One month later, a few flights in between and I find myself lured back to San Francisco, the city of opportunities. This time I am here for the first TIZEN developer’s conference, on invitation from the TIZEN Association, which is composed, of organizations such as Samsung, Intel, Vodafone and the Linux foundation.
After finding my self-awake at 3am, the first day of the conference got off to an exceptional starts, with a technology showcase and an inspiring keynote from the Linux foundation. The executive director detailed in great depth the importance open source software is having on all aspects of our lives. The greatest example of this decade comes from the Facebook IPO, in which Mark Zuckerberg sent an email to the board a couple of weeks ago stating that open source software is what is defining the world and in the true hacker style code should always win arguments. This is what Facebook did they took open source and created a company estimated to be worth 100 billion dollars.
The conference in general was focused on the release of a major new open source operating system for mobile computing known as TIZEN. With the advances in technology, our dependency on smart mobile phones is surging, with smart phones becoming more and more powerful as we speak. Such demands require state of the art frameworks, which allow developers to design and develop, cross platform applications, which can run on the latest iPhone, HTC, Samsung or BMW.
In this fiercely fought over market TIZEN is a new operating systems for mobile devices which places emphasis on the use of HTML5 as the framework in contrast to a native application development environment as found on iOS and Android.
HTML5 is a cross platform environment, which utilizes the web browser in order to execute applications. As most phones these days are shipped with a web browser this allows a company to develop one App in HTML5 and deploy it across all devices either as an HTML5 App, which runs as an App in the phones browser, or by transforming the HTML5 app in a native iPhone or Android app.
Despite the advantages that HTML5 brings about, it also faces numerous challenges, such as not being able to interact with native hardware functions due to the gaps in the webAPIs, which is not the case when developing Apps using native development environments.
The conference from a birds eye view looked at TIZEN and how it can help solve the largest challenges mobile App developers face, namely the discovery of their Apps, the distribution of their apps to their clients, the fragmentation and monetization of there apps.
The monetization on mobile apps is much harder with HTML5 than with native apps and TIZEN provides the necessary tools and the platform to aid with this. TIZEN over the coming years will bring a shining light to what HTML5 apps should be. The current state of practice for HTML5 apps are very limited due to the lack of webAPIs, from not being able to use the camera to locking the screen.
Therefore the aim with TIZEN is that the Operating System is developed and maintained in the Open so that no vendor gains an advantage over the other. There are numerous reasons why open source and mobile is the way to go, namely due to the fact that the internet of people has nearly reached 2 billion, with the internet of things reaching 1 trillion, everything and everyone is now connected, leading onto a major data explosion. We therefore need instruments to collect the data, to transfer the data, to process the data and to visualize the data. Open source is leading in all domains and with TIZEN it’s going to allow a good way for data visualization.
Competition is changing innovation every 12 months; less time in the market is less money to be made. Overall do you think Facebook, Twitter or Apple ever be around if they had used the closed framework such as Microsoft’s .net in opposition of open source technologies? Would you like to be on the table shaping the future or on the menu? With TIZEN you can now own the platform.
The second day started of with three inspiring keynotes which then led onto various technical streams, some of which focusing on the core functionality of TIZEN, whilst others detailing HTML5, with others such as Urban airship focusing on push notifications.
Imad Sousou, the director of Intel’s open source technology center & Jong-Deok Cho, Vice president of Samsung started of the morning. They clearly stated how TIZEN is not restricted to a single value proposition but to multiple usage models ranging from mobile to IVI. Mobile operators are now able to create there own branded devices and there own business models utilizing the same underlying framework and shaping it to there own needs. Industry leading HTML5 API’s, that allow developers to create compelling and high transport applications, creating a great developer experience. Unified market app stores to unique and individual app stores.
TIZEN focuses a lot on mobile but also on the cross pollination of the platform onto IVI, with HTML5 as the way forward. The technical steering group runs TIZEN, like all other open source projects, with the focus being on delivering the software platform. Whilst at the same time a parallel organization called the TIZEN association, is focused on to building out the entire Eco system right from the commercialization aspects to the app stores to making the platform successful.
