Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Apple shows iOS 9’s major upgrades, from multitasking to picture-in-picture

Apple shows iOS 9’s major upgrades, from multitasking to picture-in-picture

Side-by-side apps, video overlays, and much more are coming to iPads when Apple’s mobile OS releases this fall.

Major changes are coming to our iPads, from the way we select text, to the way we interact with our favorite apps and play videos.

Speaking at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday, Senior Vice President Craig Federighi showcased an updated version of iOS 9 that included a few new features designed specifically with tablet users in mind.

Let’s start with QuickType, an enhancement to the iPad’s onscreen keyboard that includes new shortcuts and turns into a trackpad when you place two fingers on it. The trackpad can be used to select text, move objects around, and generally combine the convenience of touch controls and the precision of a mouse.

iPads will also get access to true, onscreen multitasking, which allows two apps to run side-by-side on the screen at the same time. The new feature, which Apple calls Split View, opens two resizable virtual windows on the screen. Users will be able to control each app independently, transferring information from one to the other using simple gestures, and quickly change the program running inside each panel using a brand-new app switcher. Note: While multitasking will work on most recent iPad models, Split View will be available only on the iPad Air 2.

Finally, a new picture-in-picture feature allows users to play a video from one app while using a different app. The video appears in a tiny window can be moved around, or even pushed temporarily off-screen to allow you to focus on your work while your favorite movie or game keeps playing along. The window also includes a set of simple controls that let you pause the video or close and dismiss it without leaving the current app.

The new iPad features will arrive with iOS 9 this fall, with a public beta program open to all starting in July.


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Best Top-Paying and most in demand for Certifications 2014 – 2015

Best Top-Paying and most in demand for Certifications 2014 – 2015

Introduction
It’s always a good idea to take stock of your skills, your pay, and your certifications. To that end, following is a review of 15 of the top-paying certifications for 2014. With each certification, you’ll find the average (mean) salary and a brief description.

Based on the 2014 IT Skills and Salary Survey conducted by Global Knowledge and Penton and completed in October 2013, the rankings below are derived from certifications that received the minimum number of responses to be statistically relevant. Certain certifications pay more but are not represented due to their exclusive nature. Examples include Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) and VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX). This was a nationwide survey, and variations exist based on where you work, years of experience, and company type (government, non profit, etc.).

1. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) – $118,253
The non-profit group ISACA offers CRISC certification, much in the way that CompTIA manages the A+ and Network+ certifications. Formerly, “ISACA” stood for Information Systems Audit and Control Association, but now they’ve gone acronym only.

The CRISC certification is designed for IT professionals, project managers, and others whose job it is to identify and manage risks through appropriate Information Systems (IS) controls, covering the entire lifecycle, from design to implementation to ongoing maintenance. It measures two primary areas: risk and IS controls. Similar to the IS control lifecycle, the risk area spans the gamut from identification and assessment of the scope and likelihood of a particular risk to monitoring for it and responding to it if/when it occurs.

Since CRISC’s introduction in 2010, more than 17,000 people worldwide have earned this credential, The demand for people with these skills and the relatively small supply of those who have them result in this being the highest salary for any certification on our list this year.

To obtain CRISC certification, you must have at least three years of experience in at least three of the five areas that the certification covers, and you must pass the exam, which is only offered twice a year. This is not a case where you can just take a class and get certified. Achieving CRISC certification requires effort and years of planning.

2. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) – $114,844

ISACA also created CISM certification. It’s aimed at management more than the IT professional and focuses on security strategy and assessing the systems and policies in place more than it focuses on the person who actually implements those policies using a particular vendor’s platform.

More than 23,000 people have been certified since its introduction in 2002, making it a highly sought after area with a relatively small supply of certified individuals. In addition, the exam is only offered three times a year in one of approximately 240 locations, making taking the exam more of a challenge than many other certification exams. It also requires at least five years of experience in IS, with at least three of those as a security manager. As with CRISC, requirements for CISM certification demand effort and years of planning.

3. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – $112,040
The third highest-paying certification is also from ISACA; this one is for IS auditors. CISA certification is ISACA’s oldest, dating back to 1978, with more than 106,000 people certified since its inception. CISA certification requires at least five years of experience in IS auditing, control, or security in addition to passing an exam that is only offered three times per year.

The CISA certification is usually obtained by those whose job responsibilities include auditing, monitoring, controlling, and/or assessing IT and/or business systems. It is designed to test the candidate’s ability to manage vulnerabilities, ensure compliance with standards, and propose controls, processes, and updates to a company’s policies to ensure compliance with accepted IT and business standards.

4. Six Sigma Green Belt – $109,165
Six Sigma is a process of analyzing defects (anything outside a customer’s specifications) in a production (manufacturing) process, with a goal of no more than 3.4 defects per million “opportunities” or chances for a defect to occur. The basic idea is to measure defects, analyze why they occurred, and then fix the issue and repeat. There is a process for improving existing processes and a slightly modified version for new processes or major changes. Motorola pioneered the concept in the mid-1980s, and many companies have since followed their examples to improve quality.

This certification is different from the others in this list, as it is not IT specific. Instead, it is primarily focused on manufacturing and producing better quality products.

There is no organization that owns Six Sigma certification per se, so the specific skills and number of levels of mastery vary depending on which organization or certifying company is used. Still, the entry level is typically Green Belt and the progression is to Black Belt and Master Black Belt. Champions are responsible for Six Sigma projects across the entire organization and report to senior management.

5. Project Management Professional (PMP) – $108,525
The PMP certification was created and is administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), and it is the most recognized project management certification available. There are more than half a million active PMPs in 193 countries worldwide.

The PMP certification exam tests five areas relating to the lifecycle of a project: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. PMP certification is for running any kind of project, and it is not specialized into sub types, such as manufacturing, construction, or IT.

To become certified, individuals must have 35 hours of PMP-related training along with 7,500 hours of project management experience (if they have less than a bachelor’s degree) or 4,500 hours of project management experience with a bachelor’s or higher. PMP certification is another that requires years of planning and effort.

6. Certified Scrum Master – $107,396
Another project management-related certification, Certified Scrum Master is focused on software (application) development.

Scrum is a rugby term; it’s a means for restarting a game after a minor rules violation or after the ball is no longer in play (for example, when it goes out of bounds). In software development, Scrum is a project management process that is designed to act in a similar manner for software (application development) projects in which a customer often changes his or her mind during the development process.

In traditional project management, the request to change something impacts the entire project and must be renegotiated-a time-consuming and potentially expensive way to get the changes incorporated. There is also a single project manager.

In Scrum, however, there is not a single project manager. Instead, the team works together to reach the stated goal. The team should be co-located so members may interact frequently, and it should include representatives from all necessary disciplines (developers, product owners, experts in various areas required by the application, etc.).

Where PMP tries to identify everything up front and plan for a way to get the project completed, Scrum takes the approach that the requirements will change during the project lifecycle and that unexpected issues will arise. Rather than holding up the process, Scrum takes the approach that the problem the application is trying to solve will never be completely defined and understood, so team members must do the best they can with the time and budget available and by quickly adapting to change.

So where does the Scrum Master fit in? Also known as a servant-leader, the Scrum Master has two main duties: to protect the team from outside influences that would impede the project (the servant) and to chair the meetings and encourage the team to continually improve (the leader).

