Apple Special Event 2017

Apple Special Event 2017: A New Hope?

By Peng Xie

apple-event-2017-september-logo-610x659

(Originally written on Sep 19, 2017)

Last week, the Cupertino company opened the door of its new campus to guests with a special event led by a touching and inspiring tribute to Steve Jobs in the theater named after him. During the 2-hour keynote, CEO Tim Cook along with other familiar faces presented the world a fleet of next-gen Apple devices that immediately captured headlines of all major tech websites and publications regardless the leaks and speculations happened before the event. So, what does this special event mean for Apple and tech industry? And more importantly, what does it mean for us, the consumers?

In my opinion, this special event is the most important events for Apple in years. When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone and App Store, Apple virtually changed the whole smartphone industry and turned itself from a computer and music player manufacture into a leader in mobile devices, software and retail industries. Since then, even though there were still good yearly updates and new(ish) product releases from Apple, I felt a trend of slowing down…. until this year’s special event.

(I’ll be discussing the new products from the special event in the order of how I remembered them and how important I think they are, so pardon me if it is different from the order of how they were introduced.)

Apple Watch Series 3

Starting with Apple Watch Series 3, while mostly left unchanged in term of design, more powerful internals and the addition of LTE are definitely welcoming improvements. This is nothing new since there are already other Android Wear devices that have LTE capability. And given that the new Apple Watch’s LTE will only work in the country where it is purchased, I think Apple will continue to try to win over customers with the refinement of the Apple Watches instead of features. The thing that interests me most in the LTE Apple Watches is actually the internal SIM card. Apple is an active player in pushing new SIM card standard and has used similar technology in previous iPad models. I’d like to see Apple put this technology in future devices and make it another industrial standard just like what Apple did with micro and nano SIM cards in previous iPhone models. Telecom companies would welcome this feature since it can reduce cost of making SIM cards while give better control on devices activated on their networks. However, for consumers, an internal SIM card may not be preferred by some. Using a local SIM card while traveling will no longer be as easy as swap out SIM cards. To utilize the full benefit of an internal SIM card, phone manufactures and service providers should really come up with ways to streamline the activation experience for customers.

Apple TV 4K

Next one is Apple TV 4K. While the device itself is more like a catching up with other streaming devices to some people (Personally, I love tvOS and I think Apple TV has huge potentials.), the real exciting news is that Apple is making quality 4K contents more accessible than ever. Years ago, a format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD backed by multiple big companies and studios like Sony and Warner Bros. made HD contents widely available to general publics. But today, even with the popularity of 4K TVs and YouTube videos, we rarely see 4K movies sold online or in stores. With Apple upgrading the movies in iTunes Store to 4K without raising the price, I believe other retailers and content providers will soon step up their games in 4K, which will in turn benefit consumers greatly with not only increased availability but (hopefully) also reduced cost of contents and devices.

iPhone 8 and iPhone X

Last but not the least are the iPhones. The same “magic” formula used in iPhone 6 is still being used in iPhone 8/8 Plus while Apple “revolutionized” the smartphone design with iPhone X. Funny enough the stunning glass back design on both iPhone 8 and the 10-year anniversary iPhone X is actually a throwback to iPhone 4 instead of the original iPhone. But this I think it is mostly due to the newly added wireless charging feature. The iPhones are using an older Qi standard so I don’t think there’s much to discuss on that. What’s most important to me is the heart of the new iPhones, the A11 Bionic chip. In an interview after the event, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller said Apple started development of A11 chip 3 years ago when A8 chip was shipped with iPhone 6. The focus on graphics and neural networks processing in the design of A11 Bionic chip can give us a glimpse into Apple’s ambitions. Along with the introduction of ARKit and Core ML in iOS 11, Apple is obviously venturing into a future of augment reality and machine learning.

This is more or less a trend in the industry, but not all companies have the expertise across design, manufacturing and software development like Apple does. The Verge reported that the “notch” on iPhone X is as complex as a Microsoft Kinect. Packing all those components in an area that small is simply amazing. Paired with the powerful A11 chip, it will surely give iPhone X the ability to raise the bar for facial recognition technology. In addition, FaceID, AR and other processes will be great help in training Apple’s machine learning algorithm. A more intelligent device can significantly improve user experience with the help of Core ML framework.

