Mobile apps are now bigger than the web — a trend that threatens to eat Google's core business

Apps are eating the web.

Over the past decade, there has been an inexorable movement from the open internet to the walled gardens of apps — and this trend just hit a major milestone.

According to new data from ComScore, more than half of all time Americans spend online is spent in apps — up from around 41% two years ago.

It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web, as well as companies whose core business is built around it — notably Google.

As content that was once freely available and indexable on websites becomes silo-ed away in closed-off apps, it makes it harder to search and link to content. This is, of course, the cornerstone of Google's original business. Google is fighting back, by making the internal contents of apps searchable. But it is not clear that Google will come to dominate app search the same way it did web search.

Below is the data from ComScore, showing how mobile dominates when it comes to platforms people use to get online — and on mobile, apps are the most popular way of accessing information.

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And here's how the amount of time spent in apps has rocketed over the last few years.

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Continuous: C# and F# IDE for the iPad by Frank A. Krueger

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Continuous gives you the power of a traditional desktop .NET IDE - full C# 6 and F# 4 language support with semantic highlighting and code completion - while also featuring live code execution so you don’t have to wait around for code to compile and run. Continuous works completely offline so you get super fast compiles and your code is secure.

Continuous gives you access to all of .NET’s standard library, F#’s core library, all of Xamarin’s iOS binding, and Xamarin.Forms. Access to all of these libraries means you won’t be constrained by Continuous - you can write code exactly as you’re used to.

Real Work, on the iPad

I love the iPad but was still stuck having to lug around my laptop if I ever wanted to do “real work”. Real work, in my world, means programming. There are indeed other IDEs for the iPad: there is the powerful Pythonista app and the brilliant Codea app. But neither of those apps was able to help me in my job: writing iOS apps in C# and F#. I couldn’t use my favorite languages on my favorite device and that unfortunately relegated my iPad to a play thing.

Well it took me a bit of time, but I finally have it: a .NET IDE on the iPad (and phone too!).

But it’s not “just an IDE”. I didn’t want it to simply be sufficient - I wanted it to be great. I also thought it was a nice time to push the state of the art in .NET IDEs a tad.

For ages compiled languages like C# and F# have forced a sequential development loop on programmers: the Code-Compile-Run-Test loop. We code something up, wait for it to compile, then wait for it to deploy and run, then we get to test it.

I hate waiting for compilation and deployment so I designed Continuous to minimize those steps. It does this by eagerly compiling your code - never waiting for you to tell it when to start. It runs your code as soon as those compiles complete successfully and displays the results of that execution right next to your code. Now you can focus on the code and the results of that code instead of being distracted by all the silly machinery of a compiler and IDE.

The benefits of making compilation and execution fast have surprised me. My iPad has become my favorite place to write apps now.

  • The UI is visualized right next to the code that is building it.
  • I am no longer constrained by designers with their static view of the world - the UI objects in Continuous are live and interactive.
  • I can use real code files but still visualize objects out of them as if they were scripts.
  • I can focus on building one screen of my app at a time and see the results without having to navigate from the first screen to see the screen I’m working on over and over.

I could argue that I’m a more efficient programmer thanks to these changes. Perhaps I am more productive. But the truth is, I’m just happier using Continuous. I play with GUIs more now, trying new ideas and tweaking things left and right. It’s quite liberating and plain old fun to get nearly instant feedback on your work.

I hope you find these features as exciting as I do. Please visit the website if you want more details on them, or throw caution to the wind and buy Continuous on the App Store now to see them first-hand.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Continuous wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for .NET’s great open source ecosystem. Continuous uses Roslyn for compiling C# and FSharp.Compiler.Service for compiling F#. Continuous also relies heavily on Cecil (what problem can’t be solved with Cecil?) Also, Xamarin.Forms could only be included thanks to Xamarin open sourcing it.

And of course, none of this would be possible without mono and Xamarin.

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I wrote Continuous in F# using Xamarin Studio. The code is more functional than object oriented and uses a redux style architecture. I don’t think I could have built such a large app with its sophisticated requirements without F# at my side. Three years ago I wasn’t sure how to write GUI apps in a functional language, now I question why I haven’t always done things this way.

Microsoft Builds Android App Store For Its Own Android Apps Inside Of The Android App Store

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Microsoft has a new app out called ‘Microsoft Apps‘ on Android that contains a list of its Android apps that you can download on the Android app store.

