Saturday, February 28, 2009

Live the Tao

I was just upstairs and saw my copy of "Tao Te Ching" looking up at me. Brandie wanted some bedtime reading... so I gave her my copy last week. I picked it up & started flipping it's pages. It had been a while since I've read it.

When I first read "Tao Te Ching", something struck me that is still true today. The Tao describes the perfect form of philosophy, religion, and spirituality for me. There is no need to attend church, or perform rituals, or preach, or pray. Searching for Tao is all one needs to live life.

Here is one translation available online.
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html
If you are looking for a wise words to meditate upon for peace and happiness, read the Tao Te Ching.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Android & The Future of Mobile Computing

It's been a bit wet and dreary out this week. For many, that's a good time to catch up on an old book. For a technophile like myself... it's a good time to deep dive into a new project.

I've been wanting to toy around and learn the Android OS since I got my G1 phone a couple months ago. All the Google services work great on Android: GMail, Calendar, Maps, etc. However, Google has thus far fumbled on a decent "To Do" list. That's why many people like myself are big users of rememberthemilk.com (aka "RTM"). I'm not the first person to wish for an RTM Android app. Their mobile site is okay, but a custom app is a must-have for something you use often. No one seemed to be delivering, so I made the "RTM Tasks" Android app myself (see below), leveraging the RTM API.


The Android API is Java-based. I already know Java so learning the framework wasn't too bad. It's similar to any GUI framework like Swing - all widgets, and handlers. After learning the ins & outs on my first app, I feel like I could turn out another app fairly rapidly. There were a few pain points I ran into, e.g. no XPATH library, and figuring out how to do a threaded "loading" ProgressDialog. Overall, I think Android is a well-designed OS that has a future of growth.

The Future of Mobile Computing

I've got a few thoughts about Android and the mobile computing market in general. I think my opinion is founded on a good understanding of technology and business (the old MBA market-niche-strategy studies come in here). I'm going to sum up my prediction about mobile computing in four words: Apple will repeat history.

What do I mean by that? Apple is the same in today's mobile phone market as it was in the early personal computing market: a leader and innovator (credit both to Steve Jobs). Apple brought the mouse and a windows-type GUI to it's computers, revolutionizing their usability and appeal to consumers. Similarly today, the iPhone has revolutionized mobile computing with touch-interface and an app platform. Clearly at both points in history, Apple was the leader in it's market.


Apple MacintoshApple iPhone

So what happened to Apple? How did Microsoft Windows come to reign on the personal computer? The answer lies in Apple's business model, and the fact that all new technology starts in a phase of innovation eventually to mature into a phase of commoditization. Apple makes it's products from top-to-bottom: hardware & software. This allows it to make all the pieces fit when it dreams up fantastic new ideas. However, once Microsoft implemented "windows' and the mouse on it's computers... commodization started. Since they license their OS... cheaper component based PCs came out from manufacturers.

Apple still likes to do things the old way. They even limited their iPhone to a single provider (AT&T)! Here's where Android comes in. You see, Android could come to play the same role that Microsoft played in the commoditization of PCs. It's a full-featured mobile OS, just waiting to be commoditized. That's already happening with reports of manufacturers lining up Android products. The API is Java-based, making it attractive to developers. Even now, the most popular iPhone apps are available on Android. It is truly impressive with it's feature-set: accelerometer, GPS, compass, copy-paste(eat that Apple!), 3G, wifi, bluetooth, full internet, and on & on.



What about Microsoft? Palm? They are also both victims of they own business models. Microsoft can't revolutionize the mobile-web future without cannabilizing their bread & butter: Windows for desktops. They've made sad attempts to shrink their Windows onto mobile phones... but Android creamed them with a fast & smooth trimmed-down mobile platform. Google has everything to gain by enticing people to the mobile web. Like the powerful RIAA is slowly bleeding from the inevitable progress of digital media, Microsoft will slowly bleed from the inevitable evolution of the "web OS". Sorry Microsoft... I will never want to build a Powerpoint presentation on my little mobile device. As for Palm - they just announced a new mobile OS that looks sharp. However, Palm suffers from the same business model as Apple... so they won't benefit from the coming mobile commoditization. They will be third or fourth rung (at best) in a market with space for two or three major players.

Personally, I also admire Android for it's "open" philosophy. That's another blog... but with the upcoming release of Android "cupcake" update and new form-factors on the way, the future looks bright for this new mobile platform.


UPDATE==============

I got the the email below from an attorney at rememberthemilk.
Well, I'm not updating this android app anymore since I'm busy with other projects, so if any users of the app read this... now you know why it broke, because "RTM" is in the app title. Complain to the acronym-nazis at rememberthemilk, not me. I've learned to love Google Tasks by now, so I recommend the app GTasks as an alternative.


On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 9:30 PM, Remember The Milk <legal@rememberthemilk.com> wrote:
Hi Steve,

I'm writing regarding your app, "RTM Tasks" at:

 https://market.android.com/details?id=com.apppad.androidRTM

Using the Remember The Milk API with API key: 347f55a1d8864618f927659352990abe

Unfortunately the name of this app violates the Remember The Milk API Terms of Use and branding guidelines:

 http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/api/terms.rtm
 http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/api/branding.rtm

From the branding guidelines: "You may not use Remember The Milk or RTM in the name of your product, website or application".

Please see the branding guidelines for full details on acceptable naming.

If you're able to rename your app by Friday, December 9, this would be great (as technically we need to disable API keys that don't comply with terms).

Thanks!