Friday, 6 June 2014

The dream of an agnostic smart device world

By Mark Collier

Given recent news stories rolling around it seems there is an ever increasing demand for device agnostic solutions when it comes to smart devices. As consumers I expect we can all go through our list of devices and count a multitude of things on each device that we wish we could use seamlessly on all of our other devices.

Device agnostic solutions are greener...
Personally I have just upgraded my iPhone and now have the task of ensuring that I carry two charging cables, plus my laptop charger and my work phone charger with me everywhere I go. It’s a good ploy to get me to upgrade my iPad every time I forget one of the cables.

Luckily as far as chargers go, the end is nearly in sight. Back in March the EU overwhelmingly backed a resolution that will make it law for smart phone manufactures to produce devices with a common charger by 2017, hallelujah!  Not only will this make my bag lighter but it is estimated to save around 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste a year. It might also surprise you to know that Apple was one of the original signatories to the agreement with manufactures back in 2009. Unfortunately it would appear that some aspects of technology still change very slowly.

This brings into question whether other things such as App’s will ever become device agnostic, making life easier for app developers and consumers alike. Wouldn't it be great if you could have one device and know all the App’s out there are at your fingertips? Or will we move closer and closer to a world where you pick your device based on the App’s you want to use? -  much like picking a games console because you want to play Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo or  Halo and Race Pro (easy choice on the racing front). 

Postgrad researchers at Columbia University have been trying to overcome the nagging issue of not being able to access flash content on an iOS device or iTunes media on an Android device. The project, named Cider, looked to avoid the usual performance problems associated with virtualization and use a translation to alter iOS instructions to run on an Android device. The video of Cider in action seems to show it working nicely although many of the comments point out some of the flaws around speed and the use of native features.

This does raise the question though; will we ever see a day where Apple and Android work together for the benefit of the consumer? I doubt it, but we may be moving towards a world where at least the consumers don’t have to make a tough decision. For now though it still seems the cleanest, cheapest way to be device agnostic is hybrid development. This means making the most of device agnostic technologies such as HTML5 for App development and only using native code when absolutely necessary - which is the approach that MobiCloud has adopted. Perhaps we should also design a charger...

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