Aside from all the praises, there are concerns over the brand new iPhone X. The “notch” design is not loved by all. The security of FaceID is yet to be tested by the public. And unsurprisingly there are privacy concerns regarding to the FaceID feature. To me, those are all valid concerns and healthy discussions. Not only Apple, but all manufactures and consumers should know what they’re dealing with and getting into. I’d like to see the big players like Apple, Google and Samsung work together to come up with an industrial standard to ensure the devices meet minimum security and privacy requirements.

Still a leader?

I believe the answer is positive. With a 50% sales growth, Apple replaced Rolex as the biggest watchmaker in the world. And the tech giant is now championing for a future of 4K contents. Even though iPhone 8/8 Plus mostly remain unchanged and iPhone X’s minimum bezel design is not a first in the industry, Apple will still be able to influence the design language for future smartphones. When we look back in a future of augment reality and devices with outstanding learning capabilities, I think we would all agree that this year’s Apple Special Event is as significant as the one where Steve Jobs introduced us to a legendary device called iPhone.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

WWDC 17: Why am I excited as a developer?

By Peng Xie
wwdc17-og

WWDC 17: Why am I excited as a developer?

It’s been a week since WWDC and I finally got time to write this blog post to express my excitement as an iOS developer. I won’t be talking about the keynote, since it’s pretty much the same every year. Instead, I’ll be focusing on the real deal, WWDC 2017 Platforms State of the Union.

For the non-iOS-developer readers, Platforms State of the Union is a session in WWDC that gives attendees a more technical overview of what’s coming to Apple’s platforms, as its name suggests. Just like previous years, Apple made some really big announcements to its developer community. Let’s see some of my personal favorites.

Xcode 9 Source Editor

As an iOS developer, I use Xcode everyday, which sometimes can be a pain. Xcode’s performance and features are not that strong comparing to some of the competitors. This year, Apple introduced one of the most welcoming changes to Xcode in my opinion – they have re-written the whole source editor from ground up in Swift! The result? 3x faster file opening seed, 60fps scrolling and up to 50x faster jump-to-line action. On top of that, they also implemented an integrated markdown editor, improved coding issue presentation and tokenized editing. What’s even better? A brand new refactoring engine and workflow that is powered by an open-source transformation engine. IntelliJ users may not be that impressed with these improvements. But to me, the all new source editor will give me a huge boost in productivity. I can’t wait for it to come out of beta… (Rule of thumb, don’t use beta Apple softwares on production development works.)

Swift 4

Not surprisingly Swift 4 will be there with Xcode 9. Apple has vastly improved one of the most widely used classes in Swift, String class. In Swift 4, String is now a range-replaceable bi-directional connection, meaning it behaves and can be used like an array of characters now without any sort of conversions. Thanks to the underlying improvements, String now provides 2.5x-3.5x faster processing depend on the language it’s in. Another welcoming news is the introduction of “codable” type. The new type will be synthesized by compiler and has the ability to perform 100% type-safe JSON encode/decode with only one line of code. Apple also made it easier to adopt Swift 4 in Xcode 9. The compiler now supports both Swift 3.2 and 4.0 and allows developer to mix-and-match 3.2 and 4.0 targets. All these improvements makes Xcode 40% faster building large mix-and-match Swift/Objective-C projects. Moreover, building projects using multiple Whole Module Optimization targets is now 2x faster!

iOS 11

One of the biggest announcements in WWDC 17 is iOS 11. For users, iOS 11 blurs the line between a desktop and a mobile OS, which will finally make iPad Pro a viable productivity tool. For developers, this means new APIs to play with. Starting with the new Drag-and-Drop feature, Apple did a phenomenal job making it easier to integrate in apps. It’s automatic for text and web content, and has delegate protocols for customization similar to other iOS APIs. With its cross-process, system-wide multi-touch support and built-in data security, I’m sure developers will start to provide this new feature in their apps to users as soon as iOS 11 becomes available.

Good news for everyone

Along with Xcode 9, Swift 4 and iOS 11, Apple also introduced CoreML for machine learning, Metal2 graphic engine and ARKit for virtual reality. These are only a few that caught my eyes. I am really excited to learn more about CoreML and hopefully can put it to use in one of our apps someday. I truly think Apple has given us developers really good tools and platforms to provide users best features and experiences. This is good news to developers as well as users. A better Apple will surely push its competitors to step up their game, which is something I really like to see. Whether or not you’re a developer or iOS/macOS user, you should be excited too. As consumers, we will always benefit from the competitions.

