s, by far my preferred, because I was one of the first users, so that I have access to 25 GB free of charge). I left dropbox and box on the side for the moment by can you back to it later and at them to my final if I so wish. All that is needed to complete this setup is to let cloud on access your online disc by clicking the button “authorise”.

IMG_0142

Step number 2: once your online disc has been selected (here I chose Skydrive), the folder structure of your disk is then displayed to you, and you can choose the list or icon formats from the top menu.

IMG_0143

Step number 3: Once I’ve changed the display to icon mode which I find more convenient, I can then select the folder in which I have stored all the draft pieces for my blog. I call it “blog posts”.

IMG_0145

Step number 4: I then select the relevant blog piece in word format. I can see on the screen but it was last changed on 24 June at 7:39 AM.

IMG_0146

Step number 5: once you’ve clicked on the right file, it is then downloaded from the Internet. It is subsequently displayed, see the following screen grab, directly on my tablet into a Microsoft word window, more or less identical to the one I have on my PC (in fact it is a simplified version of Microsoft Word 2010, similar to the one you can find Skydrive itself). The greatest weaknesses that I spot in this application, is in my minde the relative slowness of download of the file (even more so if the file is really big like the entirety of our forthcoming book typescript for instance). My hunch is that we will see performance improving significantly within the next few months if this kind of applications remain in the future. As a matter of fact, what we are witnessing here is more than just another application but the implementation of something which I have described many times on this blog, which is called “ubiquitous computing” and was invented, I mean the concept, by the late Mark Weiser in the late 1980s. The missing link though is connectivity, as always, even though enormous headway has been made in the past few years. My guess is that it will take another 2 to 3 years, maybe 5, before we enjoy seamless connectivity coverage, with the kind of comfort that I experience while sitting behind my PC, connected via Ethernet on my 100 Mbs fibre access.

IMG_0147

IMG_0148

Step number 6: I can then write directly into the file which is editable in real time ; in order to prove this I have underlined a word by clicking at length on it, which triggered the contextual Microsoft menu which everybody knows. This the tablet equivalent to the right click of the mouse on a computer

IMG_0149

Step number 7: then click the icon on the top bar which represents a compass on the top right-hand side of the screen, and this will open the menu which will make it possible for you to create a new file: either a spreadsheet (maybe not the most convenient type of file for tablets), a wordprocessing Word document, or a PowerPoint presentation. I decide to choose the latter…

IMG_0150

Step number 8:  I then rename this new file which will be saved directly  in the original folder.

IMG_0152

Step number 9:  an empty PowerPoint file will then be opened , which I will be able to populate exactly as if I were on my computer,  with a simplified version of PowerPoint 2010. This is a simplified version,  but yet, it is very usable, and it caters for basic Microsoft templates for instance. in order to create a presentation with a personalised template, I recommend that you use a presentation which you have created beforehand (with no content preferably ) in order to make the most of all the available screen layouts. This will save you a lot of time and will make it unnecessary for you to spend hours twiddling page templates on the tablet which is not very convenient.  You can then focus on adding text but also clipart, images, video etc. It is in fact very easy for you to modify an existing PowerPoint presentation and even create one directly from the tablet, and then synchronise the file directly on your computer , or vice versa.  I remind you that, with Skydrive, you do not need to own a local version of Microsoft PowerPoint, because it is available online too. Personally, being a teacher and benefiting from the special teacher/student price for Microsoft Office, I still think that owning a local Microsoft license is preferable.

IMG_0155

IMG_0156

Beyond the fact that this application is nice and convenient and mostly free of charge, one may ask oneself a few questions. On the one hand, what will be the business model of Microsoft in the next few years ? I could actually bet on the fact that access to software will be increasingly “cloudified”, namely from the moment that connectivity is really improved and made seamless and ubiquitous. from then on, I really wonder whether software which you either install or download is a model which will survive for very long .  This, however , is the model on which Microsoft thrived for so many years. Besides,  I really have a few questions about the business model of cloudon itself; I mean beyond its potential acquisition by Microsoft one day.

image

I also found it very strange that cloudon has had little coverage on the Web since 2012 , even though a great number of downloads have already been  performed  by users . I would be surprised if the Palo Alto company decided to remain silent , and maybe one day , what Geoffrey Moore calls the early majority will catch up with the “visionaries , dreamers and doers”. Wired pointed out  rightfully  that  the application’s limits came from the fact that the data was stored on the cloud, which rendered the display a little blurry but usable anyhow. this is a valid remark, but I couldn’t find that problem with PowerPoint, which I found to be the most useful application of the three.

