Posts tagged developers
If you build a lot of Android apps, you know there are certain aspects of the process that make you want to rip our your hair. Google understands your pain. Even better, it’s offering some relief.
Instead of focusing on a new version of Android specifically to kick off the keynote at Google I/O this morning, Google focused on new tools and services that will make developers’ lives easier. Google VP of Android product management Hugo Barra announced a variety of new services for Google Play, location and gaming.
The biggest new feature for developers is Android Studio, a dedicated Google-made integrated development environment (IDE) custom-made to simplify the process of building, testing and deploying Android apps. In particular, with Studio, Google aims to solve one of the longest running and bigger problem for Android developers: fragmentation.
Developers often cite the variety of screen sizes and different Android versions as one of their biggest headaches. With Android Studio, developers can render their apps in real time across any type of screen size that Android supports. Studio can also help translate apps into different languages straight from the console.
Maps & Location
Google also announced new ways for developers to tap features of Google Maps in their apps. The new Google Maps API version 2 aims to make it easier for developers to add Google Maps straight into their apps while also improving the speed with which maps render.
Google said it’s also been working to improve the battery drain that turning on smartphone location services can cause. The company claimed that Android location services will use less than 1% of a device’s battery per hour. If that holds up in the real world, it would represent a major improvement over the current location performance on Android.
Google also announced three new application programming interfaces —i.e., hooks for developers to use Google services in their apps — for Android location:
- Fused Location Provider — location is faster to acquire, more accurate, low power location mode that uses less than 1% of battery per hour.
- Geofencing — Can have up to 100 geofences active per app.
- Activity Recognition — Help users track their physical activity. Machine learning classifiers to help people “quantify” themselves.
Google Cloud Messaging
Google said its Cloud Messaging service is delivering 200,000 push messages every second. That is 17 billion messages a day. Google claims to have 60 milliseconds latency, half of what it was when Cloud Messaging was announced last year.
Among the new features in Google Cloud Messaging are Persistent Connection and Upstream Messaging (from the app to your server, GCM does all the client side functions for you). Cloud Messaging will also be able to synchronize notifications between Android devices so you can send a message to a user’s tablet or Android smartphone in one shot.
Google is putting a major focus on Android games at I/O this week and announced a variety of new APIs for Android games. None of these are especially groundbreaking, although they really make Android gaming perform a lot like Apple’s iOS Game Center.
- Cloud Save: The ability to save game play to the cloud and play among multiple devices.
- Achievements: The ability to earn badges based on performance.
- Leaderboards: The ability to have a leader board among your friends on a specific app. Instead of having to raise the global rankings, play against your friends.
The one mild stroke of genius here is that Google is rolling these APIs to both iOS and the Web, meaning that it can extend its gaming experience outside of Android.
Google Play Developer Console
The Google Play Developer Console was announced at I/O 2012. The goal is to help developers manage and monetize their apps. Five new features were announced for the developer console:
- Optimization Tips: Analyzes app and how it is doing in the Play Store and gives you tips to get it to perform better.
- App Translation Service: Allows you to get professional translations from the developer console. Russian!
- Usage Metrics: Google analytics metrics directly in the Google Play Developer Console.
- Revenue Graphs: Simple tool as a tab in the dev console to see how much money you are making.
- Beta testing and staged rollouts: Three tabs, alpha testing, beta testing and production. Can use Google+ and Communities to get beta testers. Can manage the rollout in one go. That is huge so you don’t push out bugs to thousands or millions of users.
The biggest announcement here is the beta testing and staged rollouts. This is something that iOS developers have been asking from Apple for a while.
What are the biggest new features in building for Android? What are you most excited by? Is it the Android Studio that helps you render from a dedicated IDE? Or the beta testing and stage rollouts? Let us know in the comments.
Lead image by Nick Statt for ReadWrite
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In San Francisco Wednesday, Google just kicked off I/O, its annual conference for developers with the audiovisual bombast that’s customary at these sorts of events. But underneath the music, behind the pulsing screens, a question lurked: What does it mean to be a “developer”? Who is Google speaking to?