SAPPHIRE NOW 2016

By Ganpy

My session at HR 2016

-Ganpy

SAP HR 2016 was a return to my home territory as a speaker. The last time I spoke  at an SAP Insider conference (HR conference) was in 2010. So, it has been a while. A lot has changed in the SAP HCM landscape since then. And I have in some ways, moved onto doing more exciting things – not entirely away from SAP HCM, but onto more generic HCM technologies & Mobility in particular. This year, I decided to test how much of a thirst is there among the audience, especially the ones attending SAP HR conferences, for my current pet topic, “Employee Engagement” and decided to submit an abstract during the fall of 2015. I was very clear that this topic is not SAP specific.

The SAP Insider HR conference producers apparently thought there was enough interest in my topic and in my abstract & selected my topic and invited me to speak. I have to thank them for their confidence in me. Creating the right content for this session was not very difficult, but I had fun doing it. And also, it helped me organize what I wanted to convey to my audience in a very organic and an organized way. I delivered my session today (02/26) as scheduled and I was satisfied with the overall flow, reach and audience participation.

Thorsten Gorny and Steve Ditty, my lovely colleagues from Cogent IBS accompanied me to Las Vegas this year. We had a great time bonding & talking about HR, Coobo, Cabaana and Cogent in general.

Here are a few pictures from the last 4 days.

If you are interested in downloading/reading my presentation, here you go…
Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Conference Month

HR Tech Europe and Web Summit

So we are back to our home bases. Was a hectic month for Team Cabaana.
Here are some pictures from these events.

HR Tech Europe (Paris)

This is the conference where we had a soft launch of Cabaana. Great conference and we got some wonderful feedback. We also got 10 minute stage time at the disruptHR zone.

IMG_6504 IMG_6514 IMG_6516 IMG_6517 IMG_6526

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web Summit (Dublin)

We took part in this conference in the Alpha Start-up section. A very different forum for us as this summit included start-ups of all kinds. Again, a great experience with lots of positive and some critical feedback.

IMG_6601 IMG_6637 IMG_6624

HR Tech World Congress

By Ganpy

HTtechparis_LIVE-300x192

This is just a quick post to share with our readers that Team Cabaana will be at the HRN – HR Tech World Congress in Paris. This is touted to be the largest HR Technology Conference in Europe and is a 2 day event. And the Expo hall will be a fun place to hang out for any technically inclined HR person.
Cabaana will be showcased in the Startup pavilion. In addition, Ganpy & Thorsten will also get an opportunity to talk about Cabaana’s story on the DisruptHR stage.

Overall, this is a big stage because Cabaana, the product will be officially launched during this conference, but the scale of this event is made even bigger from Cabaana’s standpoint due to the above mentioned reasons.

We will report more about the conference and about our experiences there soon after.

Google I/O 2015 – A Developer’s Perspective

By Xinye Ji

Google I/O was a rather anti-climactic one in some ways. People were expecting a whole new refresh like Lollipop was last year. A lot of people were expecting a new Nexus 5. (Which may or may not have been previewed when introducing the new USB Type C connector…) Instead, Google focused on support, stability and efficiency.

So, in the eyes of many, maybe Google I/O wasn’t so exciting as it was more of a ‘tock’ instead of a ‘tick’ kind of update. However, for both Google and Android developers, this update lets us breathe a sigh of relief. New letter (like L or, in this case, M)  versions typically introduces more fragmentation issues that Android has been so infamously known for. This time around, while we see some features that are not supported in older versions of Android (such as the revamp of app permissions), the support and backwards compatibility of said features won’t completely break the app one hundred percent.

The Android M preview also released with its developer counterpart Android Studio 1.3 along with the 1.3 gradle plugin.

The Good:

Android NDK

For those of you unaware, the Android NDK allows developers to work natively in C or C++. I’m personally quite excited about this, as this allows a much wider spectrum of developers to pick up Android development. I’m sure we’ll see some amazing libraries come out in the ensuing months, perhaps more hardware and low level control.

The Bad:

Additionally, during the “What’s new in Android Testing?” presentation. Many, many features were slated for “in the next few weeks.” It’s unfortunate, but it seems some things in the product were not ready in time for Google I/O.

The Ugly:

This build is… buggy to say the least. The initial release of the 1.3 Canary build had some expected errors; like having trouble switching to the M preview build, and certain gradle issues that came with that. But it also had other issues, such as telling you that your overridden classes never implemented the super class, when it clearly did.