There are two parts to this development. The first is that Microsoft’s cross-platform work continues, and that the company has yet to let up an inch on its work to bring its software and services to users on every rival operating system. And, the second point is that Microsoft has created an effective Android app store — catalog? — inside of the actual Android app store.

An early comment noted that fact. From the app’s page on Google Play:

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That comment is almost correct. At the same time, it can be difficult to sort through tens, and hundreds of thousands of apps to find the precise one that you are perhaps looking for. Microsoft wants to make sure that if you want to use its stack on Android, you can do so without unnecessary sleuthing.

The app has racked up four review so far, giving it an average score of 4 stars.

The new app might not make sense until you realize just how many apps Microsoft has on Android — you can take a spin through the full list here. It’s extensive. It’s almost odd to recall how big a splash bringing Office to Android and iOS once was.

Microsoft fans have a new toy, and the company has a potential conduit for its apps on the Android platform. Not too bad a turn of events for the Redmond-based software company.

Microsoft's new service makes app developers out of everyday employees

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Work is growing increasingly mobile thanks to smartphones, but companies can have a hard time coping with demand for apps that let their workers take corporate data on the go. Mobile developers are expensive, and getting new applications tested and then pushed out to users can be a time-consuming process.

Microsoft just unveiled a new beta service on Monday that's supposed to help ease that tension by allowing anyone to build an app - no software development experience required. PowerApps combines a cloud application backend with easy-to-use tools that make creating a mobile app a drag-and-drop affair.

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PowerApps applications can pull in information from a variety of data sources including Office 365, Dynamics, Google Drive, Workday and other services. Developers can also build connections for PowerApps in their own services if there isn’t a connector already available.

Once the data connection is set up, users can then start building an application interface from one of Microsoft’s pre-built templates, or plug key data into PowerApps and let the service suggest the right designs for their purposes. Those people who have a strong idea for what they want their app to look like can create it from scratch.

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Once users have built the apps they want, they can then use Microsoft's service to share their newly created tools with coworkers who have the PowerApps application installed on their smartphones.

The system is currently limited to building software that runs inside the PowerApps app on mobile devices, however, so employees won’t be able to push their creations to the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Bill Staples said during a press briefing that Microsoft will consider feedback from its customers when determining if the company should make it possible to create standalone applications using PowerApps.

Google Launches Android Studio 2.0 With Improved Android Emulator And New Instant Run Feature

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Google today launched version 2.0 of its Android Studio integrated development environment (IDE) for writing apps for its mobile operating system.

Android Studio, which is based on IntelliJ, launched back in 2013 and came out of beta a year ago. It includes everything a developer needs to build an app, including a code editor, code analysis tools, emulators for all of Google’s Android platforms, and more.

The new version is now available as a preview in the Canary release channel of Android Studio.

With version 2.0, as Google’s group product manager for Android Studio Stephanie Cuthbertson told me, the team wanted to build on the foundation it laid over the last two years and focus on speed. “For the IDE to be delightful, it doesn’t just have to be stable — but amazingly stabled,” she told me. The team felt that it achieved this with the last couple of releases.

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With this update, Google massively accelerated deployment speeds, for example. Cuthbertson tells me that a full build is now 2x to 2.5x faster than in previous releases. That’s a huge step forward, but what developers will likely appreciate even more in this new version is the addition of a new feature called “Instant Run.” This almost mimics the experience of writing HTML, where you write your code, reload your browser and see what changed. On mobile, that process typically takes quite a bit longer, even with the improved build speeds.

Instant Run lets developers build and deploy their apps once (both to the emulator or to a physical device) and then as they change their code and deploy it, it’ll only take a second or two before they can see those changes in the running app. This feature will work for all apps that target Ice Cream Sandwich and later. Cuthbertson politely refused to tell us how exactly Instant Run works, but promised that Google will detail the technology behind this feature in the future.

Given the size of the Android ecosystem, it’s almost impossible for most developers to test their apps on even the most popular devices early on in the development phase. With services like Xamarin Test Cloud, the AWS Device Farm and Google’s own Test Lab, developers have plenty of options to test their apps later on, but during the development process, most of the testing happens with the help of emulators. Google’s own emulator wasn’t always the fastest and easiest to use (to the point where Microsoft ended up releasing its own).