I’d argue that the definition of “developer” is expanding to embrace a larger and larger set of people, people who previously thought of themselves merely as technology enthusiasts or heavy users of technology at home and in the workplace. And Google is at the forefront of pushing this redefinition.
Google executives Vic Gundotra and Sundar Pichai hinted at the expansiveness of I/O’s reach. We’ve heard that some 7,500 developers are registered for this year’s event. Gundotra, a longtime champion of developers at Google, noted that 1 million people were watching the live stream. And Pichai (that’s him in the image above) hinted at the explosion of post-PC, post-smartphone, post-tablet devices for which we might build experiences soon: Google Glass, smart watches, and other wearable-computing gadgets.
It’s All About The Tools
A software developer, in the Microsoft era, was someone who wrote applications for a desktop PC.
Now, we get computing devices through an explosion of screens, from TVs to big monitors on our desktops to tablets and smartphones. Google Glass and the Pebble smart watch give us even smaller screens—just enough room for blips of information. There are simply too many ways of delivering digital experiences for anyone to dedicate developers to each one.
That means that we need more and more layers of abstraction around the development of software. At I/O, Google showed off one such tool, called Android Studio, which aims to simplify the frustrating process of figuring out what screen an Android user might have. It was launched to big applause.
A new developer console for Google Play, Google’s store for Android apps, tells developers when they’re getting a lot of users in a specific country—and even offers a translation service to adapt apps to speak those users’ language.
But Google also seems to be recognizing that there’s a set of people who need simpler tools. Take its mobile content recommendations tool, which people can add to a website with a single line of code, like dropping in a YouTube video.
Think of managing a YouTube channel, or a page on the Google+ social network: Those, too, in a sense are working in code, though at a very high level.
As is anyone publishing a website. Google’s tools for webmasters, aimed at helping them make sure users can find their pages in Web search, can be thought of as another form of access to Google’s platform. Those are slowly getting woven into Google+, as are Google-linked Android and Web apps, which can now use Google+ to let users log in and share activity with friends.
And for that matter, Android smartphone owners who simply download an app are, when you think about it, reprogramming an incredibly powerful computing device. That’s working with code, whether or not they think of it as such.
Services At Your Fingertips
We’re only seeing glimmerings of how Google might pull this all together. But consider how, say, a music-video app might interact with Google. It might well use YouTube for distribution and discovery, as well as having a Google+ page. It might use Google+ for sign-in and activity sharing, so when people search for an artist’s name, videos watched by friends pop to the top of search results. For mobile, it would certainly have an Android version, sold through the Google Play store, of course.
That’s a staggering array of Google services that one app developer might need to touch. And it’s hard to imagine that any single developer, or even a team of developers, might be able to learn how to use them in great depth. That means Google will need to deliver more simple ways of accessing the power of its computing platforms.
There will always be a need for highly sophisticated programmers who dive deep into code, plumb the depths of computing architecture, and probe the limits of what’s possible.
But for the rest of us, who just want to do something amazing and make use of Google’s tools while doing it, one line of code sounds awfully nice.
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Designing a mobile app can seem simple when you are sketching it out on the whiteboard. But when you actually sit down in your developer environment and get cracking, turning your ideas into reality is not always so easy.
That’s only the beginning, of course. What if you need to design your app for both the iPhone and Android? You will very quickly learn that you cannot just cut and paste your design from one platform to the other. Android and iOS frameworks share some basic principles, but when it comes to design, they are as different as ebony and ivory.
For instance, the notification bars in iOS and Android may look similar, but they perform different functions on each platform. And did you know that the action bar interface icon for iPhone is 20×20 pixels, while Android’s is 24×24 density-independent pixels? Do you know the difference between a pixel and a density-independent pixel?
