Android and LBS – in the stack at last…

So maybe now Mr Balmer is reconsidering his comments of last week..

For me and my interest in geographic information the key detail about the Android SDK is the LBS component, and where is appears in the whole android stack. I have often argued that LBS would only really make sense as an underlining infrastructure that is available to all applications, therefore allowing much higher levels of integration.

One of the key factors to the success of the iPhone is the great integration between its applications, it’s just a shame these are currently restricted in number, to the Apple supplied applications.

Android

With Android the Location Manager component is part of the core application framework, meaning that all user applications have access to the devices location. At a simple level this means that applications like the address book as access to the device location, so your contacts rather than sorted alphabetically could be sorted based on distance from your locations.

Or slightly more “left field” how about a security application which locks the device waiting on the user to enter a PIN if the devices location does not match the scheduled location from the calendar application.

For really the first time, the innovation which always comes from Open Source development can be focused on building LBS.. at last !!

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

24 comments

  1. Daniel

    Mobile, I mean like, the real Mobile Paradigm, is finally here… And if you can hear that Flaming Lips intro in your mind, “It starts-s-s-s-s-s… Now-nownownownownow…”

  2. Christopher Brind

    Hi Ed,

    I’m no Microsoft fan, but I imagine Mr Balmer is still rather unperterbed the release of Android. Linux (and for that matter Mac OS) is still to make a dent in the desktop world and I think the same will be said for the mobile world as well. It appears that it is geeks like us that this stuff is targetted at and that isn’t really a business model which will drive this technology forward.

    Realistically speaking, which operators will adopt and support hardware/software built on this stack? My view is not many since it means they won’t have control and they like to be in control!

    Next question is, what hardware does this stack run on, if any, and when will it be available for general consumption? We’re talking several years at least probably more if you’re in the UK. Given that amount of time, I can see Microsoft adapting to this new (and I have to say minor) threat which will make it even harder for this hardware/software stack to penetrate the market.

    In conclusion, I don’t see this being very successfull because:
    1) Consumers aren’t really interested in “cool” technology as we (geeks) see it. In fact, mention Linux and most people will probably either go “huh?” or just avoid it.
    2) Operators are unlikely to adopt and support for the same reason and additionally because they will have the perception of lack of control.
    3) By the time the hardware is available for general consumption the market will be even harder to penetrate.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think this stuff is really cool and I welcome it (sooner rather than later), but right now it is all a bit of a geek-dream, even with Google putting in so much effort. I’d love to get on and start coding with Android, but it seems a bit pointless until I can actually use my applications in a tangible manner, rather than on an emulator.

    Cheers,
    Brindy

  3. Pmarc

    Chris,

    actually Linux has an edge on mobile devices.

    Also, regarding your concerns about carriers, please have a look at the Open Handset Alliance website and see who are the heavyweights (besides Google) that joined the wagon…

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  5. Daniel

    Chris,

    How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    Two. One to hold the giraffe, while the other one throws the brightly coloured power-tools into the bathtub.

  6. Christopher Brind

    Hi Pmarc,

    I’ll have to take your word on that, I’ve never seen Linux on a mobile *phone* (but then I’m far from an expert, no do I spend all my time looking at this stuff).

    That’s an impressive list of companies in the alliance. It certainly puts a good spin on things, but I’m still skeptical about getting my hands on some hardware that will allow me to run Android apps before 2010, especially since I’m in the UK.

    This whole “movement” will gain credibility with me when:
    1) the hardware is easy for me to get… by easy to get I mean being able to order one online for less than £200 per handset and not have to pull strings with one of the alliance members

    2) more UK operators join the list (either Orange or Vodafone onboard would convince me, but I suspect it’s unlikely)

    3) Nokia is added to the list of handset manufacturers (again, unlikely).

    I sincerly hope it all does happen very soon, it is quite exciting technology, but for some reason I’m just feeling really skeptical right now.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  7. Ed

    @ Chris,

    Fair enough we need to see devices and the Android platform in the hands of developers to see if this will work or not. I hope if will, the mobile internet is still stuck in the computing paradigm of the mid 1990s, CompuServe and aol controlling access to informtion and services..

