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Apple Announces Exciting Developments at WWDC

Over the years, Apple has faced fierce competition from Microsoft, IBM and in recent years, Google. While at this point, Apple’s built in user base ensures success, they have made more than a few questionable choices of late.

The biggest issue most have with modern Apple is the seeming constant release of “more of the same”. While Microsoft and Google compete with unique, never before seen things, Apple has given the impression of complacency over the past 5 years.

So, the question is, can Apple compete from here on in, or are they relevant only to their established (and in that case, bound to dwindle) established user base? Perhaps the recent WWDC can shed some light on that question.

More OS X?

Yep! One of the bigger announcements at this recent WWDC was the newest build of OS X, 10.11 “El Capitan”.

On top of finally bucking the trend of naming their OS X builds after random feline breeds, El Capitan does actually seem to bring new ideas to the table. Integrating some of iOS’ app management and gesture features, it looks like Apple’s taking a page out of Microsoft’s book, and drawing inspiration from Windows 8.

Frankly, while this is the biggest change made to OS X since its inception, this may be cause for concern, given how well those mobile-oriented components went over with PC users with the previously mentioned Windows 8.

Siri that Works

While iOS 9 doesn’t really bring much visible to the table that its previous incarnation hadn’t pioneered. However, very welcome improvements to Siri were announced, such as context awareness. This means that Siri will be able to detect running apps, elements on screen and web content in order to interact better, and allow users to work with more complex commands and tasks.

Gone, sadly, will be a large source of internet comedy once provided by a context-free Siri offering inappropriate or ironically wrong suggestions or results.

Apple has also stated that an API called “breadcrumbs” will be available to encourage third party developers to design Siri-friendly applications, furthering the power and usefulness of Siri.

Same iOS, sure. But a better Siri sounds serious, and competing technology such as Robin are still too new to compete with this.

Competing with PayPal?

Of course one of the more controversial and original announcements this year was Apple Pay, a PayPal/Google Checkout competitor. Launching with it are buyable Pinterest pins which can be purchased with Apple Pay, as well as forthcoming readers from Square equally compatible.

A possible boon to this admittedly quixotic notion is the forthcoming initial launch in the UK, where various financial infrastructures and transit systems will offer direct compatibility with it out the gate. Still, while it’s a sign Apple’s thinking outside the box like the good old days … good luck competing with PayPal?

Apple Maps – A Second Chance

Apple Maps made headlines a couple of years ago not only for being bold enough to try to compete with the universally-adopted Google Maps, but also for the broken directions it provided, and its melted landscapes in street/3D mode.

After plenty of time fixing the algorithms, display systems and logic which caused this hilarious but unfortunate set of bugs, Apple’s map system is back with a vengeance.
Planned for near future release is an augmented reality system which will carry over Apple devices such as the iPhone and iPad, using Maps as a backbone and platform.

This concept has been proven to work by experiments with Google maps and other devices in the past, and with the standardization between Apple Maps and Apple devices may lead to the first really marketable augmented reality applications.

That is to say, it may lead to this if the waning interest in AR by consumers does a turn around.

Finally, a Use for Swift

This is probably the more interesting announcement. Swift kits may in fact finally be useful for something beyond hobbyist curiosity.

Swift 2.0, specifically in the home kit variety, opens the gateway to “smart house” technology (also called IOT). Integrating (supposedly) with the smart watch technology, the new Swift kits will be able to integrate with security systems, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, smart lighting and any other network-ready home comforts from cooperating providers like ADT and Honeywell.

Wearing Watches Again?

It’s become a bit of a joke that the time between 2005 and 2015 was the “glorious time in which our wrists were free” as smartphones replaced the need for wristwatches. Smart watches such as Apple’s, however, challenge that notion.

Apple’s watch OS is set to offer a unique style of interface, and apparently the ability to run applications directly on the watch. Last year, it was stated that you could only run the apps on the iPhone or iPad, and stream to the watch via battery-sucking Bluetooth. While I’m skeptical about the real need for smart watches, their parallels in classic sci-fi alone makes it worth pursuit.

Facing the Music

Finally, we come to Apple Music, a long-awaited departure from the ancient and horrible iTunes. Looking so much like Pandora or Spotify, this innovative music and video streaming system offers to bring Apple users into the modern media consumption society at long last.

It seems Apple is competing at long last, though at this stage, a lot of it seems like a game of catch up. Of course, that has to be done before Apple can push forward, right?

CPPE App Released for iOS and Android Devices

cppepromo
We have just released the CPPE app into Apple’s app store and the android market. The Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE), is a not-for-profit organisation, offering continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities. Based at the University of Manchester, it is part of the Workforce Academy within the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science and is committed to providing high-quality, professional learning materials and excellent customer service.

The CPPE’s aim with their app is to engage with their clients and eventually to provide e-learning via their apps. To enable this, content has to be updated regularly. By making extensive use of web services, news items and quizzes can be changed on their server without resubmitting the app.