Here’s a quick reminder, from StackOverflow: Density-independent Pixels – an abstract unit based on the physical density of the screen. These units are relative to a 160dpi screen, so one dp is one pixel on a 160dpi screen. The ratio of dp-to-pixel changes with the screen density, but not necessarily in direct proportion. Note: The compiler accepts both “dip” and “dp,” though “dp” is more consistent with “sp.”
Sometimes you just need an easy chart to remember these kinds of things. Mobile cloud-service provider Kinvey created a quick infographic going over the basics of iOS and Android design for easy reference when you are pulling out your hair trying to port your iPhone icons over to an Android app (or vice versa). Check it out below.
What are your biggest app design problems? Let us know in the comments.
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If you like Google, mobile development and cloud platforms, this is going to be a good week for you.
Google will have lots of goodies this week for developers – and consumers – at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco. We might see some new hardware, a couple updates to Google’s major platforms (Maps, Android, Chrome, Google+ and Play) and most likely a surprise or two. But, really, the week belongs to the developers.
Historically, I/O has been an occasion for Google to get its developer community together and introduce them to the newest tools, tips on how to develop for Google apps and best practices. Until the last couple of years, I/O (which Google started in 2008) was all about developers and less about big product announcements. In 2011, Google announced Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as well as Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer. In 2012, the rage was Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the Nexus 7 Android tablet and the spectacular unveiling of Google Glass. This year, we expect Google to once again focus heavily on its developer community – with fewer major product announcements.
From a hardware perspective, Google may or may not announce new devices during I/O, but don’t expect an event like 2012, when Google-branded hardware stole the show. If Google does announce hardware, we expect that it will release (or at least update) some kind of Nexus tablet and/or smartphone (probably through LG), an update to its Chromebook line (likely through Samsung or Acer) and maybe something to do with Google TV.
Otherwise, Google I/O will be a developer’s paradise. Here’s what mobile, Web, cloud and social developers should be looking forward to:
Google’s new head of Android, Sundar Pichai, told Wired not to expect any major product announcements at I/O. Considering that Pichai is head of Android and Chrome OS, we tend to think that he was specifically talking more about Google’s computing platforms and less about new hardware.
That said, Google will update Android one way or another this week. The rumors surrounding I/O are that Google will issue an iterative update to Jelly Bean, Android version 4.3. If true, that means that Google is not yet coming out with Key Lime Pie, the next named version of Android.
Regardless if we see a new version of Android or just a Jelly Bean update, there will be plenty of Android news at I/O. Some major themes:
- Gaming: Google will host a variety of game-related developer sessions at I/O. It will give developers best practices, design tips and ideas on taking their games to the next level. Google’s Ingress augmented/alternate reality game will be featured, with several Ingress battles taking place at Moscone West during the week. Most of the Android gaming sessions will take place on Day 1 (Wednesday, May 15) of I/O.
- Design & Performance: Google’s biggest objective with Android during the week will be working with developers to make their apps function seamlessly, look better and present dynamic user experiences. Most design and performance sessions will take place on Day 2.
- Google Play: Google will be giving developers tips on how to best monetize their apps and get seen on its app store, Google Play, throughout the conference. Google Play sessions will be held on Day 2 & 3.
- Maps: We expect a big update to Google Maps in both user interface, functionality and developer tools. Location is a key ingredient in how Google uses Android and there will be a variety of location- and Maps-related sessions on all three days of the event.
Chrome OS Tools, Apps & Features
Again, if we can believe Pichai, there will not be any major new announcements for Chrome. But there might be a new Chromebook announced at I/O and there will definitely be new feature updates.
Chrome OS and the Chrome browser are important to Google because they are the company’s window to the Web. Chrome OS is also a key cog in Google’s cloud strategy – the company wants to tie developers to the operating system and get them to run their apps in Google’s cloud platform. Many of the announcements and sessions at I/O related to Chrome will focus on functionality, cloud adoption and Google Apps (like Maps, Gmail, Drive etc.). On Monday, Google announced that Gmail, Google+ Photos and Drive will be merged to give users 15GB of storage. That type of integration will be prominent in how Google steers developers toward developing for Chrome at I/O.
