May 28, 2010

No OSGi on your phone

OSGi was initially created for mobile and embedded world. I think it is the dream of an every OSGi geek dream to develop applications. for a cool OSGi engine that is bolted together with the operating system of your phone. An OSGi phone that would provide access to everything your phone can do together with all the goodness that comes from OSGi. A dream phone that would allow you to bring in your OSGi service that integrates with your cloud service, over the air when declared as dependency. Although, OSGI had a few attempts to really break into mobile phone world it is unfortunate that OSGi phone will remain a dreams for foreseeable future.

Nokia did work on an OSGi based Java environment for Symbian phones. Nokia even went to the trouble to create a JSR for it. It established a pretty ambitious R&D program around OSGi. It was actually these ambitious goals that eventually caused it to fail. The R&D program was ambitious because it not only promised to provide OSGi but it also tried to get Midlets to work together with the OSGi engine. However, OSGi aware midlets model especially the MIDP security did not fit to OSGi and the R&D effort was never able to deliver a solution that was acceptable. In my personal opinion the main flaw was on the effort was treating OSGi as another runtime on the device rather than the main engine.

Most of the effort did not get wasted on Nokia's effort though. On the older MIDP environment all the pieces of the Java environment (all JSR implementation etc..) was compiled into a single binary together with the VM and was loaded together with it. OSGi model required a flexible architecture so almost all the pieces of the Java environment was re-designed for it so that they would be separate libraries consisting of a jar and possibly a native dll. These pieces are compiled separately and are loaded on demand by VM. This architecture later converted into MIDP environment as well. The Java environment of S60 3.2 and later devices and the Java environment currently available as part of the Open source Symbian foundation code carries this architecture. A few advanced APIs such as eSWT was also created in this era.

A second opportunity was when Google started working on Android. The goals of the Android was almost a perfect match with OSGi. And this time OSGi would be the engine that runs all the services and applications of the phone which lacked on the earlier Nokia attempt. It is also known that there were members of the Android team who did know well about OSGi. It is hard to know as an outsider what really went but Android did not use OSGi and build its own version of concepts to provide similar functionality.

Although there were later attempts like the Sprint Titan platform to bring OSGi to mobile phones, they also failed when the smartphone market changed rapidly to different directions. Unfortunately, in the current climate it looks very unlikely that anyone will bother to spend the time and energy to make OSGi part of mobile phones.
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May 18, 2010

Mobile phone is the new browser

Internet, especially web has changed our world. It has become a major part of how we shop, have conversations, have relations, learn, teach etc... Web browser has been the principal tool for most of the interaction with Internet. Viola was the first web browser I have ever used. Regardless of many advances on the web technology and many browsers and browser versions that accompany them, the main capability of the web browser stayed constant.

Internet, on the other hand, did not remain constant, continued to be part of our work and leisure life. When we moved into the cloud computing era, a mindset change of how we think about computing also accompanied it. Our interaction with Internet evolved to be two way, creating content, taking part in the social networks became the normal interaction. Using cloud services for all sorts of computing needs started to be the primary choice.
The new Internet experience and cloud services, to enable their full potential, require a new browser. A browser that is not made only for consuming content but also for creating it. One that can be an almost natural part of our daily life. Our current browsers do provide a limited way to participate on the web mostly in a textual manner, It is a better than nothing interim solution. They fail completely on becoming a natural part of our life. I believe, the new browser is the mobile phone, and I do not mean just the mobile browser that comes with your phone.

I think it is easier to understand why we need a new tool for easier content creation. Active contribution has been central to Web 2.0, the concept that has been shaping the web for the last decade. We are at a point, that we expect to be able to contribute to web applications that we use. Most mobile phones already include great content creation tools on board. Camera, video, GPS capabilities already provides opportunities for content creation. Web sites like CNN's iReport do benefit from these capabilities. A quick visit to Flickr's camera finder reveals that at least one of the top five cameras on the Flickr community is a cameraphone. GPS is also another mobile phone built-in feature that is having an impact on content creation. Panaromio, is a good example of how geotagging the content, in this case photos, innovates what can be considered a legacy content. An excellent example of how mobile phones can serve our needs for content creation in new and innovative ways is the Ocarina app. for iPhone. An application that allows you to create music using the sensors of the phone and then share your creation. Applications like Ocarina is a precursor of how our new browser can innovate our latest addiction.

