Tag Archives: touch interface

Showing Uniface’s Mobile Capabilities at Mobile World in Barcelona

When you think of enterprise mobile apps, what is the first type of app that comes to mind? That’s actually a more difficult question than we thought when we first started off creating a mobile app demo to showcase at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We decided on an insurance policies app, which we will show on both iOS and Android devices. The event is already taking place next week, and luckily all of our preparations and hard work are falling into place.

Uniface will participate as an exhibitor in the App Planet Exhibition Area (stand number: 8.1K79) at the event. Here we will demo the power of Uniface Mobile to create cross platform mobile applications and showcase how we can address the current opportunities and challenges of developing apps for enterprise mobility.

When building a demo app specifically for an event, it’s important to be able to show someone quickly the power of your solution.  With Uniface, this is no different, however while we can (also) make flashy front-ends, the back-end integration of a mobile app is where you see the real benefits.

Preparing the Uniface demo for Mobile World Congress
Preparing the Uniface demo for Mobile World Congress

So take an insurance app that allows a user to view their various policies on their mobile, be able to submit a claim to their insurance company with all the relevant information and accompanying photos—and all of this seamlessly integrating into the back-end system. Take that same app and add a piece of business functionality which would normally lead to lengthy change management and development time, and see how Uniface can build a component in minutes. That is the power of the Uniface mobile solution, and what we are looking forward to showing at MWC in Barcelona.

Over the course of four days, 2-5 March 2015, 85,000 delegates will hear from thought leaders from the most important companies in mobile and adjacent industries. They will be able to see the newest technologies and most innovative products available in a cutting-edge Exhibition featuring more than 1,900 exhibitors, and participate in App Planet where more than 200 app-focused cutting edge exhibitors, including Uniface, will showcase the newest apps, gadgets, devices, and technology in the mobile ecosystem.

If you’ll be in Barcelona for MWC 2015, contact us to arrange a meeting or drop by our booth in the App Planet Exhibition Area. In the mean time, visit go.uniface.com/mobile to learn more about Uniface Mobile.

Push Button Development

 

We accept that touch interfaces are already a part of the application user experience.  We like using them most of the time, and so we might be considering whether to design them into our own application development projects.  Perhaps there is a logical and intuitive reason that begs for a touch interface, or you might want to indulge your creative side to add some new functionality to your application.  Did you ever think that an application development tool vendor might find themselves in this situation?  Can a touch interface help make a better IDE?

My son used to use a Windows 7 Phone, and last year he showed me a new app he was playing with.  He has complained before that Windows Store didn’t have enough apps , and so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he was desperate enough to try an application development tool app, i.e. develop other apps to run on his phone.  But what surprised me was that the tool used a touch interface to create programs.  Sure, it was a brand new language, but you never had to actually learn it because you just pushed buttons to select commands, use variables and build statements.

If you haven’t come across this yourself, I’m talking about TouchDevelop, which is a Microsoft Research project.  Have a look at  https://www.touchdevelop.com/ .  Being Microsoft, this IDE comes as a native Windows Phone app, or a Web App that runs on other platform’s web browsers.  The language is the same for both, but capabilities vary a little bit.  It is still a research project, using an active user community to ”test the waters” on its viability.  To get the gist of actually developing by touch gestures, you should look at the videos.  Writing about it here just doesn’t cut it.

I don’t intend to review this IDE, or the development language, I just think it’s cool that people are researching this.  Indeed a part of the strategy is to encourage Universities, and even a few high schools, to use TouchDevelop in their courses.  Microsoft will also loan out some Windows Phones for student use.  I imagine that a simpler language will allow faster learning of basic programming concepts, as well as introducing students to mobile computing principles.

One consequence of using of TouchDevelop is that it really encourages development on all kinds of mobile devices, from iPhone to Surface Pro.  If you save the programs, or scripts, on the cloud, then the development really is portable and mobile.

Focusing a little more on Microsoft; just what is their future development strategy?  TouchDevelop can provide apps for upload and distribution via the Windows Store, just like C# plus XAML apps developed in Visual Studio.  A year or so ago I read that HTML5 plus JavaScript was the future direction for the Windows 8 platform across all device types.  Is Microsoft getting nervous about an open standard that might marginalize their Windows uniqueness?  Is TouchDevelop actually road testing a new Microsoft specific language?  There is more new technology under the covers of TouchDevelop.  The Web App for TouchDevelop was developed with TypeScript, but a discussion on that technology is beyond today’s blog topic.

Windows 8 and market momentum

I’ve been quite open about not being a fan of Windows 8.  I’ve mentioned it in previous postings.

