November 2012 Archives

Indigo Studio: a free User eXperience GUI design tool

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As the term User eXperience (or UX) now seems to be falling into the lexicon of de facto standard IT terminology, it is logically guaranteed that vendors focused on presentation layer and GUI technologies should use the UX term to colour and spin the worth of their latest products.

What is User eXperience?

The term User eXperience is said to have been laid down or coined by cognitive science guru Don Norman when he worked in the Advanced Technology Group at Apple.

According to uxdesign.com Norman explained himself as follows, "I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow."

"I wanted to cover all aspects of the person's experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose it's meaning... user experience, human centered design, usability; all those things, even affordances."

Currently launching new products in this space is Infragistics, a user experience and software design company with a new tool called Indigo Studio.

The product is to be used as a software interaction design tool that lets designers and developers to design user interface (UI) prototypes.

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In Indigo Studio, every element can be made interactive with the click of a button, and the changes a designer makes can easily be animated to design rich transitions. The ability to annotate designs and share the best designs with team members and key stakeholders are also key features of Indigo Studio.

"The UX design process and software development is at the heart of our culture and flows throughout our company, from our product teams who have developed our leading UI components to our Services team who is the global expert in user experience," said Dean Guida, CEO of Infragistics.

Starting with an idea or concept, Indigo Studio users can design UIs with the 21 built-in interactive controls, 300 searchable icons, common and curve-based shapes and vector-based stencils.

Incorporating real world context into designs can be easily accomplished with Indigo Studio's integrated storyboards. With more than 300 real world scenes, designers can drag and drop UI design screens directly into any scene.

"Indigo Studio makes it easy for anyone to rapidly design functional, animated UI prototypes that maximise usability and appeal," added Guida. "It promotes design process best practices and enables teams to stay focused on the end users and their stories."

This debut release of Indigo Studio is available free of charge.

Develop now for the Dragon's Den SMB cloud

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Logically we saw the initial birth of the cloud computing model of service-based IT delivery focus on the enterprise big business space.

Big advances in operational flexibility with application and data storage changeability and agility, plus of course the cost savings represented by a pay-as-you-go model were clear benefits that firms in an "already opearational" state could easily comprehend.

But attention now turns to the SMB market.

A new programme to support entrepreneurial fledgling technology start-ups in the UK has been launched by open cloud hosting firm Rackspace. The company is offering £12,000 of hosting and mentoring for start-ups on the programme.

The 'Rackspace Startup Programme' is intended to provide low cost cloud hosting and support services to startup incubators. It has already helped 850 startups since launching in the US two years ago.

Also vocal in this space is hosting and "cloud services enablement" company Parallels. The firm has released the findings of its SMB Cloud Insights for the UK report to show how service providers can profit by delivering cloud services to small and medium businesses (SMBs).

Parallels estimates that the UK SMB cloud services market opportunity grew 16 per cent in 2011, reaching £1.2 bn -- and is expected to continue to grow 20 per cent annually, reaching £2.0B by 2015.

Parallels also extended this research to the European and Northern Africa (EUNA) market, showing that it will continue to grow rapidly over the next few years. By 2015, it is estimated that the market for the major hosted services will be £18.5 bn, representing a year-over-year growth rate of 33%.

The message for developers is clear...

... develop applications for the small to medium sized business sector that rely upon a virtualised cloud based backbone. Think mobile apps especially and think tablet based applications that tap into the corporate datacentre and extract or add value to a firm's systems of record from accounts to human resources.

One might argue then that service providers and developers who target the SMB market segments with tailored application bundles will be in the best position to upsell and cross-sell existing and new customers.

NOTE: This research is being released at the World Hosting Day Local London, where industry leaders will gather to discuss current trends in hosting and cloud products & services.

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"Our research continues to demonstrate that UK service providers who offer SMBs the right bundle of services at the right price will expand their customer base and revenues as well as enjoy the most growth. The challenge to service providers is how to better know and understand the buying behaviour of their SMBs," said John Zanni, VP of service provider marketing and alliances, Parallels.

"Cloud computing services are built around the principles of not only flexibility and scalability, but automation and self-service too as we serve customers' needs from our local datacentres with additional service layers all backed up by our world-renowned Fanatical Support," said Taylor Rhodes, managing director for international at Rackspace.