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With this update, Google is introducing new emulators that, given modern hardware, should run faster than any physical device. The team also rebuilt the interface, so that it’s now easy to trigger typical actions like firing up the camera. Developers will also be able to emulate different network conditions and emulate the GPS (even with pre-configured paths). The emulator also includes access to all the standard Google Play services. Maybe more importantly, though, you can now simply resize the emulator window to test different screen sizes.

For developers who build graphics-intensive apps and games, the Studio now also includes a new GPU profiler. This will allow developers to see exactly what’s happening every time the screen draws a new image to trace performance issues, for example. This tool is still officially in preview.

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Microsoft is getting serious about payments in Windows 10

Windows10-backgroundMicrosoft is looking to relaunch Windows Wallet, a mobile payments app that stores credit cards, coupons and membership information, to improve both the in-store payment experience and online payments with Windows devices, a top Microsoft executive said in a joint interview with The Verge and Recode.

"Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You’ve seen it on phones before. We’re going to continue to iterate it," Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of the company's operating systems group, said. "We’re going to think about the range of payment scenarios."

While Belfiore didn’t say when exactly a new wallet would launch, or whether it would utilize NFC or other payment technology, he cited Windows Hello, the company’s new facial recognition technology introduced with the Windows 10 operating system, as a good example of the "kind of technology we’ll build into devices for authentication to make… payments better." It’s likely that any kind of updated Windows Phone payments app would utilize NFC technology, the same tech Windows Wallet for Windows Phone 8.1 was said to use.

However, that app never really became a full-fledged payments app. Like Apple, Samsung, and any other tech company that has tried to launch a branded, fully useable mobile payments app, Microsoft is aware that getting into mobile payments has its challenges, especially in certain markets.

"[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, What effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in? And that’s kind of a world problem."

Apple creates 'Move to iOS' app to pull Android users away from Google

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The iPhone 6 has been more successful than previous versions of the smartphone at drawing Android users away from Google’s mobile platform, and Apple wants to capitalize on that with a new app that makes it easier for them to make the switch.

The switching process will also suggest that they install free apps from their Android device that are also available on Apple’s App Store, so switchers can quickly get back on their feet with their favorite apps like Facebook and Twitter. Paid apps that they have on Android with iOS versions available will be added to a user’s wish list in the iOS App Store.

According to Apple, the whole process will be handled “securely” so that a user’s personal information doesn’t get exposed. It’s not clear exactly how the process works yet, and how aggressive Apple will be when it comes to migrating users away from Google’s services. For example, it’s possible that the process will move all of the contacts a user has stored with Google over to iCloud—Apple hasn’t said one way or another.

Once the process is done, the Android app will helpfully prompt users to recycle their Android phone, just to keep them from going back to Google’s mobile platform unless they buy a new phone.

The app wasn’t announced on stage Monday morning during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, but it appeared on the promotional page the company created to show off its new mobile operating system ahead of its launch later this year.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told analysts during the company’s January financial results conference call that the current iPhone lineup “experienced the highest Android switcher rate in any of the last three launches in any of the three previous years.” This app should help accelerate that trend by making it even easier for people to switch over.

New report claims Microsoft has bought Wunderlist for up to $200 million

A couple of weeks after rumors first hit the Internet that Microsoft might be in talks to acquire the popular "to-do" app Wunderlist, a new report claims that the acquisition is a done deal. According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has purchased the company behind the app, the German-based 6Wunderkinder, for between $100 and $200 million.

Neither company has officially confirmed this deal, but the WSJ claims that the Wunderlist team will remain in its home office in Berlin, Germany to continue working on the app. If the report is indeed correct, this will be just the latest acquisition by Microsoft for a mobile productivity app company. It bought the e-mail client Acompli in late 2014 and put its technology into the latest versions of its Outlook mobile apps. Microsoft also acquired Sunrise Calendar in early 2015.

Windows 10 can run reworked Android and iOS apps

Microsoft is revealing its plans to get mobile apps on Windows 10 today. While the company has been investigating emulating Android apps, it has settled on a different solution, or set of solutions, that will allow developers to bring their existing code to Windows 10.

iOS and Android developers will be able to port their apps and games directly to Windows universal apps, and Microsoft is enabling this with two new software development kits. On the Android side, Microsoft is enabling developers to use Java and C++ code on Windows 10, and for iOS developers they’ll be able to take advantage of their existing Objective C code. "We want to enable developers to leverage their current code and current skills to start building those Windows applications in the Store, and to be able to extend those applications," explained Microsoft’s Terry Myerson during an interview with The Verge this morning.