Certified Scrum Master certification was created and is managed by the Scrum Alliance and requires the individual to attend a class taught by a certified Scrum trainer and to pass the associated exam.

7. Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) – $104,240
The CCEE certification is a legacy certification from Citrix that proves expertise in XenApp 6, XenDesktop 5, and XenServer 6 via the Citrix Certified Administrator (CCS) exams for each, the Citrix Certified Advanced Administrator (CCAA) for XenApp 6, and an engineering (advanced implementation-type) exam around implementing, securing, managing, monitoring, and troubleshooting a complete virtualization solution using Citrix products.

Those certified in this area are encouraged to upgrade their certification to the App and Desktop track instead, which focuses on just XenDesktop, taking one exam to become a Citrix Certified Professional – Apps and Desktops (CCP-AD). At this point though, the CCEE is available as long as the exams are available for the older versions of the products listed.

8. Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) for Citrix NetScaler – $103,904
The CCA for NetScaler certification has been discontinued for NetScaler 9, and those with a current certification are encouraged to upgrade to the new Citrix Certified Professional – Networking (CCP-N). In any case, those with this certification have the ability to implement, manage, and optimize NetScaler networking performance and optimization, including the ability to support app and desktop solutions. As the Citrix certification program is being overhauled, refer to http://training.citrix.com/cms/index.php/certification/ to view the certifications available, upgrade paths, etc.

9. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) – $103,822
The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) created and manages CEH certification. It is designed to test the candidate’s abilities to prod for holes, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities in a company’s network defenses using techniques and methods that hackers employ. The difference between a hacker and a CEH is that a hacker wants to cause damage, steal information, etc., while the CEH wants to fix the deficiencies found. Given the many attacks, the great volume of personal data at risk, and the legal liabilities possible, the need for CEHs is quite high, hence the salaries offered.

10. ITIL v3 Foundation – $97,682
IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) was created by England’s government in the 1980s to standardize IT management. It is a set of best practices for aligning the services IT provides with the needs of the organization. It is broad based, covering everything from availability and capacity management to change and incident management, in addition to application and IT operations management.

It is known as a library because it is composed of a set of books. Over the last 30 years, it has become the most widely used framework for IT management in the world. ITIL standards are owned by AXELOS, a joint venture company created by the Cabinet Office on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and Capita plc, but they have authorized partners who provide education, training, and certification. The governing body defined the certification tiers, but they leave it to the accredited partners to develop the training and certification around that framework.

The Foundation certification is the entry-level one and provides a broad-based understanding of the IT lifecycle and the concepts and terminology surrounding it. Anyone wishing for higher-level certifications must have this level first, thus people may have higher certifications and still list this certification in the survey, which may skew the salary somewhat.

For information on ITIL in general, please refer to http://www.itil-officialsite.com/. Exams for certification are run by ITIL-certified examination institutes as previously mentioned; for a list of them, please refer to http://www.itil-officialsite.com/ExaminationInstitutes/ExamInstitutes.aspx.

11. Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) for Citrix XenServer – $97,578
The CCA for XenServer certification is available for version 6 and is listed as a legacy certification, but Citrix has yet to announce an upgrade path to their new certification structure. Those with a CCA for Citrix XenServer have the ability to install, configure, administer, maintain, and troubleshoot a XenServer deployment, including Provisioning Services. As the Citrix certification program is being overhauled, refer to http://training.citrix.com/cms/index.php/certification/ to view the certifications available, upgrade paths, etc.

12. ITIL Expert Certification – $96,194
The ITIL Expert certification builds on ITIL Foundation certification (see number 10 above). It is interesting that ITIL Expert pays less on average than ITIL Foundation certification. Again, I suspect the salary results may be somewhat skewed depending on the certifications actually held and the fact that everyone who is ITIL certified must be at least ITIL Foundation certified.

To become an ITIL Expert, you must pass the ITIL Foundation exam as well as the capstone exam, Managing Across the Lifecycle. Along the way, you will earn intermediate certifications of your choosing in any combination of the Lifecycle and Capability tracks. You must earn at least 22 credits, of which Foundation accounts for two and the Managing Across the Lifecycle exam counts for five. The other exams count for three each (in the Intermediate Lifecycle track) or four each (in the Intermediate Capability track) and can be earned in any order and combination, though the official guide suggests six recommended options. The guide is available at http://www.itil-officialsite.com/Qualifications/ITILQualificationScheme.aspx by clicking on the English – ITIL Qualification Scheme Brochure link.

13. Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) – $95,602
Cisco’s certification levels are Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect. Those who obtain this Associate-level certification are typically network design engineers, technicians, or support technicians. They are expected to design basic campus-type networks and be familiar with routing and switching, security, voice and video, wireless connectivity, and IP (both v4 and v6). They often work as part of a team with those who have higher-level Cisco certifications.

To achieve CCDA certification, you must have earned one of the following: Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), the lowest-level certification and the foundation for a career in networking); Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching (CCNA R&S); or any Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), the highest level of certification at Cisco.
You must also pass a single exam.

14. Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) – $95,276
This certification ranked number 14 with an average salary of $95,505 for those who didn’t list an associated Windows version and $94,922 for those who listed MCSE on Windows 2003, for the weighted average of $95,276 listed above.

The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer is an old certification and is no longer attainable. It has been replaced by the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (yes, also MCSE). The Engineer certification was valid for Windows NT 3.51 – 2003, and the new Expert certification is for Windows 2012. There is an upgrade path if you are currently an MCSA or MCITP on Windows 2008. There is no direct upgrade path from the old MCSE to the new MCSE.

15. Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) for Citrix XenDesktop – $95,094
The CCA for XenDesktop certification is available for versions 4 (in Chinese and Japanese only) and 5 (in many languages including English). Those with a current certification are encouraged to upgrade to the new Citrix Certified Associate – Apps and Desktops (CCA-AD). In any case, those with this certification have the ability to install, administer, and troubleshoot a XenDesktop deployment, including Provisioning Services and the Desktop Delivery Controller as well as XenServer and XenApp. As the Citrix certification program is being overhauled, refer to http://training.citrix.com/cms/index.php/certification/ to view the certifications available, upgrade paths, etc.

Rounding Out the Top 25

A few popular certifications just missed the Top 15 cut due to a low total number of responses or an average (mean) pay just outside the threshold. Due to their popularity, I have included them for informational purposes.

Certification Average Pay
CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional $114,287

MCSE: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer 2003 $94,922

RHCSA: Red Hat Certified System Administrator $94,802

VCP-DCV: VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization $94,515

JNCIA: Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate $94,492

MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure Configuration $91,948

MCITP: Enterprise Administrator $91,280

CCNP: Cisco Certified Network Professional $90,833

WCNA: Wireshark Certified Network Analyst $88,716

CCNA R&S: Cisco Certified Network Associ te Routing and Switching $81,308


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MBaaS shoot-out: 5 clouds for building mobile apps

MBaaS (mobile back end as a service) is a fairly new product category that has largely supplanted MEAPs (mobile enterprise application platforms). Over the past two months, I’ve closely examined five MBaaS systems: AnyPresence, Appcelerator, FeedHenry, Kinvey, and Parse. In this article, I’ll wrap up the series by summarizing all five systems, surveying their common ground and key differences, and drawing conclusions.