    Although I do feel this more about the services it is possible to deliver with access to the right tools and information as it is about device design..

    ed

  8. Duncan Garratt

    As we have seen all to often in the IT industry the best technology does not always become the standard adopted by millions. What the driving force behind all of this will be, is the market dominance of the software/hardware/network giants.

    Linux has the problem as seen by many application developers as an operating system for technological boffins producing advanced bespoke systems and not as an operating system for standard business applications. Whilst experienced developers may have expertise in several programming languages relatively few have the same level of experience when it comes to different operating systems and writing bespoke applications for them.

    This is a fundamental problem as the majority of developers are stepping if not running down the Windows .Net route and are not even considering Linux let alone Mono as an alternative. Mr Balmer knows this only to well so in the medium to long term is Microsoft concerned? NO because by the time Android and hardware to run it is available, the phone and PDA specs will be such that developers will be writing mini Windows WPF/E apps to run on these devices using Visual Studio.

    Windows Presentation Foundation and XAML should not be underestimated as these technologies are already at the heart of Vista and I have no doubt will start appearing for mobile devices as well. In this respect the technological leap is as big as it was between DOS and Windows and when Visual Studio 2008 is released you will see a massive uptake in this technology. Already with WPF/E you can forget about cross browser compatibility issues if you are running .Net 3 plus and equally the same application can run as a Winform with a couple of minor alterations. The key for WPF and WPF/E is its interoperability and for the application programmer only to have to learn one method of programming regardless of the application running in a Winform, Browser, or on a mobile phone or PDA.

    Microsoft has been extremely smart by reinventing the Windows operating system and the way we program business applications. WPF and WPF/E will in a few years become the platform of choice for advanced PDA and phone applications, as the tools will already be there in Visual Studio so why should developers use anything else.

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  10. Duncan Garratt

    Hi Daniel

    Yes is the answer. But there is nothing there that can’t be done in WPF or WPF/E regarding 3D Warehouse.

    The 3D functionality in WPF and WPF/E are awesome and relatively simple to program. That is one of the main reasons why I think it will all go the Microsoft route in my opinion given a couple of years.

  11. Tony Battle

    I note in the press that Google are offering 10m USD in prizes for developers to produce the business apps for Android. Do I get a prize for suggesting this a few weeks back?

  12. Tony Battle

    I think we should use this occasion as an example to highlight the value in encouraging the wider world to actively assist in Google’s career path. A substantial reward will send the right messages. Two pens, a T-shirt and a mug will do.

  13. Daniel

    Duncan, just wait until someone kinda geeky and smart figures out that they can create an actual authoring tool for building apps for Android — building pre-configured (and editable) widgets to chain apps together for compiling. You know like the WYSIWYG of the mobile paradigm.

    Can you imagine?

  14. Duncan Garratt

    Hi Daniel

    I agree it would be neat but again why reinvent the wheel. Android uses remarkably similar technology to Microsoftâ??s WPF and WPE/E technology. XML or XAML with inline code or code behind, the principle and methods of programming are the same. Android uses XML and WPF uses XAML both are expandable and are XML control/component based. I accept that for whatever reasons some are anti Microsoft but I do feel Android in a year or two will be pushing against the tide if not already. Android as a serious contender for mobile applications, well time will tell, but I have serious doubts. Itâ??s the same as comparing web forms in .Net written using Visual Studio and PHP. One is used by almost everyone writing serious web applications, whilst the other is good for selling handbags via the web! As a component writer myself for both Winforms and Web Forms I know which technology I prefer and where the money is to be made.

    It is only a matter of time before Microsoft port their Virtual Earth to WPF and WPF/E as a control/component and overnight Google Maps and Google Earth will be obsolete. The smartest thing Google could do is beet Microsoft at their own game, by writing versions of Google Maps and Google Earth as WPF and WPF/E controls/components. That would blow the wind out of Microsoftâ??s sails and a lot of GIS component vendors as well.

    Please note Silverlight is a stopgap between JavaScript and WPF and WPF/E. Microsoft didnâ??t put the E on WPF for nothing it stands for everywhere!

  15. Kristian

    “[.NET] is used by almost everyone writing serious web applications …”

    I see we are living in alternate realities.

    “It is only a matter of time before Microsoft port their Virtual Earth to WPF and WPF/E as a control/component and overnight Google Maps and Google Earth will be obsolete.”