There are a few limits with regard to the use of this application in presentation mode, but in our case I would recommend a more specialised application which I will describe in a forthcoming blog post.  As Wired pointed out, it is still very difficult to use such applications in order to create a presentation from scratch and the use of cloud on is , probably for today, limited to minor edits.

My hunch is that the self-proclaimed “visionaries” of Palo Alto shall not be deterred.

Time will tell…

11/23/11

Welcome to the API jungle – part II – what Brands should do

Welcome to the API jungle or why developers must learn how to find, select, integrate APIs and contribute to their improvement and evolution (part II)

by Martin Duval, CEO, Bluenove

imageThe API landscape is extremely dynamic. The following 2 diagrams taken from ProgrammableWeb describe the most common APIs which are used in order to build mash-ups. They show the dominance of major historic players (check the “see all time” diagram) but also the more recent rise of new players such as Twilio in the recent past (last 14 days), as well as the convergence of Cloud Computing and Telecom.

There is yet more evidence of imagethe emergence of this new ecosystem; it is indeed interesting to notice the emergence of new players offering the technical support to manage API infrastructures such as the new Application Enablement Services Business Unit from Alcatel-Lucent (the one that acquired ProgrammableWeb in 2010), Mashery, Apigee, Aepona or 3Scale.

But let’s come back to the relationship between Apps and APIs.

After all, aren’t applications mere channels? To support their promotion, we can reasonably bet that Brands will also create APIs in the future, with probably a more obvious way to demonstrate Return On Investment through the number of innovative apps created by third party creative developers than through the number of downloads KPI[7] of their own app. Brands could therefore propose APIs in order to extend the reach of their products and services.

Here are some suggestions for a few popular Brands[8].

  • Nike could create a “Just Size It” API that gives the perfect shoe size from the photo of your feet,
  • Evian could create a hydration API that calculates the quantity of water a person needs to drink daily and reminds her when rehydration is needed,
  • Netflix has proposed an API to tap into its customers’ creative capabilities, and even organized a contest [9] so as to crowdsource ideas leading to the improvement of the algorithms of its movie recommendation engine,
  • French off-licence chain Nicolas could create an API that allows its customers to find and leave recommendations about the wine they buy.

How could these companies support the use of their APIs, and therefore the promotion of their Brand? This would be done by the developers who would make sure to make APIs accessible by the end users on different interfaces, and who would find ways to remunerate themselves through the proposition of new business models.

Of course Brands can still develop some specific applications themselves, but the decision to propose an Open API will offer an unparalleled way to boost exponentially the reach of their promotion.

A lot of marketing managers are sometimes the victims of the ‘gadget syndrome’: they follow the trend getting on board the last fashionable feature to include into their marketing plans. One year it is the ‘Facebook Page’, or the ‘Twitter account’, and the year after the ‘Mobile App’.

But as part of a more sustainable marketing and innovation strategy, the best solution may very well not be an application but rather an Open API.

Another trend to take into account as a booster for the number of APIs, is Open Data. The opening of public data by the administrations (After initiatives in the US with Data.gov and in the UK with Data.gov.uk, Etalab[10] is also about to launch the Data.gouv.fr portal of data sets in December 2011) and French cities such as Rennes[11], Paris[12] or Montpellier[13] have already exposed some data sets with some of them as APIs.