The general idea of MBaaS is that mobile apps need common services that can be shared among apps instead of being custom developed for each. Mobile apps using MBaaS follow a loosely coupled distributed architecture, and MBaaS systems themselves typically have more distributed architectures than MEAP systems, which tended to be unified middleware servers.
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MBaaS systems typically provide push notifications, file storage and sharing, integration with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, location services, messaging and chat functions, user management, the ability to run business logic, and usage analysis tools. Enterprise-oriented MBaaS systems also provide integration with existing applications and databases.

Back ends don’t exist in isolation, so MBaaS systems provide some level of mobile client support. This ranges from exposing REST APIs to all comers to providing app generation for iOS, Android, some flavors of JavaScript, and perhaps other mobile platforms.

In addition, back ends need to be customized and programmed, so MBaaS systems provide a combination of online and desktop development environments. Finally, back-end services are intended to be in continuous operation, so they need a level of application monitoring and error logging in addition to usage analysis. Monitoring and analytics might be provided directly by the MBaaS vendor or through integration with a third-party service.

For extra credit, MBaaS systems can generate mobile SDKs. This is most useful when a vendor is exposing its services to partners doing mobile app development. In addition, MBaaS systems can support offline operation of their mobile apps and offline/online database synchronization. MBaaS systems may provide their own mobile device management or integrate with an MDM vendor. MBaaS systems may also support device-specific services where appropriate, such as iBeacon on iOS devices.
Commonalities and differentiators

In the course of reviewing FeedHenry, Kinvey, Appcelerator, Parse, and AnyPresence, certain capabilities and implementations became very familiar. For example, all five MBaaS products provide storage using MongoDB, an open source NoSQL document database that stores JSON objects. All of these products provide a data design UI for their MongoDB data store, and these UIs all look similar. It wouldn’t surprise me if the UIs were all based on the same MongoDB sample code.

All five MBaaS systems are available in a multitenant cloud. All have online documentation. All provide push notification and user authentication APIs. All support native iOS and Android apps at some level, and all have some way for developers to implement custom server logic.

The differentiators between these products are telling. For example, their support for integration with enterprise applications and databases ranges from the basic ability to call external REST interfaces that return JSON to deep integrations with common applications and databases. The time required for a developer to implement a given enterprise integration with an MBaaS ranges from days down to minutes, depending on how much of the work a given MBaaS vendor has already done for a specific integration.

Some MBaaS systems are available on-premise, and some are available in private clouds. Some can be hosted in compliance with HIPAA, PCI, FIPS, and EU data security standards. Some have their own testing capabilities, and some offer cloud builds of mobile apps.

Some support HTML5 and hybrid apps. Some compile JavaScript to native device code. Some support PhoneGap, some support Apache Cordova, and some avoid both wrappers for hybrid apps in favor of other solutions, such as generating native apps.

Some run their back ends on Node.js, some on Rails, and some on unspecified platforms. Some support BlackBerry, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, or Unity clients.

Some have hosted app and back-end IDEs in their cloud, some provide multiplatform desktop IDEs, and some have desktop command-line interfaces for cloud control. Some support multiple popular JavaScript frameworks, such as Backbone and Angular, and some use their own JavaScript frameworks, which may be adaptations of specific open source frameworks.
MBaaS five ways

As we’ll see, the different MBaaS vendors have targeted slightly different markets and made slightly different technical choices. Nevertheless, they have a high degree of overlap and commonality.

The goal of AnyPresence is not only to help enterprises build back ends for their mobile apps. AnyPresence combines app building, back-end services, and an API gateway.

AnyPresence has an online designer that generates back-end code, mobile app code, and even customized mobile API code. All the generated code can be downloaded, edited, and run on compatible platforms. To cite one of AnyPresence’s favorite customer examples, MasterCard has used AnyPresence to enable partners to easily build mobile apps against MasterCard’s Open
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AnyPresence generates app UIs (or starter kits, if you wish) for jQuery, Android (XML layout), and iOS (storyboard), and it generates app SDKs for Java, Android, HTML5, Windows Phone, Xamarin, and iOS. The design environment refers to the generated JavaScript/HTML5 SDK as “jQuery.” In fact, AnyPresence actually generates CoffeeScript that uses the Underscore, Backbone, and jQuery libraries.

AnyPresence generates back-end servers for Ruby on Rails. In the future it will also generate Node.js back ends, which will be a good development. The AnyPresence environment can generate deployments to Heroku (usually for a Rails back end) to Amazon S3 (usually for HTML5 apps) to native iOS and Android apps with or without Apperian security. You aren’t limited by AnyPresence’s deployment choices, however. The generated code can always be downloaded and deployed elsewhere, assuming you have compatible deployment environments.

The AnyPresence design environment exists online and runs in most browsers. The design environment has a dashboard; a settings screen; screens to create and monitor environments, deployments, and builds; screens to generate and deploy apps, back ends, and SDKs; screens to add and manage data sources and data objects; screens for authorization, roles, and authentication strategy; screens for stock and custom extensions; the interface designer; and a customizable set of themes.
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I found the selection of data sources to be good and the implementation of the provided MongoDB data store to be on par with other MBaaS systems. What sets AnyPresence apart is the way the data model integrates throughout the design environment and into all the generated code.

The place you add most monitoring integrations, such as Airbrake and New Relic, is hidden deep in the Deployments/Add-ons tab. Naturally, monitoring is dependent on the runtime environment, and AnyPresence is designed to be environment-agnostic. For Splunk integration, you have to enable syslog output on the back end to push all the logs/events into Splunk systems for reporting and monitoring.

Appcelerator Titanium has been a player in the mobile development space for several years, with a local development environment that compiles JavaScript to native code for iOS, Android, and other targets. With the release of Appcelerator Studio 3.3 and Appcelerator Platform 2.0 in July 2014, the company added an MBaaS with about 25 APIs, Node.js support, and online analytics. In addition, Appcelerator has published interfaces to its MBaaS that developers can add to apps built with native SDKs, although it hasn’t yet supported native SDKs in its own Appcelerator Studio IDE.

Developers can see a quick overview of app installs, sessions, API calls, and crashes in the online Appcelerator dashboard overview page. Other parts of the dashboard allow for cloud management, testing, performance metrics, and analytics.

The Cloud panel shows usage, exposes data management, displays API request and push notification logs, lists custom services, and allows for cloud configuration. The testing panel uses SOASTA’s TouchTest as an integrated mobile testing solution. The performance panel allows you to monitor your apps and troubleshoot performance, crashes, and exceptions. It also lets you view crash trends, integrate with bug tracking systems, and configure your monitoring.

Appcelerator Platform’s dashboard overview for the demo Field Service application. The crashes were deliberately coded into the app.

Developers can define and view Appcelerator analytics online, as well as optionally publish selected analytics to the Appcelerator Insights app for the iPad, typically for use by a manager.

Appcelerator Platform allows you to build custom back-end services using Studio and Appcelerator’s Node.ACS MVC (model-view-controller) framework. Node.ACS combines Node.js and Express with interfaces to Appcelerator Cloud Services. Appcelerator also allows you to run plain Node.js applications on its cloud platform.