At the end of this year they will be releasing TIZEN 2.0 also known as magnolia with the focus being on native APIs and some additional web APIs. Using web technologies as a programming model. Two key areas and problems TIZEN will need to solve, first problem is the web API coverage as normal web APIs cover a great amount of native usability but leave a lot of gaps. The aim in the true open source spirit is not to create TIZEN APIs but to create standard APIs for all other projects.
The second challenge is performance as there is nothing inherently in the technology that makes web or HTML slower. The bottleneck was never the web APIs but the network connectivity, therefore native or near native performance is now achievable with HTML5 applications. HTML and java script are used to build the greatest websites in the world, therefore with an optimized website as seen in the demo on the phone the results are amazing.
Following this keynote, Dr. Kiyohito Nagata, the chairman of the TIZEN association, the industries consortium that promotes and advises on the commercialization of the TIZEN development platform presented an intriguing session.
The most fundamental question we need to answer is, is it affordable to create a different application for all the different platforms? This is not an affordable strategy for developers; therefore use of HTML5 is being looked at a lot. From Vodafone to Intel to orange to Samsung to sprint they see the potential of HTML5 and TIZEN.
Over the coming months the following are seen as the greatest expectations from TIZEN: HTML5 facilitation, openness, innovation and differentiation, industry leader support.
The morning keynotes came to an end with an exceptional session from James Pearce, head of mobile developer relations at Facebook. James stated that the web is very important for Facebook, with the first decade of the web rotated around documents, with all individuals around the globe looking at the same static web pages. Throughout the second decade the web rotated around people, with every page a users look at being different and becoming more application driven. Information is now being pushed to us rather than having to go and look for it, with the third decade going to be focused on mobile.
In 2005 Facebook was one of the last to come out with a photos applications such as Flickr, but no matter the lack of photo cropping and modification functionality the Facebook photo application had the tagging functionality, which drove the discovery and distribution of the photos, making it an enormous success.
Another show case of the power of Facebook are the simple not very functional Facebook games launched 2007 which allow people to play games with their friends and surpassed complex non Facebook games.
There is now the shift to mobile, we have the global village, and the next wave of businesses will be mobile companies. The age of the desktop is no longer the fashion. Facebook was made to be mobile and if Mark were in his dorm room this year about to come up with the idea of Facebook it would have been a mobile App. In 8 years Facebook has reached 800 million users, but in 4 years they reached 500 mobile users with the mobile applications.
The Facebook platform is the opportunity for app developers to develop application to be used on the platform. Facebook and open graph now account for 160 million monthly mobile visitors and 1.1billion monthly mobile visits, allowing for a very rich and semantically rich applications, portraying the pages a user likes to what he/she is doing eating etc.
The rest of the day and conference was filled with very exciting technical sessions on mobile app development, the whole ecosystem and the future of TIZEN.
In its essence mobility is not only about mobile phones but equally as important in vehicles, yachts and aircrafts. TIZEN offers a very unique opportunity with a lot of emphasis being placed on other sectors such as the latest in vehicle infotainment systems. In line with this when stepping on board a multi-million dollar yacht one is never impressed by the infotainment systems found on board and TIZEN as a layer above MARSSA (MARine Systems Software Architecture) will allow for very impressive user interfaces, with the owner being able to use the same apps he bought on his phone in his car and yacht.
Deciding if you should develop an App in HTML5 or using a native development framework always proofs to be a difficult choice. It all boils down to your target market and the balance between cost and performance/quality of the App.
HTML5 is definitely a technology that one must keep his/her eyes on and investing time in learning such a technology is surely going to be a safe bet. As to date the technology might be behind native app development but it surely is going to proof to be a competitor in this battle for mobile app dominance over the coming years.
Chief Architect MARSSA Project.
Reporting from silicon valley, San Francisco.