I’m currently shopping for a new TV, and while I was in the big electronics store close to the office, I had a look at a Windows tablet running Windows 8, the first time I’d really looked at one. I have to say that when I’m using my fingers, and I’m swiping and poking (I have fat fingers!), I can see the value of the tiled interface. But as soon as it’s keyboard and mouse interaction, personally I find it annoying.

I see that  there are some whispers in the market place that Microsoft are considering significant changes with the update they are calling Windows ‘blue’ at least as an internal name. There is an overview on the BBC website which caught my eye.  I wonder if this will bring the changes which will make Windows 8 be used more in business that it seems to be. We’re not seeing much traction within the Uniface customer base and curiously not even the US, which is usually the leading market to pick up new technologies.

Should I Slide or Should I Swipe?

 

Touch interactions in the User Interface were new several years ago, with the advent of new portable devices.  But in my sphere of development technology interest, it is Windows 8 that is introducing touch interaction to a much bigger audience of developers.  Yes I know Windows 7 also had touch, but how many laptops, or 27 inch workstation monitors, were touch-enabled?  If you still get junk mail catalogues from electronics discounters, you will see the new models of Windows 8 machines that are more and more touch-enabled.  Even the touch-pad has become more powerful.

So the Operating System will confront users and teach them to accept, and even embrace, touch interactions in the UI.  It is therefore inevitable that application developers will need to accept and embrace touch interactions as well.

Before we start development, there are interesting design paradoxes to resolve.  For example, Microsoft suggests that whilst touch interactions should be adopted in new applications, keyboard and pointing devices should continue to be fully supported**.  So do you design to maximise a UI as if touch were the only interaction method, or do you compromise it to accommodate a wider choice of interaction devices (please don’t call a mouse an old or legacy device)?  Another example comes from the desire to develop a single code line for all deployment scenarios.   We can handle different OS and DBMS combinations, but in the future, target screen size and resolution may vary enormously.  Font and window sizes can be changed dynamically to compensate, and we can even alter the layout of objects, but the size of our (adult) fingerprint, and the distances between fingers etc., won’t change to suit.

Suppose that we are ready to develop, and we have all the software tools that we need.  Unfortunately we will have to learn new terms and concepts.  We will have to understand the differences between gestures, manipulations and interactions.  The MSDN reference below can be expanded to find Microsoft’s definitions as an example.  If you look at gestures, you can see that Slide and Swipe are considered different gestures.  How can that be?  One of the interactions is Zoom … sounds intuitive, but there are 3 kinds; Optical zooming, Semantic zooming and Resizing.  OK, we can learn all this, but unlike a user of gestures in modern applications, where the attraction is speed and intuitive actions, programming for it can be the opposite, at first.

I am confident that we will be developing interesting applications in the future that will include touch interactions.  This will be matched by various challenges along the way (functional testing sounds challenging).  BTW, a Swipe is a short distance version of a Slide – so I’d still be a bit careful about allowing both of those gestures in the same business function.

**    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh700412.aspx

 

Windows 8 boosts enterprise applications (Part 3)

Guest contributor, Ian Murphy from analyst firm Creative Intellect Consulting

(Part 1: http://unifaceinfo.com/?p=1077)
(Part 2: http://unifaceinfo.com/?p=1082)

Questions of touch, form factor and interface support

Not all parts of Windows 8 will deliver big benefits. There will be big challenges for developers in how to incorporate the touch interface into their applications. Existing touch applications are only enabled for two finger touch as that is all Microsoft previously supported. This was perfectly fine for tapping an icon or pinching a picture or ebook to enlarge or reduce.

With Windows 8, it is about multi-point touch which is much more complex. The ability to use two hands on the screen or carry out complex touch operations requires both software and hardware support. Therefore multi-point touch support is going to be limited for some time. Brand new hardware, available around Christmas 2012 should be multi-point enabled but the vast majority of business desktops and devices will not be refreshed for some time which means developers need to write touch applications working to multiple standards.

Developers will also need to decide what is the target platform for the application – desktop/laptop, phone or tablet. Screen size, resizing, moving from portrait to horizontal – these all pose challenges for application design. In fairness, these are not new challenges but too many applications fail to support these features properly.

There is also a question over what interface to support.  Will it be the classic desktop which still exists underneath Windows 8? Will it be the new tiled interface that is now deployed from server to mobile phone? A lot will depend on the target audience and the type of devices that the development team believe users will want to use. However, Microsoft is committed to driving Windows RT into the market so underestimating user demand could leave application design out in the cold.

Worthy offering

Are the three big benefits above likely to drive adoption of Windows 8 inside the enterprise? Yes, I believe that they are. Those enterprises that want to move to a more mobile application space can now do so by leveraging the capabilities inside the operating system. For the first time in 25 years, changing your version of Windows really is likely to have a positive impact on the business