Appcelerator has multiple frameworks on the client side, and multiple API types for the cloud. At the base level on the client, Appcelerator offers the Titanium SDK, which provides an interface between JavaScript and native services. At a higher level, Appcelerator offers the Alloy Framework, which is based on the model-view-controller architecture and contains built-in support for Backbone and Underscore. When you create a new client app from Studio, you typically generate one that uses Alloy.

The Alloy framework handles some of what you need for offline/online data synchronization, but not all of it. Appcelerator lacks preconfigured, vetted enterprise data connectors other than for SAP and Salesforce.com. However, because it can run Node modules on its Node.ACS service, developers can draw on modules from the Node.js community. Appcelerator’s only commercial sync server is currently limited to a Microsoft Dynamics connector.

FeedHenry, with a focus on supporting enterprise line-of-business apps, is a Node.js-based, enterprise-oriented MBaaS and mobile application platform. It has a wide array of integrations, both online and offline development options, collaborative app building, and a drag-and-drop form builder. FeedHenry was spun off from the Irish Research Institute in 2010 and acquired by Red Hat in September 2014.

FeedHenry claims to have global infrastructure on all major clouds and support for on-premise, back-end deployment. The FeedHenry online environment integrates directly with GitHub for collaboration and version control.

FeedHenry 3 supports native SDKs for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8, along with hybrid apps using Apache Cordova, HTML5 mobile Web apps, and Sencha, Xamarin, and Appcelerator Titanium. The way the JavaScript interface to the FeedHenry cloud works, it would be hard to find a JavaScript framework that isn’t compatible.

When writing for FeedHenry in JavaScript, you include the feedhenry.js script in your HTML, initialize it with $fh.init, then call cloud functions from the $fh namespace. FeedHenry can import existing apps from a Zip file or Git repository.

FeedHenry includes an online editor, supporting offline tools, and a command-line interface. Here we see the mobile app, with a code editor in the middle of the screen and a preview at right. You can configure the back-end service in another pane of the online interface.

The FeedHenry build service, which functions along the same lines as Adobe PhoneGap Build, can turn an HTML5 app into binaries for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, iOS (universal), and Windows Phone. Each binary can connect to one of your MBaaS instances, and it can be built for development, distribution, release, or debugging, depending on the platform.

FeedHenry has a drag-and-drop form builder with a good assortment of templates to use as starting points. However, at the time I reviewed FeedHenry, it had few full-fledged app templates.

FeedHenry lists more than 50 Node.js plug-ins in its curated modules list. That list includes interfaces to most major relational and NoSQL databases. Should the curated list not include what you seek, the much larger list of Node community modules is likely to yield a match.

FeedHenry runs on all major public and private clouds, and on a wide range of IaaS and PaaS infrastructures. FeedHenry operates a HIPAA-compliant cloud and live clusters in both Europe and North America.

Kinvey bills itself as a complete mobile and Web app platform. It has extensive client support, integrates with the major enterprise databases, and offers a back-end data store, a file store, push notifications, mobile analytics, iBeacon support, and the ability to run custom code on the back end.

Kinvey sells to IT as its primary customer because it provides an enterprise platform, not for one or two apps but for tens or hundreds of apps for an enterprise. However, it also engages and supports the developer community app by app.

Kinvey supports native, hybrid, and HTML5 apps. It has native toolkit support for iOS and Android. In addition, it supports Angular, Backbone, Node.js, Apache Cordova/PhoneGap, and Appcelerator Titanium, and it provides a REST API. Kinvey integrates with apps through libraries and API calls, and expects you to edit your app locally.

Kinvey cloud code is written in JavaScript, although not Node.js, and edited online. In addition to using standard JavaScript and external services, it can use Kinvey APIs for logging, accessing collections, sending push notifications, sending email, validating requests, date and time functions, asynchronous processing, rendering a Mustache template, and obtaining the back-end context. Cloud code can live in hook processing functions and custom endpoints. Cloud code is versioned internally in Kinvey.

Kinvey supports deploying on almost any cloud, including private clouds. That includes deploying to HIPAA-compliant facilities and to facilities located entirely in the EU. Even Kinvey’s multitenant cloud is considered secure enough for most apps, as the company does end-to-end encryption, and customers that use data links can keep their data in databases behind their own firewalls. If you have a Google App Engine server, you can link it to your Kinvey back end.

Authentication can be done internally by Kinvey or through LDAP or Active Directory in the business and enterprise versions. Kinvey also supports Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn identities through OAuth.

Kinvey data links connect to Kinvey’s MongoDB data store. In most cases, customers forward the CRUD requests directly to the real back end, but some cache the data in MongoDB. Kinvey currently has data links for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce CRM, Oracle Database, and Microsoft SQL Server.

Kinvey has an automated control setup for offline data synchronization, in which data is automatically pulled from the cache if the application is offline. If the application is online, data is pulled from the network and stored in the cache. Using automated control, your Kinvey app will attempt to synchronize any locally stored data when the device goes online again, but if the server data has also changed you’ll have a conflict. You can set your conflict resolution policy to clientAlwaysWins, serverAlwaysWins, or a custom conflict resolution function.
Parse

Parse was once the poster child for MBaaS, and despite its acquisition by Facebook, it is still a viable, low-friction mobile back end for limited-volume consumer apps. On the plus side, it is well-documented, with good native client support and a JavaScript client SDK based on Backbone. Parse also runs JavaScript code on the back end, which offers developers the option of an all-JavaScript application stack. On the minus side, Parse is missing big pieces necessary for business apps, such as data integration, offline operation, and online/offline synchronization. At the same time, its pricing seems geared to lower-volume apps.

Parse supports native mobile, JavaScript, and desktop apps. On the mobile side, it has native support for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8. On the desktop, it has support for OS X and Windows 8 (.Net), as well as Unity games.

Parse lets you run JavaScript code in the cloud using the same Parse JavaScript SDK as the client. Rather than have you routinely edit your cloud code in a browser, as FeedHenry and Kinvey do, Parse supplies a command-line tool for managing code in Parse Cloud and allows you to use your favorite JavaScript editor on your computer. However, you can view your code and your logs in your dashboard. The command-line tool is an app scaffold generator, app deployment tool, log printer, app rollback tool, and self-updater.

The Parse Cloud data browser lets you import bulk data; add classes, columns, and rows; and view filtered data.

Parse can send Push notifications to iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8. In each case, you’ll have to provision your push server, then provide the certificate or credentials to your app.

Parse has a fairly complete user system predefined, including the usual sign-up mechanism with email verification and a provision for anonymous users. A system of ACLs controls what data individual users can read and write. For more complicated use cases, Parse supports a hierarchy of roles, with a separate layer of ACLs for the roles.

Parse has nine integrations with other services. Three of them — Mailgun, Mandrill, and SendGrid — are for sending email. Stripe is for charging credit cards. Twilio sends SMS and voice messages. Third-party modules are available to integrate Parse with Cloudinary, Instagram, and Paymill.

As far as I can tell, implementing enterprise data integration with Parse requires writing a REST Web service wrapper for the data source and a JavaScript module for Parse. I haven’t seen any options for hosting Parse other than using its own multitenant cloud.

As you can see from the scores listed at the bottom of the first page of this article, AnyPresence earned the highest marks: a combined score of 9.1 and an Editor’s Choice badge. I feel that AnyPresence offers more value than the others for enterprises that need to integrate their existing systems with mobile applications, as it generates customized SDKs, along with apps and back ends, from your model and design. Costing a “low six figures” per year, however, it won’t fit into every company’s budget.