We have built built iPhone and iPad apps with different layouts for each. The iPhone layout uses the familiar drilldown table while the iPad uses a custom splitview layout. We have also built an android app which closely matches the iPhone app but reflects the android user experience.

View or download ‘CPPE’ at the app store.

 


View or download ‘CPPE’ at the android market.

 

NLP Models in the App Store

The NLP models app is now in the app store. Made for our clients Excellence For All, the NLP Models app is a universal app for both the iPhone and iPad.

nlp1

The app provides an introduction to some of the main models of NLP, presented with colourful images, video and audio explanations of the NLP concepts.

View or download ‘NLP Models’ at the app store.

 

 

Newsstand for iOS – digital magazine publishing

newsstand

 

One of the standout features of iOS5 announced by Apple at the WWDC recently was Newsstand. Newsstand will place an electronic newsagent on the desktop of iOS devices, it will allow purchase of subscriptions and download the latest issues of subscribed magazines in the background. It is hoped that Newsstand will become the place to browse for magazines and will remove the problem of magazines being lost within the vast numbers of apps on the app store.

As specialist iPhone and iPad developers we have been looking into how we can utilise the functionality of Newstand to help our customers increase their revenuve.

We have investigated all aspects of Newsstand from in app purchase of individual magazines and subscriptions to the use of push notifications to inform subscribers of new issues downloaded on their device. We have pulled this information together and have come up with an inexpensive solution to allow new and established publishers to enter the exciting world of digital magazine publication. Our solution provides a dedicated content management system to allow you WYSIWYG editing of your copy and the ability to output that as a digital magazine app for listing on the Newsstand. The app can be as elaborate or simple as your budget allows. If digital magazine publication and seeing your magzine for sale on Apple’s Newstand is something that you or your business and brand wish to be part of then feel free to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

QR codes and logos

Recently we have been asked quite a lot about integrating QR codes into apps.  For those of you who don’t know what a QR code is here is a brief description.

A QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL, or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

The functionality of QR codes can be very useful in marketing campaigns, however for some brands the lack of any logo can be a barrier to their use.

With this in mind we have been looking into ways to incorporate branding into QR codes.  It would appear that the error correction built into the algorithm is quite substantial. This allows the code  to be modified quite substantially and still be recognizable.  This was utilised by Louis Vuitton who used a very interesting design by Takeshi Murakami in a Japanese campaign.

louis-vuitton-qr-codes-takashi-murakami

 

Here the corners have been rounded and the centre almost completely obscured and the code can still be scanned.  For Digital Workshed we wanted to test merging overlaid images and logos with the QR code and see how far the image could be modified and still retain its functionality.

 

dwqr0

 

 

Generating a QR code can be done in anumber of ways, we used bit.ly. This is done by just taking the shortened address generated by bit.ly and pasting it into the address field on your browser followed by .qr.  For example our contact code becomes http://bit.ly/jY47cU.qr.

This image can then be copied into the image editor of your choice and modified.  We then modified this code to give the image below.  Here we have incorporated a logo into the three black corner squares by simply creating a new layer in the image editor and placing the logo on top of the code.  This seems to have no effect on the functionality, presumably this area is only involved in recognition and orientation of the code.

 

dwqr1

 

 

Bouyed by our success we thought we would try to push the limits of the recognition a bit further. In gimp a new layer was created containing the digital workshed logo. This layer’s blending mode was then changed to ‘hard light’. This allows the lower layer to show through where it is darker than the layer above. The resultant image is still recognised by QR codes and has clearly recognisable branding.
dwqr

 

Incorporating more texture and shadows was our final aim. So the final iteration involved oilifying the matrix code to round the corners, overlaying a metallic texture merging as hard light to give the metallic effect. The DW logo was then shrunk, cut to an outline and both the matrix and logo had drop shadows applied.

dwqr3

Amazingly the final image still scans! Any comments or suggestion for further improvements would be much appreciated.

JSON for wordpress

json
In the world of iPhone development this must be the most useful plugin for wordpress that I can remember coming across in a long while. This amazingly useful plugin allows output of the data from a wordpress blog as a json file. The content of the json can be specified by the blog user. This can be read very rapidly by an iphone app with the relevant framework addition and so can be used to create all manner of dynamic content in an app all of which can be edited easily from within wordpress.

Does your firm need its own mobile app?

 

This article from the BBC business section today nicely discusses the issues surrounding whether a custom app is right for your business and points out some of the ways that it can allow you to increase engagement and interaction with your customers.

The new site is up and running

As you can no doubt see our new website has gone live. Built with a custom wordpress theme for us by Icepick Solutions, we are very happy with its appearance and performance. We found Icepick Solutions excellent to work with. They stuck to our brief and delivered on time and on budget. What more could you ask for?

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