Modern apps will be differentiated through Agile programming

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IBM loves Agile programming methodology, this we know to be true.

Indeed, Big Blue's Scott W. Ambler is the chief methodologist for 'Agile and Lean' at IBM Rational and (as a company employee) his blogs (arguably) rank up there with many independent journalists when he's focused on methodology rather than IBM branding -- which he is (I have interviewed him personally) the majority of the time.

Also championing Agile when speaking at IBM Rational's Next Generation Software Delivery forum in Sydney this month was Forrester Research's Diego Lo Giudice.

The principal analyst VP has called for a realisation of the need for Agile software application development methodologies.
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Midcourse correction

He says that today's modern programming shop environments will only be able to differentiate themselves if they embrace opportunities for what he called "midcourse correction"; i.e., the holy grail of avoiding project skew.

Lo Giudice explains that multiple releases with smaller increments and logically fewer features (at each step) help break up monolithic projects and help deliver higher quality overall.

"[Agile] provides faster delivery by getting the 'right things' done," he said. "[But] testing in an accelerated environment without impacting Agile team performance is not easy."
The analyst also called out Agile's ability to facilitate what he calls continuous business feedback as it also opens up the door to more use of cross functional teams.

"GUI automation is not enough, so much more automation is required and done in a smarter way," Giudice said.

NOTE: TechTarget explains Agile programming as a methodology for the creative process that anticipates the need for flexibility and applies a level of pragmatism into the delivery of the finished product. Agile software development focuses on keeping code simple, testing often, and delivering functional bits of the application as soon as they're ready.

Who will win the datacentre in a box IDMS market?

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It's a wonder that IDMS hasn't already become more of an industry-standard acronym already given the constantly developing offerings in the Integrated Data Management Systems (IDMS) space.

While CA Technologies has a long track record in this space and the associated area of autonomic computing systems, current offerings in this sector include Oracle Exalogic, SAP HANA, Cisco UCS and the VCE (VMware/Cisco/EMC) consortium and... enjoying recent updates this quarter IBM PureSystems.

What is an IDMS?

An IDMS is best described as a factory built set of pre-configured computing components consisting of both software and hardware. These often 'workload-specific' platforms are typically tuned for transactional data tasks, operational data management and big data analytics. To use a marketing-friendly term, the IDMS is popularly referred to as an 'integrated data center building block' (or a datacentre in a box) serving both the needs of infrastructure and applications as it does. Essentially the IDMS aims to provide an 'integrated computing system' offering with the intelligence to be able to automate tasks like system maintenance and (and here's the autonomic computing reference) even be able to 'anticipate requirements' so that servers, networking components and storage can be provisioned and delivered as required.

Turning to the recently bolstered IBM PureSystems, there is much for developers to take note of here as these systems have been engineered to support as many as four operating systems:

• Windows,
• Linux,
• AIX...
• and IBM i

Plus, there is also support for and five hypervisors:

• Hyper-V,
• KVM,
• PowerVM,
• VMware...
• and Xen

Supporting multiple OSs, hypervisors and multiple architectures (IBM Power and x86) all with the ability to offer cloud management is a big play for sure.

More than a bundle?

IBM is working hard to position its PureSystems offering as more than just a software appliance bundled with a hardware back end. The firm is suggested to have spent more than US$2 billion on research & development & acquisitions to produce what it calls a more "integrated and inherently flexible" product than those of its competitors.

The PureSystems line breaks down into two subgroups:

PureFlex -- this is a private Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform that shoulders the integration workload bringing servers, networking components and storage into harmony

PureApplication -- this could be described as a vehicle for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployments that comes with the additional intelligence of IBM's networking technology. The technology itself is already optimised and preconfigured for over 100 enterprise applications.

IBM's senior VP for systems & technology Rod Adkins has suggested that his firm is trying to simplify datacentre deployments through "integration by design" and that this should make "IT more consumable" as a result.

IBM is said to be actively working with ISVs at this time to expand the breadth of the software application offered on the PureSystems. Currently working to custom tailor their software to the PureSystems line are Sugar CRM, SAP hosting company Symmetry and developer of e-signature software Silanis.