FeedHenry, which earned an overall score of 8.6, is also an enterprise-oriented MBaaS. FeedHenry has a nice integration with Git for collaboration and version control, and I like its hosted app build service, its Node.js back end and curated Node modules list, and its drag-and-drop form designer. Like AnyPresence, FeedHenry may not fit into every company’s budget.

Kinvey, with an overall product score of 8.3, engages as a company with the developer community, as well as with corporate IT departments. I like the way Kinvey does enterprise data links through its internal NoSQL database API, and I appreciate the way it has structured its hooks for back-end business logic.

I criticized Appcelerator for its apparent lack of effort to curate data integration modules, and considered that its high price relative to FeedHenry and Kinvey may diminish its overall value, giving it a net score of 7.8. However, Appcelerator as a company only recently pivoted into the MBaaS space. It may yet fill in its product’s missing functionality and adjust its pricing to be more competitive.

Finally, I consider Parse suitable for building and operating back ends for consumer-facing mobile apps, and not business apps, given its lack of any data connectors other than a basic REST client. My other major reservation about Parse is its usage-based pricing, which lets a developer get started easily but could potentially bite an underfunded startup that suddenly had a viral hit on its hands without a real business model. Its score is 7.6, the lowest in this group.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t use Parse. It’s a viable, low-friction way to get started with back end as a service. However, if you choose to use it, go in with your eyes open, monitor your costs, and be prepared to throttle or eliminate service calls that are running up bills you can’t afford.

For business apps, AnyPresence and FeedHenry lead the pack in both ease and capabilities. Kinvey is not far behind, and its pricing is more favorable for smaller businesses.


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10 ways Apple really has changed the (tech) world

Apple is both a creator of and a beacon for the technology future we now live in

10 ways Apple really has changed the (tech) world
From the beginning, Apple liked to proclaim how it was inventing the future with products that would change the world. That visionary impulse often comes across as stubbornness, with Apple ignoring what the pundits say — and it often comes across as overwrought, when Apple puts on its “it’s all amazing and revolutionary” dog-and-pony shows. Even when co-founder Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple, that attitude has prevailed.

Yet no tech company in the past 35 years has done as much user-facing innovation as Apple. Never mind that most people don’t use Macs or iPads. Even when it doesn’t win the market, Apple defines the market time and again.

Here are the 10 most significant products Apple has created, ones that really have changed the world.

Macintosh: Defining the computer for the rest of us
Steve Jobs didn’t create the Mac, but he did create the mythos around it and recognized that it heralded a new, better way to use computers. Ironically, the horribly expensive Mac became the emblem of computing for the masses, a human device for real people who had seen computers as unfathomable tools used only by engineers and scientists.

Microsoft took the core principles of the Mac’s graphical, direct-manipulation interface, itself inspired by work at Xerox PARC, and brought them to Windows, delivering the promise of the Mac to the masses for real. Today, the approach pioneered by the Mac is simply how computers work.

OS X: No operating system does it better
At the core of the Mac today is OS X, Apple’s Unix-based operating system that remains the leader in intuitiveness and ease of use, yet offers sophisticated capabilities from data detectors to malware detection that actually work. The tight integration and intentionality of the OS and Apple’s bundled apps create a superior experience, even if many users don’t use much of what they could.

We forget that OS X was not the original Mac OS. In its 15 years of existence, OS X has pulled off the neat trick of evolving significantly while working as you’d expect. Each version arrives fresh and familiar. Microsoft certainly hasn’t had that happy result in its Windows versions over that same period, with two wins and two flops.

iPod: The music world, reinvented
After Steve Jobs’ 12-year journey in the wilderness of Next and Pixar, he returned to a near-dead Apple — and came up with the iPod. MP3 players already existed, but none really mattered. Portable CD players and the industry’s portability granddaddy, the Sony Walkman, still ruled.

In 2001, the iPod changed all that, thanks to a better user experience. It also changed the music industry: Songs now mattered, not albums, and with the iTunes Store, Apple shifted the distribution of music from physical stores to downloads. The music business — and music listening — in 2014 bears little resemblance to that of 2001.

The iPod also changed Apple, converting the computer company into a consumer technology company, which is the source of its strength today.

iPhone: The end of the cell phone, the beginning of mobile computing
When the iPhone debuted in 2007, InfoWorld’s Tom Yager derided it as a $1,975 iPod, due to its required data plan. A year later, Apple debuted the App Store, and the iPhone was no longer an iPod that could make calls. Apple smartly created several rich apps — iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Keynote, Numbers — that to this day are unrivaled as mobile apps and show that a smartphone isn’t a cellphone that supports email, as the once-dominant BlackBerry had been, but a computer in its own right. Apple had this vision back in 1993 with its Newton MessagePad, which clearly presages the iPhone of 2007.

Today, Android rules much of the smartphone world; like Windows used the Mac as inspiration, Android used the iPhone.

App Store: A digital store for a digital world
Remember when software was a digital thing on an analog disk? It was back before there was an app for that.

The App Store did more than distribute bits as bits: It introduced the notions of curated content (which developers hate but has kept iOS largely malware-free), and it made possible the notion that you buy apps that can run on multiple devices you own — a major break from traditional licenses. Apple understood early on that in a digital world, endpoints are federated, and the software industry needs to think beyond physical installations. Now, an app store is just the way it’s done, including at Google and Microsoft.

iPad: The PC, reinvented — and the TV, reinvented
There were tablets, or at least slates, on the original Star Trek TV series in the 1960s. In the modern PC era, there’ve been Windows tablets since at least the XP days, but all were flops.

The iPad changed that, becoming the first tablet that people wanted, and spawning a copycat industry (some copies pre-dated the iPad itself, based on rumors). But no one does it as well as the iPad.

Tablets now sell as many units as PCs do, and the iPad was the fastest-adopted mass technology in human history. Tablets can be your mobile PC, but they’re as likely to (also) be your personal TV, among other things. Amazing.

Touch: The gestures we all use came from Apple
It doesn’t matter what devices or operating systems you run, when it comes to touch gestures, they all work very much the same way — at core, Apple’s way. Apple has vigorously protected some gestures through patents, but the basic gestures it introduced on the iPhone are practically universal. They’ve become like mouse movements, used by everyone.

That universality has quickly let the gesture approach to computing take off, as both developers and users can focus less on learning the UI and more on, well, using it. Most of Apple’s impact has been on mobile devices, but its adaption of touch to computers via touch-enabled mice and trackpads probably means when touch PCs finally get popular, they’ll use Apple’s gestures, too.

Autodiscovery networking: Connecting a connected world
IT has long hated Apple networking technology because it’s chatty, inefficient, and not concerned about IT control. But if you want things to connect in the world of people, you count on Apple technology.

Want to share files or music on a Mac? It’s automatic, thanks to built-in discovery protocols. Want to print from an iPad or iPhone? Select a printer and let AirPrint do the work, no drivers needed. Want play music at someone’s house? Turn on AirPlay. (If they have an AirPlay-enabled device.) Video and presentations are likewise a snap. File sharing is follow these lines via AirDrop in ad hoc networks. And Handoff is a step in this direction for app interactions.