Of course, a mobile phone because it is mobile and with us all the time is already part of our life. However, its communication capabilities is what makes mobile phones eligible to be the browser of our life. Broadband 3G and WLAN is crucial for communicating with the cloud services. Besides its various built-in sensors, its further communication technologies, such as bluetooth and NFC, allows mobile phones to act as a gateway for all kinds of remote sensors. What do I really mean by browsing your life and how it relates to sensors, let me try to explain by some examples. An already widely used example of such applications is the Nike+ products where the data collected by sensors during sports activity is uploaded to a service using a mobile device, in this case iPod. Another similar service that I enjoy using is the sports tracker, where data is collected for outdoor sports through GPS and optionally a heart rate monitor by a mobile phone and uploaded to a cloud service. This technology can easily stretch beyond sports. Another product that consists of a wearable monitor for collecting medical information such as the hearth rate, respiration, body fluid status already exist. The product uses its own separate transmitter to transfer the collected data to the web service for further processing. I think, in the future, this transmitter will be replaced by a mobile phone software and which in turn will make the service more affordable and common. I believe what we see today are just the beginning of the kind of services that will be built around the life browsing capabilities of mobile phones.

I hope this gives another perspective on why the traditional consumer electronics companies are less relevant to mobile phone market. Mobile phones are not about consumer electronics anymore it is about the next and possibly the final round of browser wars.
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May 11, 2010

I have mentioned on the earlier post about the ovi app wizard and my brief experience on creating an app for this blog with it. Now the approval process is done and it is now available on Ovi store. Although there are a couple of annoyances with the final application that is related to my app's icon, and the web runtime on E75, I think the resulting app is a convenient way to reach to content.Please do give it a try and let me know what you think.

Also note that the above banner and the ones that I use on this site are also provided by Ovi marketing tool.
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May 4, 2010

Your mobile App. in minutes

Back in 2008, I was using a Nokia service called WidSets to provide access to the content of this blog from mobile phones. When Nokia's application store Ovi was announced, WidSets was actually discontinued and was "evolved" into Ovi Store. Until recently, evolved actually meant disappeared. Ovi did not provide the same easy and quick content publishing to content owners that WidSets provided. A few days ago, Ovi started a new service called Ovi App wizard. It is an online service that allows you to turn the RSS feed of your content into an Ovi App. After the usual Ovi store approval process it becomes available to the Nokia devices via Ovi store.

I was a big fan of WidSets and I was looking for a replacement for it ever since it discontinued, so I did immediately tried to create an App. Ovi App wizard allows you to define up to 4 feeds, a logo and an icon for your application. I have actually used my blog, twitter and slideshare feeds. The whole process of creation took about 20 minutes to complete and most of it was about creating a proper icon for the app. Currently, I am waiting for approval for it to become available on the Ovi store (approval is supposed to take a day or so ).

I am sure that some will claim that this service is just about Nokia trying to boost the number of applications on Ovi store. I personally think this is more about making the Nokia devices the preferred device to consume web 2.0 content. Considering that iPhone is the device choice for consuming web, this service, even if it has no chance of matching iPhone, is not a bad move on the behalf of Nokia.

If you are a content owner, like myself, this is another channel to distribute your content (you want to reach more people right?). And preparing your content for this channel costs nothing, not even a significant amount of your time..
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May 3, 2010

Changes on this blog's Planet Eclipse participation

If you have been following this blog through Planet Eclipse, you should be aware that the full content of this blog will no longer be available on Planet Eclipse. This blog started its life with the intention to provide information and updates around the Eclipse projects I am involved with and grew from there. Lately, the developments on technologies that I am working with and interested in are more frequently outside the scope of Eclipse. Since I want to blog about mobile and web software technology happening outside Eclipse and out of respect to the Planet Eclipse readers, I am replacing my feed on Planet Eclipse with one that carries only posts labeled for Eclipse. If you are a Planet Eclipse reader but still would like to read all the posts, you can subscribe to the full feed.
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