The big developer play?

A developer kit was announced at IBM's own Impact 2012 conference and exhibition to enable programmers to add their own expertise patterns to the mix.

IBM contends that PureSystems will allow developers to design, architect and deploy the required infrastructure for enterprise level web applications in around 10 days as opposed to the months that it might otherwise take. Big Blue also points out that the PureSystems technology proposition can be partitioned into thousands (if necessary) of virtual machines to make macroeconomic level savings.

Who will win the datacentre in a box IDMS market?

IBM is pricing its new offerings in express, standard and enterprise editions and is perhaps making less of a fanfare about its IDMS developments that that which might be witnessed from (let's say) SAP and Oracle.

But fanfare or not, nobody ever got fired for buying an IBM IDMS yet.

Capgemini France orders software code appellation d'origine contrôlée

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Hors d'oeuvres

Consultancy behemoth Capgemini has partnered with application development code analysis and measurement company Cast to ramp up its software services offering in the French market.

Entrée au choix
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Described as a joint service focused on "application portfolio diagnosis", this effort to stamp an appellation d'origine contrôlée on clients' code bases takes the form of what the firms call a rapid portfolio assessment.

Plat au choix

The assessment or diagnosis (or "évaluation" if you will pardon my French) uses Cast's own-branded Highlight tool to provide a report on the state of structural health of the application portfolio.

Les plats principaux

Cast Highlight itself is built with code analysers and a rules engine that derives technical risk, complexity, technical debt and maintainability based on a set of software engineering best practices and rules.

These rules identify code patterns that lead to potential short term or long term risks and are based on the code's adherence to best practices, software complexity, and patterns correlating to production failures and maintainability.

Les citations et les crèmes glacées

"Capgemini has worked with code analyzers for some time, but decided on Cast because of its ability to perform architecture analysis with much more accurate results," said Thierry Daumas, head of industrialisation services at Capgemini France.

"Combining Capgemini's 'know-how' with our expertise in structural analysis, these offerings are grounded on the acknowledgement that you can't manage what you don't measure and provide a new dimension to IT systems management," said Vincent Delaroche, president and CEO of Cast.

FIN

We're having a merger, call the developers

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During the throws of a typical company merger there are (unsurprisingly) a large amount of board-level C-level (e.g. CEO, CIO etc.) executives called into attendance to ponder meeting minutes, eat the chocolate shortbread squares and drink copious amounts of coffee, water and various Taurine-based energy drinks.

There are (unsurprisingly again) not many developer and operations team members called into these meetings.

Tony Qui, partner in Ernst & Young's operational transaction services division has suggested this week that IT and operational considerations are not always given adequate attention in planning and execution phases of mergers and acquisitions in his speech at the SAP Sapphire Now and TechEd conference.

Qui has referenced the firm's recent survey of 220 C-suite and board level executives:

• 37% of the respondents felt operation and IT issues presented the most significant challenges post-transaction.

• 47% of those surveyed said that more detailed IT due diligence could have prevented value erosion.

"Our findings clearly show that technology needs to have a seat at the M&A table in order to deliver real value. Our survey found that only 50% of respondents said they typically involve IT in the transaction process - compared to nearly 80% who involved the finance department," said Qui.

He continued, "The due diligence that must be conducted should focus on improving earning opportunities, and identifying key deal breakers to avoid unplanned investment. It's about connecting IT issues to the strategic motivation for the deal. An integration blueprint and roadmap can be built and set to realistic, deliverable timeframes. Giving IT a seat at the table from the start of the process helps a deal move from integration to innovation."

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SAP data analytics from concrete to handbags

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The traditional recipe for concrete consists of aggregate, cement, water with the possible addition of gravel, limestone, rocks and/or sand.

It has been this way for a while.

According to SAP, the contemporary recipe for concrete could now include aggregate, cement, water, mobile, social, cloud and business intelligence (BI) technologies as businesses at every level "go digital" in the new business 2.0 economy.

Speaking at the firm's Sapphire and TechEd 2012 conference in Madrid this week SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe described his conversation with a concrete producer and how the firm didn't understand the relevance of the in-memory Hana database appliance to its 'bricks and mortar'-level business model.