Apple knows the secret: It’s about connecting, not networking.

iBeacons: Contextual technology for the real world
Apple’s location-aware sensors are only a year old, so it’s too soon to call them a revolution, but I think they’re well poised to be.

It’s not the hardware that’s key, but the APIs and hooks in iOS that let an iPhone or iPad — and future devices — combine location information with both local and cloud data to open a new world for users. I’m sure that iBeacons, motion coprocessors, HealthKit, CloudKit, CarPlay, and other contextual technology are part of an Apple 3.0 that has just begun to emerge.

 

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Apple now emailing users when iCloud accessed via Web

It’s one of several security improvements expected from the company following its involvement in last week’s celebrity photo theft

In the wake of last week’s theft of celebrity photos, Apple has started beefing up security for its iCloud service. The move, part of improvements also promised by Apple CEO Tim Cook last week, comes just a day before one of the company’s biggest events of the year.
icloud security logout

On the Web, iCloud’s advanced account settings allow you to log out all currently logged in sessions.

As first reported by MacRumors, Apple will now send iCloud users an email whenever they (or someone purporting to be them) log into iCloud.com via a Web browser. This seems to happen even if the browser and computer in question are ones that a user has previously logged in with. Apple’s email advises users to change their Apple ID password if they believe someone else is accessing their account. (As an additional tool, iCloud’s Web interface does provide the ability to log out every currently logged in browser in its Account Settings > Advanced.)

Granted, in my brief test, the email arrived ten minutes after I logged in, which could still give an interloper plenty of time to do some damage. Currently iCloud’s Web interface does not have the option to require two-step authentication when logging into your account.
icloud security login

Apple now sends you an email, notifying you when someone has logged into your iCloud account via the Web.

Given the broad publicity over this security issue, it seems likely Apple will take at least some time at Tuesday’s event to respond and potentially discuss what measures are being taken to ensure the security of its users. No doubt the company hopes that this incident won’t overshadow what most assume to be the launch of the next iPhone.


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8 iPad Apps That Are Complex, Powerful and Advanced

Most people don’t think of the iPad as a high-end computing device. These eight apps prove otherwise.

The iPad isn’t known as a high-end computing device. Most users will buy the iPad Air because of the games and consumer apps like Skype and Evernote. However, there are many advanced apps that use a wealth of back-end data, provide a high-quality video stream, and can handle processing tasks normally reserved for a Windows or Mac computer. Here’s a look at eight robust apps with uses as varied as home security, computer-assisted design and stock trading.

Vivint: Advanced Home Security
Vivint is a security and connected home service, and the Vivint app for iPad is one of the most advanced offerings around. It’s not just a “viewer” with simple lock and unlock controls: The app also lets you adjust your home temperature, view live security camera feeds, arm and disarm the security system and control lighting. You can also see a history of all connected home events — each time the front door was opened, for example — and you can lock all doors or shut off all lights in one click. The app itself is free, but security systems and video and connected home system pricing varies.

Wolfram Alpha: Math and Science at Your Fingertips
Having quick access to a wealth of knowledge isn’t always a good fit for the iPad. After all, the device has a limited amount of memory for local storage, and its mobile processor is designed for email and Web browsing. The Wolfram Alpha app ($2.99) proves you can do real work on a tablet. Thanks to an extensive back end (Wolfram has thousands of servers processing requests), you can search for answers related to mathematics, thermodynamics, physics, chemistry and much more using a simple search field. There’s a browsing component as well; you can use the Examples sidebar to create queries and search the vast research archive.

NGRAIN: 3-D Augmented Reality Player
This app, free for NGRAIN Augmented Reality users, provides a 3-D augmented reality overlay on top of a physical object. It might be used to explain how to fix a part in a vehicle or overlay a medical drawing over a piece of human anatomy. The app uses millions of data points, or voxels, that are fed to the iPad in real-time. Each voxel can contain measurements, such as the temperature of the object or size. The diesel pump shown at left consists of 376 parts and 1.2 million polygons — yet NGRAIN manages to reduce this massive CAD image down to about 7MB to work on the iPad.

New Relic: Track Website Transactions
This app gives you access to the New Relic service (free), which tracks website transactions and back-end application activity in real time. Importantly, the app is not a simplified viewer. An ecommerce retailer can monitor about 85,000 transactions per minute, for example, and not just a simple subset of those transactions. The app has the same color-coded charts as the Web-based New Relic app to help make those massive data sets easier to comprehend.

Bloomberg: Visualization Tool for Financial Data
Another highly complex app that does a good job of making the information accessible, the Bloomberg visualizer (free) shows data for equity indexes, bonds, futures, commodities and currencies, along with breaking news and info about the debt crisis. You can also track your personal holdings and use tools such as Leaders & Laggers to help you with investments. The app also lets you browse video and audio clips. The home page gives you a quick snapshot of performers using color-coded queues for stock prices.

MLB at Bat: Everything a Baseball Fan Could Ever Want
For diehard baseball fans, especially those who want to track offseason activities, this Major League Baseball app shows how data-driven the iPad can be. There are full stats available, including those for pitching, batting and fielding — all of which the MLB recently added. You can listen to real-time audio for current games and see real-time indicators for each pitch and hit. MLB At Bat recently added classic game videos and highlights. Finally, stats are searchable by player, team or keyword. Price depends on a user’s subscription plan.

Weatherbug Elite: Check Weather, Avoid Lightning Strikes
The complexity of an app is often based on how much data it collects. Many weather apps just use data from the National Weather Service. Weatherbug Elite, meanwhile, culls from the NWS but also from a sensor network that tracks weather conditions and lightning. The app also lets you avoid lightning: Set your location and the app can send minute-by-minute reports on lightning strikes near you. This is in addition to the usual forecasts, maps and other weather data. The Elite version ($2.99) recently increased forecast algorithms from seven to 10 days.

Dish Anywhere: Watch Live TV, Manage Recordings
While some video players give you only basic options to watch a show, the Dish Anywhere app (free to Dish subscribers) includes a full remote control, the ability to search quickly for upcoming and recorded shows, schedule your recordings and adjust any conflicts and — of course — watch live television. Even the search function is advanced: You can query by show title, actor, network channel, keyword or genre. Dish Anywhere has a 5-star rating on iTunes after about 800 votes.


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19 Apple rumors that were just wrong

Some of the rumors about Apple over the years were just ridiculous.

Everybody loves to read about the latest Apple rumors, and while they sometimes provide us a little bit of insight into future Apple products, they are more often than not patently false. Sometimes, they’re even wildly and comically absurd.

Below are some of the more intriguing and notable Apple rumors we’ve seen in the past 10 years or so. While some may still come true (an Apple HDTV) some were downright laughable from the get-go (Apple to buy Twitter).
So, without further ado, here’s a trip down Apple Rumor memory lane.

Apple and Jay-Z to form their own record label
Say what?! Believe it or not, there was a rumor back in early 2008 that rapper Jay-Z and Apple were going to form a new record label. The rumor gained enough traction that it even appeared on outlets like CNN and CNBC. Early reports even went so far as to claim that Beyonce was set to join the label once her contract with Sony expired.
Not surprisingly, this rumor never came to fruition.

