→ The scale of mobile

Benedict Evans on things to come:

Some time in the next six months, the number of smartphones on earth will pass the number of PCs. […]

In truth, none of us have really internalised what change this means. The fact that Apple makes more money than Microsoft or that smartphones outsell PCs isn’t really the point. Rather, the entire internet is being changed fundamentally – both the size and the character of the internet are going to look quite different from what we have been used to. […]

A great many industries that came unscathed through the first wave of the internet – the desktop wave – are now facing disruption.

What does mobile scale mean? – Benedict Evans

→ ‘Game over’ for BlackBerry

“Gartner recommends that our [BlackBerry enterprise] clients take no more than six months to consider and implement alternatives to BlackBerry,” said Gartner analyst Bill Menezes in an email interview on Friday. “We’re emphasizing that all clients should immediately ensure they have backup mobile data management plans and are at least testing alternative devices to BlackBerry.”

Gartner tells IT shops that it’s ‘game over’ for BlackBerry – Matt Hamblen

The Globe and Mail also have a detailed investigative report on BlackBerry’s decline which is worth a read when you have the time.

Microsoft Surface available disk space

Engaget reports that the Microsoft Surface Pro requires 45 GB of disk space for the OS and pre-installed apps, leaving with you just 23 or 83 GB available for the 64 and 128 GB models respectively. By comparison OS X Mountain Lion requires 8 GB of space and iOS only 2.5 GB.

Sounds like it needs some serious refactoring and aggressive culling of old drivers.

Ubuntu going mobile

Canonical has announced it’s launching a mobile OS in 2014, quite a long time in the mobile space. It’s Interesting that they don’t have any hardware partners yet, but that’s probably part of the long lead time as well as giving developers time to write apps.

In Mark Shuttleworth’s introduction to the platform he mentions that the OS has been written to work with existing Android hardware and kernel so they’re obviously looking to tempt manufacturers away from Android.

Ubuntu’s direction of travel has been going this way since the Unity UI was introduced a couple of years ago and there were stronger hints of Canonical’s mobile interests at their developer summit a few months when they announced Ubuntu for Android.

One of the carry overs from the desktop are Web Apps, which allow apps written in HTML to access a JavaScript API that interfaces with the OS to behave like a native app, integrating with notifications, messaging menus and the HUD. Along with Firefox OS it reinforces the web as broadest platform available to developers and it’s aspirations as a first class citizen on vendor platforms.

A potential issue I can see with the swipe and gesture UI used on Ubuntu for mobile is it’s lack of discoverability. To my mind it’s like Mystery Meat Navigation without at least the possibility of seeing the mystery menus first. I’m sure they’ll come up with a clever way of teaching users the gestures, but it seems like it could be a stumbling block for a large number of people.

Ubuntu has done well in Enterprise with their server offering, overtaking Red Hat in powering the top million sites earlier last year and they certainly seem to be doing ‘one OS everywhere’ better than Microsoft has managed so far with Windows 8. The move into the mobile space is Canonical’s first step into the post-PC era that is clearly defining the next computing epoch which is one that sorely needs greater plurality.

Ubuntu for Android

This is the full Ubuntu Desktop, running on a current generation phone.

UDS KeynoteMark Shuttleworth, Founder of Canonical.

With a bit more UI and software optimisation this could be really interesting.

1kB JavaScript = 1ms parse time

Optimising some JavaScript today (exciting, I know) and going through the Google Page Speed documentation I came across this little snippet:

In our own tests conducted in early 2011, we found that on modern mobile devices, each additional kilobyte of JavaScript adds about 1ms of parse time to the overall page load time. So 100kB of JavaScript included in the initial page load would add 100ms of load time for your users. Because JavaScript must be parsed on every visit to a page, this added load time will be part of every page load, whether loaded from the network, via the browser cache, or in HTML5 offline mode.

— Optimize for mobile: Defer parsing of JavaScript – Google Page Speed

Designing for mobile (performance) first

If you aren’t already using front-end optimisation testing tools like YSlow and Page Speed then you really, really should make it part of your development process. I’ve used them for the past year or so and they’ve helped me squeeze every last drop of performance out of the sites I’ve built. I don’t think I’ve launched anything that’s scored less than 95/100.

On the desktop 90% of page load time is spent on the front-end (that’s everything after you’ve served the HTML). The mobile web brings with it all the normal problems of web performance and then some. Things like massively increased latency, more lost packets and far less computing power to run JS and render complicated CSS layouts.

Guy Podjarny, CTO of Blaze.io, spoke at Google recently about optimising mobile web performance. He shares a few tricks like making a dummy AJAX request every few seconds to keep connection to the mobile tower and using just-in-time image loading (lazy loading) for image heavy sites.

One thing I noticed recently in the excellent HTML5 Boilerplate is mobile first CSS media queries, so rather than style the layout for desktops and then remove floated elements with a max-width media query. It does the opposite with min-width queries, which (I would of thought) allows mobile web browsers to render the page faster.

I’m developing a few sites at the moment that use some of these techniques like lazy image loading and building page layouts on a fluid, responsive grid. At first they were a bit tricky to get my head around and implement but they’re powerful tools that benefit both mobile and desktop users, so I’ll be using them on all new sites I build in the future.