    Umm yeah, like MSN Search (or whatever it’s called) has made Google Search obsolete overnight?

  16. Daniel

    I’d urge you to take a second look at the statistics for PHP use then, Duncan. Believe me when I say that PHP dominates the entire web over anything MS has thrown to market.

    You might believe that PHP is only useful for ‘handbags’, but I can assure you it’s more scalable and faster than anything MS has to offer.

    And, the thing I like about Google — is that Google respects the XML standards more than Microsoft, plus they have the nerve to get involved in elaborating on or helping to create new standards. Whoa, the gall of Google to do something like that — to get involved.

    We generally know where MS takes that… Which, well, which is why you have little things like, ummm, XAML/WPF. Of course, I guess if you’re not concerned at all about cross-compatibility in markup toward other platforms, then of course you’d make a b-line for a fully non-compliant source methodology that serves a certain market-share. Because yeah, instead of worrying about making things functional for every user — you’re worried about who has the market-share. That’s a no-brainer, huh? Even though accomodating for all platforms, or at least setting up to be able to port to all platforms does that just as well.

    I don’t do that. Sorry. Perhaps if MS got that right — and instead of bulldozing various standards with ad-hoc spin-offs, and instead helped to elaborate or create standards — then I’d cut MS a little more slack. Until then, I’ll just keep using their OS, their browser, and Office tools. (Just because that’s all I care to use from them — and I only continue to use IE because it shows me where I’ll have to hack something just to get it to look right.)

  17. Duncan Garratt

    I knew it the moment I mentioned Microsoft I would have to take cover and put my tin lid on!

    I think you will find that WPF/E is cross browser compatible and works in Firefox just as it does in IE. So the argument that it is not cross compatible is simply not the case. PHP I am sorry is fast becoming a legacy technology. The A in XAML stands for Application and in this respect the A means client side not server side in the PHP context. I’m sorry but either you don’t understand this new technology or you haven’t even looked at it. The importance here is the relationship between client and server side processing. You might remember first there was mainframes, then along came the PC, then enterprise systems, then server side web applications such as PHP and Web Forms. Well WPF/E is distributed web applications where there is better balance between client and server that will run in a browser. The importance of this is that the processing workload is shared between the client application and the server application.

    In a GIS context painting direct to the canvas is far more efficient by at least a factor of ten, than using JavaScript to draw polygons i.e. vector support. Which are currently the way Google Maps and the 2D element of Virtual Earth work. Enter WPF and WPF/E not only are you drawing direct to the canvas but you have excellent 3D graphics support. I don’t think you could write a clone of ESRI Arc Info or AutoCAD in PHP but you could in WPF and WPF/E and have the retrieval/saving of data in XML or Binary from whatever source.

    As for XML standards the X stands for extensible, take a close look at KML and tell me if it can’t be optimised using XML attributes, and thus reduce the XML string by at least half. Are you honestly saying in relation to XML standards we should be reduced to using common XML data formats? All the smart guys I know many of who are World class regularly don’t stick to standards. If you are old enough to remember the ANSI C standard back in the old days of DOS and UNIX you will recall printf, UNIX boys were saying colour cant have that, while the DOS guys were using cprinf yet cprintf was not part of the ANSI C standard. The point is that good programmers have never adhered to standards when writing innovative software. As for doing anything smart like using the DOS interrupts or reading the CPU registers directly well one can only guess how many today know what your talking about let alone programme using that technology. The very reason why JAVA was invented was because innovative programmers refused to adhere to standards such as ANSI C and it was an attempt to ensure that software was cross platform. I don’t see many Java applications running on Windows I think the facts speak for themselves!

    Your comment “little things like, ummm, XAML/WPF“ well for your information it is at the very heart of Vista and in a few years all your Windows applications will be written this way, unless you want to be stuck with legacy systems. Please feel free to drop me a mail when the penny finally drops or you have abandoned Windows altogether. Please note: It will not be long before XP is withdrawn from sale so if you want a new PC with Windows then you are stuck with VISTA unless you go out and by XP licences now or use your existing licence.

    If you were to look closely at how Andoid works it is a clone of sorts for WPF/E with a fair amount missing, in this respect I standby my previous posts that whilst it might be good technology, is it the mobile phone technology of the future? NO but I am sure some will use it.

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