 

The idea is simple, get apps on Windows 10 without the need for developers to rebuild them fully for Windows. While it sounds simple, the actual process will be a little more complicated than just pushing a few buttons to recompile apps. "Initially it will be analogous to what Amazon offers," notes Myerson, referring to the Android work Microsoft is doing. "If they’re using some Google API… we have created Microsoft replacements for those APIs." Microsoft’s pitch to developers is to bring their code across without many changes, and then eventually leverage the capabilities of Windows like Cortana, Xbox Live, Holograms, Live Tiles, and more. Microsoft has been testing its new tools with some key developers like King, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, to get games ported across to Windows. Candy Crush Saga as it exists today on Windows Phone has been converted from iOS code using Microsoft’s tools without many modifications.

During Microsoft’s planning for bringing iOS and Android apps to Windows, Myerson admits it wasn’t always an obvious choice to have both. "At times we’ve thought, let's just do iOS," Myerson explains. "But when we think of Windows we really think of everyone on the planet. There’s countries where iOS devices aren’t available." Supporting both Android and iOS developers allows Microsoft to capture everyone who is developing for mobile platforms right now, even if most companies still continue to target iOS first and port their apps to Android at the same time or shortly afterward. By supporting iOS developers, Microsoft wants to be third in line for these ported apps, and that’s a better situation than it faces today.

Alongside the iOS and Android SDKs, Microsoft is also revealing ways for websites and Windows desktop apps to make their way over to Windows universal apps. Microsoft has created a way for websites to run inside a Windows universal app, and use system services like notifications and in-app purchases. This should allow website owners to easily create web apps without much effort, and list those apps in the Windows Store. It’s not the best alternative to a native app for a lot of scenarios, but for simple websites it offers up a new way to create an app without its developers having to learn new code languages. Microsoft is also looking toward existing Windows desktop app developers with Windows 10. Developers will be able to leverage their .NET and Win32 work and bring this to Windows universal apps. "Sixteen million .NET and Win32 apps are still being used every month on Windows 7 and Windows 8," explains Myerson, so it’s clear Microsoft needs to get these into Windows 10.

Microsoft is using some of its HyperV work to virtualize these existing desktop apps on Windows 10. Adobe is one particular test case where Microsoft has been working closely with the firm to package its apps ready for Windows 10. Adobe Photoshop Elements is coming to the Windows Store as a universal app, using this virtualization technology. Performance is key for many desktop apps, so it will be interesting to see if Microsoft has managed to maintain a fluid app experience with this virtualization.

Collectively, Microsoft is referring to these four new SDKs as bridges or ramps to get developers interested in Windows 10. It’s a key moment for the company to really win back developers and prove that Windows is still relevant in a world that continues to be dominated by Android and iOS. The aim, as Myerson puts it, is to get Windows 10 on 1 billion devices within the next two to three years. That’s a big goal, and the company will need the support of developers and apps to help it get there.

These SDKs will generate questions among Microsoft’s core development community, especially those who invested heavily in the company’s Metro-style design and the unique features of Windows apps in the past. The end result for consumers is, hopefully, more apps, but for developers it’s a question of whether to simply port their existing iOS and Android work across and leave it at that, or extend those apps to use Windows features or even some design elements. "We want to structure the platform so it’s not an all or nothing," says Myerson. "If you use everything together it’s beautiful, but that’s not required to get started."

Microsoft still has the tricky mix of ported apps to contend with, and that could result in an app store similar to Amazon's, or even one where developers still aren't interested in porting. This is just the beginning, and Windows universal apps, while promising, still face a rocky and uncertain future.

Microsoft Announces ManifoldJS


John Shewchuk, Technical Fellow and CTO, Microsoft Developer Platform, announced a new technology called ManifoldJS, which is an open source JavaScript library for creating hosted apps across Android, iOS and Windows.

ManifoldJS takes simple meta-data about your site and uses that to generate native "hosted" apps for Android, ChromeOS, FirefoxOS, iOS, and Windows.

Generate your App Manifest here>> 
Documentation available here>>

More JavaScript 

asm.js, a strict subset of JavaScript usable as a low-level, efficient target language for compilers.
 
Vorlon.js, a remote debugging and testing tool for JavaScript that helps you remotely load inspect, test and debug JavaScript code, running on any device with a Web browser only. Download and learn more about this tool here>>

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