Google Starts Testing Android Instant Apps

Paul Ballard

26 Jan , 2017  

Android Instant Apps, the lightweight versions of Android apps that can be run without downloading, are now available in a limited run.

Google first shared the idea for Instant Apps at its I/O developer conference last year. The concept is that users can quickly and easily experience an app by simply clicking on a url associated with the app, without going through the hassle of downloading it.

“Instant Apps is an important part of our effort to help users discover and run apps with minimal friction,” reads a post on the Android developer blog.

Instant Apps from BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope and Viki are available to Android users as of this week, and Google says it will be expanding the experiment to more apps going forward. An SDK for building Instant Apps will be available “in the coming months.”

In the meantime, Google has outlined some steps Android developers can take to prepare their apps for Instant App adaptation, including removing unnecessary bulk and adding support for url-based navigation.

So are Instant Apps just a gimmick or do they provide value for users and developers? What are the lessons for other platforms? Sound off in the comments.… Read more

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Microsoft Bets Big on Quantum Computing

Paul Ballard

22 Nov , 2016  

Microsoft has hired several of the world’s foremost quantum computing experts, doubling down on the effort to build a machine that could solve complex problems much more quickly than a digital computer.

Microsoft hardware guru Todd Holdmdahl will lead a research team focused on using a unit of quantum information called a topological qubit to create scalable quantum hardware and software.

The team will include physicists Leo Kouwenhoven of Delft University of Technology, Charles Marcus of the University of Copenhagen, ETH Zurich’s Matthias Troyer and David Reilly of the University of Sydney.

Unlike digital computers, quantum computers would have the ability to process multiple solutions to a problem simultaneously rather than sequentially, potentially speeding up scientific quests to combat climate change and feed the world’s population, among other goals.

“There is a real opportunity to apply these computers to things that I’ll call material sciences of physical systems,” Holmdahl said in a Microsoft blog post. “A lot of these problems are intractable on a classical computer, but on a quantum computer we believe that they are tractable in a reasonable period of time.”

While the qubits that quantum computers could run on are notoriously finicky–requiring very cold environments with minimum intereference to retain their quantum state–Microsoft’s researchers believe that topological qubits will be more tolerant to outside inputs like heat and electrical noise.… Read more

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The Future Is Here, and It’s Chatty

Paul Ballard

20 May , 2016  

Among the most-talked-about news at Google’s I/O conference this week were the announcements of two AI-related projects: Google Assistant, an upgraded digital assistant capable of conducting two-way conversations and performing tasks like ordering movie tickets, and Google Home, a competitor to Amazon’s Echo that would combine home automation with virtual assistance.

Meanwhile, ZDNet leaked that Microsoft is working on its own conversational helpmate, the Bing Concierge Bot. Just as Google’s virtual assistants will make use of that company’s search technology, Microsoft’s—as the name implies—will leverage the wealth of data collected through Bing user searches to make intelligent recommendations on, for example, nearby Italian restaurants that can seat a large party. The company has so far declined to provide more information on the project.

These developments are a sign of the bot wars to come, as technology companies compete to offer the best solutions for a future in which humans interact more naturally with the digital   world.

It’s also a future in which, as envisioned by Google and others, virtual assistants are our constant companions, following us from car to office to living room and interfacing with multiple devices.

“The idea is that assistant should really be bound to you and not to a device and it should really transcend the hardware and follow you around,” Vlad Sejnoha, chief technology officer of voice interface technology company Nuance, told WIRED.Read more

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What’s New in Android Studio 2.0

Paul Ballard

11 Apr , 2016  

Google has released a new version of its Android Studio aimed at helping developers build apps more quickly and efficiently for the wide variety of Android devices on the market.

Android Studio 2.0 previewed last November, with product manager Stephanie Cuthbertson saying at the time that the new version would respond to developers’ requests for a faster Integrated Development Environment.

That focus on speed is apparent in the version released Thursday, starting with the new Instant Run feature, which allows you to quickly see the effect of changes you make to code on a device or emulator, without necessarily having to reinstall the APK. Simply click the Instant Run button, and it analyzes how to most quickly deploy your changes. It works with any Android Device or emulator running API 14 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher.

Speaking of emulators, Google is providing a new, speedier one. “The new emulator runs ~3x faster than Android’s previous emulator, and with ADB enhancements you can now push apps and data 10x faster to the emulator than to a physical device,” product manager Jamal Eason wrote in a post on the Android Developer Blog. That’s good news, considering how much developers complained about emulator speed in the past.… Read more

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Six Things to Know About the Android N Developer Preview

Paul Ballard

10 Mar , 2016  

Does the N stand for Nutella, as Google SVP for Android Hiroshi Lockheimer hinted on Medium? We’re not sure. But the Android N Developer Preview, which Google unexpectedly dropped on us earlier this week, is getting positive reviews for a few of its new features. Here are some things to know about Android N:

  1. The early drop date has a purpose. Rather than waiting for May’s I/O developer conference to reveal Android N, Google wanted to gather developer feedback now so it can deliver the final version to device makers by summer. That gives developers time to start playing with the OS now, and will likely mean a more advanced discussion of N at I/O.
  2. It’s fast, according to those who have previewed it. “Everything is zipping around the screen much faster than we’re used to,” writes The Verge’s Dieter Bohn after installing the preview on a Nexus P.