"They had been making concrete the same way for years, so they said 'we don't need Hana, what could Hana possibly do for us?', which was natural enough," said Snabe in a breakout session with press.

Snabe then described how the firm looked at its delivery schedules, its challenges with traffic routes, its supplier pipeline and its total operational mechanics and how all of this data could be fed into an analytics engine that makes sense to a concrete producer and, ultimately, could bring about more profitable business agility.

From concrete to handbags

SAP is pushing further in this vein and has this week announced its SAP Customer 360 transactional system which the firm says is being used by fashion retailer Burberry to analyse customer buying behaviour and provide on the floor sales staff with access to big data analytics on mobile devices. This "immediate information" is then (in theory) available to help these same staff personalise fashion advice to customers.

Do we really want this amount of technology in our lives?

SAP's other Co-CEO Bill McDermott has predicted that by 2030 there will be an additional two billion consumers on the planet by 2030 and ... "They want to purchase in the digital world," he said.

SAP 360 Customer provides its real-time analytics using Hana to accelerate transaction processing, which will lead to the faster response times needed to use this technology in both the concrete and the handbags business.

Customer experience differentiation

SAP's matra here specifies that in today's highly competitive business climate, "customer experience" becomes the new competitive differentiation for organisations. Does that sound cheesy? It might do, but there is a lot of truth here and we are demanding increasingly personalised "experiences" (there's that word again) on a day to day basis it seems.

"This is a game-changing solution that will help companies market better, sell better, service better and truly create remarkable experiences for their customers," said McDermott. "With SAP 360 Customer powered by SAP HANA, companies gain true 360-degree customer insight that is real-time, actionable and available anywhere."

The firm's Dr. Vishal Sikka says that this total technology proposition means that it can now deliver a real-time enterprise with transaction, text and analytics processing on one platform.

"Support pack stack 5, to be announced this week, is a non-disruptive increment for SAP Hana [that] aims to enable integrated application services, key enterprise capabilities for high availability, disaster recovery and integrated text analytics, as well as key OLTP optimisations that enable us to release our first mission-critical SAP Business Suite application, SAP CRM, to run completely on the SAP Hana platform," said Sikka.

So what's the message for developers here then?

As far as the developer world according to SAP goes, the firm extends an open invitation to programmers to use the Hana platform and think about building applications that are characterised by their use of:

• Real-time data: From front-office interactions, back-office transactions and publicly available information from social networks.
• Real-time interactions: This is your "just-in-time customer insight" to deliver one-to-one interactions... often, now, via mobile devices.
• Real-time execution: Companies will be able to instantly carry out end-to-end customer processes beyond the front office and create differentiated customer experiences.

Is this all conceptual drawing board technology postulation being thrown at hypothetical deployment scenarios, or is there substance here? SAP has said openly that Apple was aghast when it started to roll out high end BI-centric enterprise applications on the iPad (and there is Windows tablet news to come).

The firm also has examples of the Sybase Unwired Platform driving enterprise level apps such as the SYSCO restaurant food ordering system, so there is meat on these bones despite this being a very corporate customer centric event.

What other business tool can you use to sell concrete, food and handbags? Not everything SAP enthuses over feels tangible, but we buy these three, so far.

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Caption: Jim Hagemann Snabe: "concrete this side, handbags this side"

What to expect from SAP Sapphire Madrid

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German efficiency meets Spanish flair and iconoclasm. That may the impression that SAP is going for by hosting its Sapphire NOW and TechEd 2012 conference in Madrid.

This week's event will lean heavily on customer experiences with SAP. This in itself will need to be a carefully orchestrated affair given the degree of technological change currently being rolled out across the total SAP stack.

Real-time predictive analytics

SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott is keen to speak forcibly on the "post PC world" populated as it is (albeit somewhat conceptually) by mobile and cloud technologies all of which (in the gospel according to SAP) should be driven by social apps that tap into "real-time predictive analytics", for this, of course, is where one of SAP's main strengths lies.

This importance of mobile is can not be overstated. People in Kenya are skipping meals to pay their mobile phone bills says McDermott, who also calls mobile the "gateway to the middle class" ... like this is a totally positive thing, which it is for most of us, apart from some Kenyans perhaps.