- Drive: Google will be making a bid to get developers and users to tie their Chrome OS and browser storage to Drive, its personal cloud product. Google will push tying use of its Apps to Drive, such as in the Day 1 session titled, “Integrate Google Drive With Google App Scripts.”
- HTML: Chrome is for the Web and of the Web. Hence, HTML will always be a big part of development for apps on Chrome OS and the browser. I/O has several sessions on how to create mobile websites optimized through Chrome with HTML. It will also have sessions on Dart, Google’s programming language meant to accelerate function and performance in HTML Web apps.
Google+ Enhanced Communication
The biggest improvements to Google’s social network likely concern communication. Google Babel is rumored to be the company’s integration of all of its messaging platforms into one product – likely to be rolled out through Google+. Google will spend a lot of time showing developers how to use Google+ as a “one true sign-in” platform, much like Facebook uses your profile to let you sign into a variety of websites. Google will also announce new features to Google+ designed to get developers to build more apps for the platform and increase engagement – from brands and consumers.
Location, Location, Location
Google Maps will get some heavy play at this year’s I/O. Maps will likely get a user experience overhaul – look for that to be a major component of Wednesday morning’s keynote. Google wants Maps to be integrated everywhere, from Android to Chrome to every third-party app in between. On Day 1 and Day 2 it has a variety of sessions dedicated solely to Maps integration. That includes HTML5 and mobile Web visualization, indoor maps, API integration and discovery.
Only A Little Glass
Google Glass was the big announcement at I/O 2012. It will likely be a major theme at the keynote on Wednesday. The hype that surrounds Glass requires Google to mention it prominently. Yet, when it comes to developers, Glass will only be a sideshow to the major events around Chrome, Cloud and Android.
Google is holding just four announced Glass development sessions, all on Day 2. Essentially, these sessions are Developing For Glass 101, and will include how to use the Google Mirror API.
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What are the most popular activities done or content consumed by apps? Google’s now bringing that information to its search results, assuming the app developer makes use Google+ Sign-In, that is. Google+ Sign-in was launched in February as an easy way to let anyone sign into a site or app…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Enterprise IT keeps trying to shove the public cloud genie back into a private cloud bottle, but the majority of developers are having none of that, according to Forrester principal analyst James Staten (@staten7), speaking at the Open Business Conference (OSBC) on Tuesday in San Francisco. Interestingly, these cloud-savvy developers aren’t newbie troublemakers just getting started in enterprise IT, but instead skew older and more experienced. Perhaps with Twisted Sister cranking on their Walkmans, this rising breed of middle-aged cloud developer isn’t “gonna take it anymore.”
Which, of course, is exactly how open source made its way in the enterprise.
Open Source: Not So Young But Very Restless
Back in 2002, Boston Consulting Group surveyed (PDF) the open-source developer community to get a feel for the demographics of the movement. While early open-source development was thought to be marshalled by anarchists and free code-loving hippies, BCG’s study revealed that the open-source community was actually comprised of experience IT professionals with an average of 11 years of programming experience.
And while the open source ranks weren’t filled with Baby Boomers, they also weren’t being pushed by Generation Y. The average age was 30 years old. While not exactly middle aged, it skewed much older than expected.
This shouldn’t have been surprising. Often, those who have the most value to contribute are more experienced programmers. In addition, such programmers have also been working in enterprise IT long enough to recognize a better, more efficient way of developing software, and to have the job security needed to take a risk on coloring outside the lines of enterprise IT policies.
Cloud As An Antidote To Corporate Bureaucracy
It’s therefore not surprising to see cloud computing also driven by experienced developers, rather than newly minted graduates. According to Forrester’s Forrsights Developer Survey, Q1 2013, 71% of cloud developers have at least six years of programming experience, and some 11% have been writing code for over 20 years. These aren’t novices trying the cloud because it’s “cool.”