Open Data for businessese

The concept also appeals to businesses as shown by the Bluenove white paper (in French)  entitled “Open Data: what are the issues and the opportunities for the enterprise?” with sponsors such as French railways SNCF, French Post Office Group La Poste, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT and the French confectionary giant Poult group. The Civil Service, local governments as well as businesses will have to learn how to attract, engage and manage a community of developers but also of entrepreneurs, researchers, academics, students and companies from other industries to motivate them to use their APIs and boost their innovation.

as a conclusion: the fundamental role of developers

Martin Duval, CEO of Bluenove

Martin Duval, CEO, Bluenove

One the one hand major platforms continue relentlessly to open themselves to to more and more end users thanks to more open developments. On the other hand, developers will try to invent new applications but will also have to use an increasing number of available APIs and use new skills to detect, select, integrate them but also contribute to improve them and even ask for new ones.

One sees new types of requirements, services and skills emerging which keep the collaboration and innovation momentum going between the members of these complex ecosystems among which developers have a fundamental role to play.

__________________

[7] KPI : Key Performance Indicator

[8] Examples from this article on Mashable by Adam Kleinberg : http://mashable.com/2011/01/04/brand-open-api-developers/

[9] One of ’the 12 levers of Open Innovation’ : see http://www.slideshare.net/Bluenove

[10] EtaLab : http://www.etalab.gouv.fr/

[11] Rennes Open Data : http://www.data.rennes-metropole.fr/

[12] Paris : http://www.bluenove.com/publications/revue-de-presse/bluenove-fait-parler-les-donnees-de-la-ville-de-paris-et-le-web/

[13] Montpellier Open Data : http://opendata.montpelliernumerique.fr/Le-projet

11/22/11

Welcome to the API jungle – part I – a surfeit of APIs

Photo: Yann GourvennecWelcome to the API jungle or why developers must learn how to find, select, integrate APIs and contribute to their improvement and evolution (part I)

by Martin Duval, CEO, Bluenove

As I started writing this article at the beginning of October 2011 , the http://www.programmableweb.com/[1] web site indicated on its home page that it has identified 4007 APIs and 6175 mash-ups on a global footprint: At the moment you are reading this piece on the Visionary Marketing, I am certain these numbers are completely outdated. I agree that, Dear Developers, these numbers are still very far from your ‘Ocean of Apps’ but this new ecosystem nevertheless starts to look like a ‘Jungle of APIs’.

First and foremost, let’s take the time to put this notion of Open APIs back into its context. ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ do enable the connection between different IT platforms and the integration of different application and services through the creation of a ‘mash-up’. Open APIs proposed by a mobile or web player aim at helping the creation of an ecosystem around a common platform, therefore forming a dynamic community of creative developers who are given the opportunity to innovate faster and in many more directions, than if  they wished to do it on their own. This is therefore a genuine Open Innovation strategy in which the various players will have to initiate and maintain a long-term bond of trust, based on elements such as stability, sustainability, ease of use of the platform and the APIs, but also based on a win-win relationship with its community of partner developers.

Beyond the major web platforms (Google, Facebook, Ebay, Twitter, Amazon, etc.) that propose to the developers a big set of APIs and of course the main mobile OSes (Iphone, Android, Windows Phone, etc.) offering their SDKs[2] to support the development of mobile applications, similar open programs exist as well in the Telecom industry. Telecom operators such as Orange (with Orange API[3]), Telefonica (with their BlueVia[4] program) or Telenor (with Mobilt Bedriftsnett[5]) also allow access to third parties to some of their network assets such as SMS, click-to-call, location, storage, billing, etc. in order to facilitate the emergence of new services through the innovation potential from developers, start-ups and brands.

A signal demonstrating the need for rationalisation and standardisation in this ‘jungle of APIs’ came up with the GSMA ‘One API’[6] initiative: a success still to be confirmed.

___________________

[1] ProgrammableWeb has been aquired by Alcatel-Lucent in 2010

[2] SDK : Software Development Kit

[3] Orange API : http://api.orange.com/en

[4] BlueVia from Telefonica : https://bluevia.com/en/

[5] Telenor Mobilt Bedriftsnett : http://www.telenor.com/en/news-and-media/press-releases/2009/Telenor-opens-new-interface-to-third-parties

[6] GSMA ‘One API’ : http://www.gsmworld.com/oneapi/