Also speaking this week is SAP's other Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe and SAP executive board members including (he's kind of like the lead technology evangelist but they don't call him that) Dr. Vishal Sikka. You can expect to hear the words "innovation" and "customers" quite a few times, for sure.

Showboating or real guts?

But is this week just about corporate showboating in front of customers? Is SAP going to spend the whole week talking about "leveraging unique mission-critical big data experiences on the cloud", or will we be able to dig into the implementation level guts of what's happening inside HANA and the rest of the SAP stack?

The firm promises to explain some of the substance behind its approach to "applied analytics for the business" and show how customers are using it. There will also be a chance to see what's happening at the development and implementation coalface with the TechEd element of this event running right alongside Sapphire.


Mainframe application modernisation for dummies

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Mainframe application modernisation is not just for grown-ups according to Micro Focus.

The firm's November launch of its [IBM centric] Enterprise Developer Personal Edition IDE is billed as "entry-level" and therefore suitable for newer developers, hobbyists and students.

Emerging developers then should perhaps not completely dismiss the relevance of a certain degree of mainframe skills.

Micro Focus director Kevin Brearley describes this type of technology as crucial to
enabling innovation initiatives and says that this means a need to address skills, productivity, quality resources and integration.

Brearley talks about Enterprise Developer Personal Edition having been created to improve developer skills in performing day-to-day mainframe development activities and help address the "mainframe skills shortage" by reducing the gap between COBOL, Java, and C# developers in a collaborative IDE environment.

Although many may have consigned mainframes to the retirement pile, evidence of widespread ongoing implementations are regularly surveyed and discussed by the likes of (in particular) CA Technologies, IBM itself and BMC Software.

BMC's 2011 'worldwide mainframe survey' showed the mainframe's continued importance in driving business applications and services - and, it also showed that the mainframe continues to be a "critical platform" for the evolving hybrid (even cloud powered) data centre.

Top-level results from the survey include:

• 93 percent of respondents at large companies expect [mainframe] capacity to grow or remain steady;
• 62 percent, compared to 56 percent last year, expect to grow overall capacity;
• 47 percent of respondents said new workloads and new business applications are contributing to their capacity growth; and
• 60 percent of respondents said the top IT priority [which mainframes will help address] is keeping costs down.

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SAP opens up to developers

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Listening to SAP talk at its recent TechEd developer/user conference and symposium is an interesting experience.

For all its corporate swagger and big business muscle, there's also a humble realisation (among the developer-facing execs in particular) that the firm is still inside the mechanics of a reinvention process.

From its core competencies in enterprise 'systems of record' software, the firm has not only been refining its own HANA in-memory analytics platform/engine/appliance offering -- it has also had to become (by its own admission) a more mobile focused, more database focused, more cloud focused and... more developer focused business as a whole.

The firm is clear about the challenge ahead and knows that developers are critical to its success.

With SAP Sapphire just around the corner next week in Madrid, the Computer Weekly Developer Network spoke to Chris Turner, EVP for HANA partner & developer ecosystems in the SAP Technology & Innovation Platform division.

CWDN: So there's a renewed focus, but SAP isn't quite starting from scratch with developers though is it?

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Chris Turner: Not at all, with SAP Business Suite, we have an active ecosystem of more than 1 million ABAP developers. ABAP is great and will continue to be of vital importance to us but now, with the addition of SAP HANA, we believe we have something unique that can really make it possible for a developers' dreams to become reality - for anyone to use what they build anywhere, be it on a mobile device or in the cloud. In order to engage the developers that can make it happen, SAP has made the SAP HANA platform open and available.

NOTE: Advanced Business Application Programming (or ABAP) is an interpreted programming language that is the main language used for building what can bde denoted as solid-state business application solutions in the SAP runtime environment.

CWDN: So aside from the corporate headlines, what are you really doing for developers?

Chris Turner: With these ambitions, you would expect us to be ramping up our activities to connect to all those developers, make sure that they have everything they need to make things happen and we are - starting by making adoption easy by giving developer licenses of SAP HANA and other technologies, such as SAP Netweaver Cloud away for free. There is more to come so watch this space. We are also partnering with public cloud providers to make it possible to develop on SAP HANA in the cloud. We don't want any barriers.