  3. It supports multitasking within and between apps. There’s both a split-screen mode and a picture-within-a-picture mode for Android TV devices, and the elegance of the user interface is earning favorable comparisons to iOS. You can also enable drag-and-drop so users can drop content into your app. This feature should be especially useful on tablets.

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Google Sets Dates for I/O 2016, Registration Opens Soon for Microsoft’s Build

Paul Ballard

13 Jan , 2016  

Google will hold its tenth-anniversary I/O developer conference May 18-20 in Mountain View, CA, CEO Sundar Pichai said in a Tweet on Tuesday. It’ll take place at the Shoreline Amphitheater, a massive outdoor concert arena (yes, a developer conference held outdoors), and the most likely big reveal would be a peek at Android’s newest version, Android N, rumored to be named after an Indian dessert.

Google could also share more details about its Project Tango 3D-enabled smartphone, settle the question of whether it’s merging the  Chrome OS with Android, or show off some of its self-driving cars.

Developers who can’t attend in person can tune in via the I/O Live stream or check out an I/O Extended event in their area, said Pichai.

Meanwhile, registration opens Jan. 19 for Microsoft’s Build 2016 conference, which runs March 30 to April 1 in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Tickets are $2,195 and include access to technical sessions aimed at helping developers build better Microsoft apps—as well as, if tradition holds, a free device or two.

Microsoft is so far mum on details of the event, but exec Steve Guggenheimer said in a blog post that the conference will reflect “the shift to a cloud-first, mobile-first world.”

Visit to get on the Build 2016 mailing list for updates.… Read more

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Google Abandons Oracle Java for OpenJDK

Paul Ballard

30 Dec , 2015  

The legal battle between Google and Oracle over Java APIs just took a new turn—and it could be good news for developers.

Google has opted to use OpenJDK, the open-source APIs for Java, in its new version of Android, VentureBeat reports. That’s a change from current versions, which are based on Oracle’s proprietary Java Development Kit.

“As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community,” VentureBeat quotes a Google spokesperson as saying. “We look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future.”

The move comes in the wake of a copyright dispute between Oracle and Google that’s several years old. Oracle sued the search-engine giant in 2010, claiming copyright infringement for Google’s use of the Java APIs. Google has argued that it’s impossible to copyright APIs—they’re key to innovation, and therefore a public good—and that even if they are copyrighted, the fair use doctrine protects their use. The case is still making its way through the courts.

In the meantime, Android N developers can now look forward to a simpler app development process based on a common codebase for Java.

But as VentureBeat points out, the final outcome of the case could have implications far more wide-ranging than Google’s changes to Android.… Read more

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Can Google Escape Microsoft’s Fate?

Paul Ballard

16 Apr , 2015  

Google could be following in Microsoft’s rather expensive footsteps as the European Union opens an antitrust investigation alleging that bundling of Google services with Android represents an abuse of its dominant position in mobile operating systems.

The European Union, every corporate monopoly’s worst enemy,  is setting its sights once again on Google.  This time it’s going after Google for what it suspects is anti-competitive behavior in bundling of services in Android as well not allowing smartphone manufacturers to create their own versions of Android.

Following the receipt of two complaints, as well as an initial investigation carried out by the Commission on its own initiative, the Commission has now opened a formal investigation to assess if certain conditions in Google’s agreements associated with the use of Android and Google’s proprietary applications and services breach EU antitrust rules.

More specifically, on the basis of the information currently available to the Commission, the investigation will at this stage focus on the following three allegations:

  1. whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile applications or services by requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services;
  2. whether Google has prevented smartphone and tablet manufacturers who wish to install Google’s applications and services on some of their Android devices from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android (so-called “Android forks”) on other devices, thereby illegally hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems and mobile applications or services;
  3. whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by tying or bundling certain Google applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google applications, services and/or application programming interfaces of Google.
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Is Microsoft Trying to Take Over Android?

Paul Ballard

4 Mar , 2015  

Recent announcements from Mobile World Congress show that Samsung will preload Microsoft’s cloud services such as OneDrive and Microsoft Office apps on their new flagship Galaxy S6 phones.  Is this the beginning of a bigger move by Microsoft?

Rumors have swirled for several weeks but earlier this week at Mobile World Congress confirmation has come that Samsung will ship their new Galaxy S6 devices with Microsoft OneDrive and Office apps preinstalled.  While not replacing Google apps outright, this preloading of Microsoft apps gives them a foothold in the most popular Android devices.  Keep in mind that Microsoft already has dozens of its own apps built for Android.

Also of note is earlier news that Microsoft is investing in Cyanogen, makers of their own Android OS who have openly defied Google with statements from their founder that they will “Take Android from Google”.  Whether this would be an outright replacement of Google services in favor of Microsoft’s cloud based services has yet to be seen.

So what is the end-game for Microsoft in this insurgence into the Android camp?  Certainly Microsoft is no stranger to infiltrating rival markets and using their financial and technical capabilities to take over or at least steal away market share.  … Read more

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Life In The Fast Lane!

Paul Ballard

8 Jan , 2015  

81_149119Read more

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