Indeed, delving deeper into Forrester’s data, the primary reason developers turn to the cloud is speed of development:
In other words, as with open source, these developers can’t be bothered with corporate bureaucracy. In an earlier Forrester survey, developers said the primary benefit of the cloud is that it’s the “Fastest way for me to get my project done and deployed.” This calls to mind Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady’s assertion that “Convenience trumps just about everything” when it comes to cloud adoption.
A Race To Capture Middle-Aged Hearts And Minds
Amazon was the first to spot this market, and is now the preferred Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering for 71% of developers, according to Forrester, with Microsoft Azure (25%) and Google (23%) playing catch-up. Cloud developers overwhelmingly want IaaS because they want “deep platform access” to things like app servers, web servers, and databases, as Staten noted in his OSBC presentation.
Again, cloud developers are not neophytes. They’re serious developers who understand core IT infrastructure but want the freedom to get work done without waiting on corporate procurement or legal policies to catch up.
As such, the IaaS platform that best serves this need will win.
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Facebook has just acquired Parse, a popular suite of tools for mobile and Web app developers. The acquisition will serve Facebook’s mobile mission well, encouraging developers to build apps tied into the social network while easing the barriers to entry.
Already, Parse has attracted interest from familiar names like Sesame Workshop, which makes a Cookie Monster app, and Carnival Cruises, which used Parse’s cross-platform tools to build its Ship Mate app.
The acquisition suggests that Facebook wants brands like these to go beyond building Facebook pages and running ads to creating mobile experiences which generate activity on Facebook users’ profiles and news feeds.
With this buy, rumored to be worth around $85 million, Facebook dives headlong into the nascent game of providing the technical underpinnings for apps, also known as the back end. Parse’s peers in this emerging mini-industry are companies like Stackmob, Kinvey, and Cocoafish, the latter of which Appcelerator acquired last year.
Parse has an enthusiastic community of developers—and for good reason. The developer platform subtracts some of the nastier requirements of building apps, like server maintenance—ick! Instead, it lets app builders concentrate their energy around what matters – namely, developing an awesome user interface, or front end.
We spoke with former Hipmunk mobile developer and user-experience guru Danilo Campos about what the acquisition means for developers loyal to Parse.
“I hope the incentives are aligned such that Facebook wins when developers win,” Campos said. “It’s easy to get antsy when a [big company] buys up a gem. But I think Parse’s leadership is damn smart and if anything can navigate these waters for the best outcome, it’s them.”
Facebook refused to comment on the deal’s terms beyond saying that “this is an acquisition – not a talent deal.” Facebook has bought some design- and mobile-oriented companies primarily to hire their talent while abandoning their products. That’s not the case here: Parse and Facebook says current products will be supported.
According to Facebook’s blog:
Today, we’re making it even easier to build mobile apps with Facebook Platform by by announcing that we have entered into an agreement to acquire Parse, a cloud-based platform that provides scalable cross-platform services and tools for developers. By making Parse a part of Facebook Platform, we want to enable developers to rapidly build apps that span mobile platforms and devices.
It remains to be seen if Parse, under Facebook’s wing, will maintain or extend support for competing social platforms like Twitter. Still, Facebook didn’t seem keen on messing with the Parse’s existing well-loved products and services.
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And you thought being a software engineer was all about dreaming up clever algorithms or amazing graphics routines and then instantiating them in elegant, tightly written code. Shows what you know.
It turns out, at least according to a survey conducted by software delivery service Electric Cloud, that developers spend almost 20% of their time… waiting. Waiting for their code to compile (that is, for it to be translated from a programming language like Python or C into a binary machine language computers can execute). Waiting for test routines to finish running. Waiting for that junior developer to get back with the Diet Coke and Funyons.
You get the idea. According to the survey, software engineers spend as much time waiting as they do brainstorming and collaborating. Check it out (click on each graphic for a larger version):
Of course, waiting can take many forms. Some programmers doubtless use the time to plot our their next project or bug fix. Others may have, well, other pastimes. (As in this iconic XKCD comic, for instance.) In any event, the sheer amount of time devoted to the waiting game blew the surveyors away.