Apple to buy Waze
Apple’s foray into mobile Mapping with iOS 6 was famously fraught with problems. Since then, Apple has improved its Maps app and has even acquired a number of Mapping based companies. During the first half of 2013, rumors emerged that Apple was in negotiations to purchase Waze, a popular mapping and navigation app with a number of clever and fun social features.
As it turns out, Waze was eventually acquired by Google in June of 2013 for a reported $1.1 billion.

Apple to buy Disney
This rumor had a rather long shelf life, perhaps enabled by the fact that Steve Jobs for many years was the largest individual shareholder of Disney stock. And, oh yes, did we mention that he also sat on Disney’s board of directors? While a proposed Apple buyout of or merger with Disney was intriguing, if only because of the parties involved, such a deal never made much business sense and obviously never came to be.

Apple to launch a branded HDTV
This is a rumor that has persisted for quite a number of years and has taken on many different shapes and sizes. One second we hear Apple will be releasing a 55-inch OLED HDTV, and the next we hear that Apple may be releasing 55 and 65-inch models of a 4K TV sometime in late 2014. While the specifics of Apple’s alleged HDTV plans are always changing, the one thing that has remained the same is that Apple retail stores still remain HDTV-less.

Blu-ray coming to the Mac
Steve Jobs calling Blu-ray licensing a “big bag of hurt” didn’t stop a bevy of rumors from pointing to future Macs coming with Blu-ray support. This rumor especially gained traction once HD-DVD went the way of the dodo and Blu-ray licensing became a whole lot less complex. Nevertheless, it’s now 2013 and with optical drives on the Mac now being edged out completely, don’t count on this rumor ever coming true.

Special-edition yellow Beatles iPod pre-loaded with music
The Beatles catalogue of music arrived on iTunes in November of 2010. Long a favorite band of Steve Jobs, the absence of any Beatles music on iTunes was rather conspicuous beforehand. Over the course of a few years, there was no shortage of rumors indicating that the Beatles would be coming to iTunes. What’s more, there was even a rumor that Apple was going to commemorate the news with a special edition yellow iPod (yellow submarine-themed) pre-loaded with every Beatles song. While the Beatles did eventually find their way onto iTunes, this mythical yellow iPod never saw the light of day.

Apple to buy Twitter
Back in 2009 when Twitter was all the rage in Silicon Valley, rumors began circulating that Apple was interested in purchasing the company for upwards of $700 million. Never mind the fact that Twitter would be an absurdly odd fit within Apple and that Apple has never spent that much money on a lone company. Of course, logic often has no place when it comes to Apple rumors, so this one died just as quickly as it spread.

Justin Long was fired from ‘I’m a Mac’ ads
Apple’s famed “Get a Mac” ads — you know, the ones featuring Justin Long as a Mac and John Hodgman as a PC — had a nice three-year run from 2006 through 2009. But back in 2006, reports surfaced that Apple had fired Justin Long. The reason? Consumers felt the Long character was a tad too smug. The funny thing is Long himself was made aware of the rumor and squashed it via his own website, declaring “I’m literally setting my alarm right now to wake up for a Mac shoot tomorrow.” All told, more than 60 “Get a Mac” ads were released, all featuring Justin Long.

Apple to shift AX processor production from Samsung to TSMC
Every year, without fail, we’re treated to new reports claiming that Apple has moved away from Samsung and has instead tapped Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to manufacture its AX processors. We saw such rumors with the A5, A6 and the A7. With Apple clearly trying to distance itself from Samsung as much as possible, this rumor certainly makes sense, but has yet to materialize. Indeed, teardowns of the iPhone 5s reveal that Apple’s A7 processor is made by Samsung.

PowerBook G5
Rumors that Apple would be releasing a G5 PowerBook first emerged in 2003 following the release of the G5 Power Mac. Weeks passed. Months passed. And all the while, no G5 PowerBook was announced. While Apple executives intimated at various points that it was a product they would like to release in the future, they remained beholden to the G4 and were reportedly stifled by engineering challenges in keeping the G5 processor cool enough to run in a notebook-sized device.

Apple to buy Universal Music Group
Many Apple rumors center on alleged acquisitions, which is somewhat odd given that Apple, as opposed to companies like Google and Microsoft, is much more selective when it comes to corporate acquisitions.

All that said, word spread in 2003 that Apple was looking into acquiring the Universal Music Group record label. At the time, sources from both CNET and the LA Times reported that Apple had engaged in “very preliminary” discussions regarding such a deal. Much like the Jay-Z rumor, however, there wouldn’t be much for Apple to gain in managing its own record label. To be fair, this rumor did make a bit more sense because it preceded the launch of the iTunes Music Store.

iPad 3 to include advanced tactile feedback
This was a somewhat bizarre rumor that emerged in March of 2012, ahead of the iPad 3 launch. The rumor claimed that the iPad 3 would feature a new screen technology with advanced haptic feedback that could mimic the feel of various textures like wood and cloth.

A 4.8-inch iPhone, dubbed iPhone Math
In early 2013, Digitimes reported via the China Times that Apple was planning to release an iPhone with a 4.8-inch screen. Dubbed the iPhone Math, this rumored device was also going to sport a 12-megapixel camera. Not too long after, Digitimes retracted its initial report, though it did maintain that Apple is still developing larger-screened iPhone prototypes.

Apple to discontinue the iPod Classic and the iPod Shuffle
In a touchscreen world, there isn’t much room for devices like the iPod Classic or the iPod Shuffle. So when rumors emerged in 2011 that both products were poised to be discontinued, it certainly seemed more credible than the average Apple rumor. It’s now nearly 2014, and though the iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle don’t contribute a heck of a lot to Apple’s bottom line, they’re still available for sale and prominently featured on Apple’s website.

Apple to release netbook
This was a particularly odd rumor given that Apple executives never missed an opportunity to bash the shortcomings of what was once a popular consumer device. Throughout the first half of 2009, word spread that Apple was looking into releasing a 9.7-inch netbook with a touchscreen. The rumored pricepoint for this device? $800. A few months later, Apple did in fact release a 9.7-inch screened device – the iPad.

Apple to make a bid for Hulu
This rumor emerged in June of 2011, from Bloomberg no less, claiming Apple was considering making a bid to acquire Hulu. Today, one can watch Hulu via the Apple TV, but that’s about the extent of any relationship between the two.

iPhone to support NFC
With a number of NFC-related patents to its name, not to mention a number of interesting NFC-related hires, reports of an NFC-enabled iPhone have persisted for quite some time now. As the rumor narrative went, Apple will enable mobile payments via NFC functionality. With Touch ID now out and in use, Apple still likely has mobile payments on its radar, but may not use NFC to implement it after all.

Apple to acquire Barnes & Noble, TiVo, Palm, Nintendo, etc.
With so many Apple acquisition rumors, we figured it made sense to lump some of them together. Over the past few years, there have been all sorts of rumors involving alleged Apple acquisitions. From Palm to Sony and all sorts of companies in between, you’d think that the rumor mill would have learned long ago that Apple typically purchases smaller companies, like Authentec, that have a product or technology that it wants to integrate into a shipping product. Acquisitions that fall outside of Apple’s product wheelhouse simply aren’t in the company’s DNA.