NOTE: SAP asserts that "one size fits all approach" for talking with developers doesn't work and as Turner puts it, the firm knows that it needs the young developers still in school, the start-up developer, developers in its own customer population and all stops in-between.

CWDN: How would you say you are going to classify define the developer universe according to SAP?

Chris Turner: We have started to segment the global developer population in a few focused areas typically characterised by their type of employer, industry, location, age, preferred programming language and experience. We then tailor specific programs in a way that we believe will appeal to each segment and include activities that cover the entire developer journey, from discovery to learning, trying, innovating, sharing and monetising.

CWDN: So as we sit on the back of TechEd USA and look forward to Sapphire next week, it's safe to say that you're going to be very community engagement focused then?

Chris Turner: We have to be, it's the right way to do it. We run events to educate and excite developers, we facilitate SAP and non-SAP online developer communities, we sponsor events, conferences, hackathons, meet-ups. And last but not least, as part of SAP's partner and Startup Focus programmes, we help developers throughout their entire journey leading right through to the monetisation of their applications.

CWDN will attend SAP Sapphire starting Monday 12 November in Madrid for further reports.

No API, No Comment

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The API is, for all intents and purposes, becoming a core conduit for firms interconnecting their services over the web.

NOTE: As we have defined on the CWDN before, an API is best described as a "specific method" prescribed by a computer operating system or by an application program by which a programmer writing an application program can make requests of the operating system or another application.

An API is then, if you like, a "transport vector" or "path" for want of a less technical term.

The API movement

API Management platform company Mashery has this month updated its product to allow programmers to use existing XML gateways (or other web service technologies) to join the "movement" that is currently driving increased use of API technologies.

It is then, a movement, not a formal initiative, but a strongly evidenced trend.

Mashery's concept is that API management gives firm the chance to build what it calls the "extensible enterprise" where firms rely on a growing number of partners, as well as mobile and connected devices to drive commercial success.

API platform effect

We might even suggest now that firms are becoming data-powered business platforms and content publishers, in their own right -- and so APIs give enterprises the ability to generate a "platform effect" by scaling and syndicating services for accelerated strategic business growth.

"IT and business leaders alike are under increasing pressure to tailor web service access for the demands of mobile workforces, and to the requirements of business development opportunities," said Chris Lippi, VP of product at Mashery.

"At the same time, IT has anchored existing security and business policies in existing web service technology investments and proven business workflows, controls, and visibility. Mashery's new solution allows enterprises to maintain existing web services investments while rapidly deploying a SaaS-based API platform, developer portal and management software," he added.

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Cloud computing is forcing firms to think about new ways in which they need to connect their major outward facing limbs. Are we close to a point when partners refuse to work with other firms if they fail to provide appropriate API connections?

No API, No Comment...

Windows Phone 8 App Development Starts

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The Windows Phone 8 Developer Platform is now ready, released and open for business and that means new apps are on the way.
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Bound to the wider Windows 8 (desktop and tablet-centric) platform and ecosystem via what Microsoft describes as a "common core", a new Software Development Kit is now available to programmers who log into the Dev Center, which is currently now open for Windows Phone 8 app submissions.

A complete subsystem change

Announced to the developer literati at Microsoft's BUILD 2012 conference this week, Windows Phone developer platform manager and blogger Kevin Gallo explained that this move to the common core meant that almost every major underlying subsystem had to change.

"For example, for the .NET Framework, we moved from using .NET CF to Core CLR, two different versions of the Framework that forked from each other over five years ago. This gives developers far more capability," blogged Gallo.

Customisable Live Tiles

Microsoft is enthusiastic about the new Start screen, "customisable Live Tiles", and other features such as Lenses, NFC support, plus custom app notifications and wallpaper on the lock screen.

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"I hope you'll take this opportunity to learn about the new platform and its capabilities by installing the new SDK. If you've already got an app, now is the time to start doing things like adding large tile support (to take advantage of the extra Start screen real estate and show more info on the tile) and experimenting with native code," blogged Gallo.

One-on-one hands-on time

The revamped Dev Center also features developer guidance and info on local Developer Camps where programmers can get "one-on-one hands-on time" with Microsoft Windows 8 experts.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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