“It was definitely surprising,” said Ashish Kuthiala, Electric Cloud’s director of marketing. “When I was a software engineer, I remember losing time to meetings when I’d rather be coding. But we didn’t realize how much time engineers lose waiting for tests and builds to complete.”
Electric Cloud conducted its survey last month after hearing clients — a group which includes Walmart, Samsung and GM — complain their engineers weren’t working as quickly as they’d like.
“Software engineers are our clients’ most expensive resources, so they’re always concerned about whether they’re being as productive as they can be,” Kuthiala said. Spoken like a true pointy-headed boss, you might say.
Electric Cloud circulated the survey to LinkedIn groups and forums engineers frequent, offering a Kindle raffle prize as an incentive. So far, it’s received nearly 1,200 responses. Survey participants had the option to remain anonymous or disclose their company names.
“Every time we conduct the survey, the results continue to map on top of each other,” Kuthiala said. “It doesn’t just show how the majority of engineers spend their time, it can be used as a benchmark to see how your company’s engineers are doing compared to the average.”
Is there any way to shorten those waits, or even avoid them altogether? Not really. Unsurprisingly, Electric Cloud offers a service it says can help by automating the cycle of building, testing and deploying code. Some open-source software claims to do something similar. And then there’s the time-honored, if not-necessarily-reliable, option of just throwing as much hardware as possible at the problem.
And yet as long as there are compile delays and testing latencies, engineers will always have an excuse when they’re slacking off.
Let’s hear it, coders. How does your work week break down compared to these survey results?
Photo by Flickr user Phil Heaberlin, CC 2.0
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Evernote, the company behind the eponymous suite of notetaking and archiving apps for computers and mobile use, on Tuesday announced the Evernote Accelerator program to help promising winners of its 2013 Evernote Devcup hackathon (which began on March 10 and runs through June 28 with thousands of participants) turn their ideas into actual products.
(See also 2012 Evernote Devcup Finalists.)
The idea, according to Evernote platform advocate Rafe Needleman, who is behind the program, is to invite half a dozen two-to-three person developer teams from all around the world to come to Evernote’s Silicon Valley headquarters for a month of intensive development and mentoring – along with team building and technical support. “We want to take these great ideas and help them go from the idea stage to the sustainable business stage,” Needleman said.
Honda & DOCOMO Will Sponsor Evernote Accelerator Teams
Honda Silicon Valley Lab and DOCOMO Innovation Ventures will sponsor teams in two of the categories, focused on in-car apps and mobile apps, respectively. While Needleman wouldn’t say how much the sponsors are contributed, he said they’ll be rewarded with visibility into global entrepreneurship as well as media attention (you’re reading this, right?) and the ability to work with developer teams to create cool apps.
Needleman said more sponsors are expected to join the program, but not all the teams will have specific sponsors – some will be chosen and sponsored by Evernote itself.
Not all the Devcup winners will be at the appropriate development stage for the Accelerator, Needleman explained, but Evernote will invite appropriate participants from the pool of winners. “They must win a [Devcup] prize to be invited.”
Evernote will fly the teams selected for the Acclerator to the Bay Area, put them up and pay a stipend for incidental expenses. But unlike the accelerator programs and developer funds at many platform companies, it won’t be taking an equity position. The Accelerator teams will get workspace at Evernote’s HQ, and the ability to work directly with the Evenote developers. After the Accelerator, the company will help the teams connect with Silicon Valley funding sources and development organizations to help support the next stage in their development.
Best Case Scenario: New Evernote Apps
For Evernote, the best-case scenario is to create viable busineses that leverage the Evernote database to make it even more useful. “Evernote has eight apps,” Needleman explained, but “there’s a million things you can do with Evernote data.”
(See also Evernote: A 0-60 MPH Guide.)
The program will run from mid-October to mid-November, 2013. Rules and signup information can be found at dev.evernote.com. Needleman hopes the Accelerator will become an annual event.
(Disclosure: From 1997-1998, I worked for Rafe Needleman at CNET.com.)
Images courtesy of Evernote.
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