The iPhone Nano
Thankfully, we don’t hear many iPhone Nano rumors anymore these days, but quite a few made it out of the Apple rumor mill back in 2007. Of course, some of these rumors were more the result of analysts’ wishful thinking than any actual evidence. Almost laughably, a JP Morgan analyst once noted that Apple was planning to release a smaller version of the iPhone, complete with a “circular touch pad control.”


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Microsoft Office 365 lands in US iPhone App Store

Office Mobile is only available for iPhone, iPad users can use Office Web Apps for now, Microsoft said

Microsoft released a version of its office suite for iPhones in the U.S. that is only available for Office 365 subscribers.

Microsoft released the Microsoft Office Mobile suite for iPhones Friday. The software is compatible with iPhone 4, 4S and 5, and the iPod Touch (5th generation) and requires iOS 6.1 or later, according to the iTunes release notes.

Mobile Office allows users to access, view and edit Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint documents, according to the release notes. Because charts, animations and SmartArt graphics and shapes are supported, documents look like their originals, Microsoft said, adding that formatting and content remain intact when edits are made.

iPhone users can access Office documents that are stored on SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro and Sharepoint.

“Office Mobile is cloud-connected. The documents you’ve recently viewed on your computer are readily available on your phone in the recent documents panel,” Microsoft said. It is also possible to view and edit documents attached to email settings.

Documents can also be edited offline. Changes will be saved online when the device reconnects with the network, Microsoft said.

When opening a Word document from SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro on an iPhone, “it automatically resumes at the place where you left off reading, even if you last viewed the document on your PC or tablet.”

While the app is free, an Office 365 subscription is required to use it, Microsoft said. The subscription version, called Office 365 Home Premium, costs US$99.99 per household annually. The app will also work with a 365 trial account, Microsoft said, adding that using the Office Mobile app for Windows Phone does not require a subscription.

The app is only available in the U.S. for now. “Office Mobile for iPhone will be available in 29 languages covering 135 markets.A The international rollout will occur over approximately 4-5 days,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

The app is not available in an optimized version for the iPad. “Like all iPhone apps, Office Mobile can work on iPad, either small or ‘2X’ scaled up, but you’ll have a more satisfying experience using Office Web Apps,” Microsoft said.

Office for iPad is reportedly scheduled for release in October 2014.

 


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Microsoft’s beef with Apple over SkyDrive for iOS is justified

Apple and Microsoft must have missed sniping at each other, because this is petty.

It’s been a while since Apple and Microsoft took cheap shots at each other. I guess they got bored. One news outlet reports Apple is being difficult about approving the newest version of SkyDrive for iOS.

The Next Web reports that the two are at loggerheads over a new version of SkyDrive, which has a paid storage option because Microsoft doesn’t pay Apple a 30% cut of subscription revenue generated by paid storage services.

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A main sticking point is that Microsoft does not want to pay Apple the 30% cut, which runs in perpetuity regardless of whether users continue to use an iOS device or not, because the billing is done through their Apple account.

So if a user signed up for the enhanced-capacity drive on their iOS device and then moved to a non-iOS phone (say, a Windows Phone), Apple would still collect 30% of their fee for storage even though they aren’t using the iOS device any more. Microsoft is understandably not keen on this.

The problem is not limited to just SkyDrive. AllThingsD reports that this fee is also applied to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which Microsoft has all but acknowledged will be launched sometime next year.

A spokesperson for Microsoft responded to a query with this comment:

“Similar to the experiences of some other companies, we are experiencing a delay in approval of our updated SkyDrive for iOS. We are in contact with Apple regarding the matter and hope to come to a resolution. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

Apple, as usual, isn’t talking.

This problem could easily spread to other apps. Third-party developers that use SkyDrive would also be hit with the 30% fee, and they aren’t going to like that perpetual fee, either.

How this plays out will be very interesting. Microsoft could practice what it preaches and offer policies for the Windows Store similar to what it wants from Apple. This would be a key point of differentiation and potentially competitive.

If Apple continues to play hardball and extends the same courtesy to DropBox and other cloud storage apps, Apple could be the one shut out and shunned. Will it happen? Who knows? Tim Cook does not strike me as unreasonable, and now that this is out and in the media, the pressure may come down on Apple.

Now the real test for Microsoft will be how it behaves when the shoe is on the other foot.


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Tablet smackdown: iPad vs Surface RT in the enterprise

IPads are already making their way into businesses via bring-your-own-device efforts with Microsoft Surface RT tablets hoping to follow suit as employees lobby for their favorite devices. But which one makes more sense from an IT perspective?

Read Network World’s other tech arguments.

The two products are roughly similar in price ($500), run touch-centric operating systems, are highly portable and weigh about a pound and a half.

The two most significant differences are that Surface RT comes with both a keyboard and a version of Microsoft Office – Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT – which expand the potential corporate utility of the devices.

Third-party keyboards are available for iPads as are third-party versions of Office-compatible productivity suites but they represent more work for IT. A rumor says Microsoft is working on a client that will allow accessing Office from an iPad through Microsoft’s service Office 365.

Office on Surface RT has its limitations. It lacks Outlook but includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and the Surface RT version requires a business license in order to be used for work. Still, having it installed out of the box is a leg up and gives workers the opportunity to tap into the productivity suite. The keyboard is a big plus.

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When it comes to numbers of applications iPad has far more than Surface RT, and neither one has the number of business applications that support traditional Windows operating systems. Surface RT is a Windows operating system that can’t run traditional Windows apps except for the Office suite specifically crafted for the platform.

Instead, Surface RT has its own class of applications called Windows Store apps, mainly because they can only be bought from the Window Store. They are tailored for touch tablets and must be vetted by Microsoft before they get into the store’s inventory.

They can be developed using XAML, with code-behind in C++, C#, or Visual Basic, and Microsoft has a provision for sideloading custom business apps to Surface RT without submitting them first to Microsoft. Even so, that’s a lot of work to get apps natively on the devices.

Both iPads and Surfaces support virtual desktops, which goes a long way toward making traditional apps available on them. Hosted virtual desktops (HVD) can be costly, Gartner says in a report called “Bring Your Own Device: New Opportunities, New Challenges”. Its research found that “shifting to an HVD model increases the onetime costs per device by more than $600.” Plus proper licensing of iPads for business use is complicated, the report says.

Managing Surface RT is possible via Windows cloud-based management Intune and Exchange ActiveSync for messaging. IPad also supports Exchange ActiveSync. Third-party mobile device management platforms can configure and update iPads as well as monitor compliance with corporate policies. They can also wipe or lock lost and stolen machines. OS X server can do all this as well.

Surface RT comes with security features iPad doesn’t. These include both hardware-based secure boot that checks that the system hasn’t been tampered with and also trusted boot that fires up anti-malware before anything else. That way malware can’t disable the anti-malware before it gets the chance to do its job. The same hardware security module can act as a smartcard for authentication, and Surface RT has full disk encryption.

The iPad has disk encryption but lacks the secure boot features of Surface RT. Its secure boot chain is based on read-only memory and its hardware security module doesn’t do double duty as a smartcard.

NOTE: There is another version of Surface that runs on x86 processors and supports any application that Windows 7 supports. It’s not available until next year, but is actually a tablet-sized full Windows laptop with all the touch capabilities of Surface RT.

That device would beat iPad hands-down if it cost the same, but it is likely to cost hundreds of dollars more than Surface RT.


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