The issue has since been patched, and I understand this is a canary (very early beta) build, but come on guys…!!

One thing is very clear for this year’s Google I/O, however.

                           A Focus on Just Making Better Apps.

Performance:

One big thing is the Captures feature on Android Studio. This allows you to get the CPU metrics for your connected device. I recall this use to be a giant cluster of irrelevant data. Now they have more intuitive UI and a very well detailed metrics that will help you search CPU hangups and memory leaks.

Theme Editor:

If any of you have done Android Development, one huge pain was setting up themes. This time around, there is a new theme and layout editor. The theme editor has some amazing items. It helps you integrate material design to your app, and it removes a lot of the boilerplate you need to generate.

Additionally, we have a revamped layout editor. This editor definitely seems new and improved. The demo at Google I/O didn’t generate a bunch of gibberish code, and the visual UI designer has piqued my interest. In fact, I suspect many developers may start using that rather than blindly typing into the XML file and hoping the UI looked as intended.

Sadly at the time of posting, this tool is not yet available on the preview.

Android Design Library:

Since I learned about material design, I’ve always wanted proper support for material design. At Google I/O this year, the Android Design Library was released, which has been basically everything I wanted from Google as far as implementing Material Design, as well as supporting Material all the way back to Froyo (Android 2.1).

Testing:

There was a large chunk of support for testing during Google I/O. Including testing UI, proper unit testing, and automation of said tests. A lot of the testing process is now more tightly integrated with Android Studio. And I, for one, am very excited to check these out in my own geeky way.

The one major thing that all these things have in common is that they are incredibly mundane to the end user, but incredibly exciting to most developers. The updates to these tools will help us improve our development process to make better, more consistent, more reliable, and more powerful apps.

Opposite View: WWDC15 Keynote from a Developer’s Perspective

By Peng Xie

OS X El Capitan

  • Oh the new name, good luck translating it into other languages…
  • Pinned Sites in Safari: It’s gonna be useful when browsing Facebook, Twitter, etc. at work, class… Apple’s engineers really understand what we want after all.
  • Enhanced Spotlight: I actually didn’t know you couldn’t check weather and search things with your own words with Spotlight in Yosemite.
  • Mail App: I’m gonna write emails to all the people I know with all the tabs I can have in new Mail app’s compose window and still ignore emails from Phil Schiller because I can search for all emails I ignored from Phil!
  • Spilt View and Window Management: Seems like Apple learned something from Windows 7?
  • Metal for Mac: RIP Open GL… While the PC gamers are playing GTA5 with awesome graphic, Mac gamers are still stuck with games like vegetables vs zombies. Let’s see if these big game companies can convince PC gamers to buy Macs.
  • Have I mentioned that El Capitan is faster than Yosemite?

iOS 9 and WatchOS 2

  • Siri now has a new animated interface. I wonder what will you see if you look at it with red-blue 3D glasses…
  • Siri can also do way more than it (she?) could before based on its (her?) soundings.
    • “🎵It sees you when you’re sleeping… It knows when you’re awake…🎵”
  • Like in OS X, Spotlight on iOS has received a new interface and can now look into your apps for search results.
  • Apple Pay now works at more places than ever! And apparently Apple and Google seem to have reached some agreement to switch the names of their payment app. Yes, I’m looking at you, Android Pay and Apple Wallet.
  • Happy drawing in the new Notes app!
  • Maps app can now tell us which bus/train to take to go to places!
  • Apple now lets you choose what news you wanna read in its new News app, as long as you’re in US, Australia or UK.
  • People have been asking for an “iPad Pro” for some time now. Apple’s answer to it is a new QuickType keyboard with shortcuts plus touchpad capability and a more powerful multitasking feature (Samsung, get your lawyers ready!).
  • You’ll be able to use the awesome Picture in Picture and Split View feature if you have the latest iPad Air 2.
  • Swift 2 will be open source later this year, available for iOS, OS X and Linux. I feel sorry for Windows because it won’t get all the wonderful new features comes with Swift 2.
  • It seems like WatchOS 2 can finally do what it suppose to do a long time ago. Apple has finally given access to normal frameworks and features like animation & layout for Apple Watch.

Everything about Music

  • For $9.99 a month, you get another Spotify alternative. That’s it.
  • And the crazy developers at Apple are developing an Apple Music app for Android as well!

Overall impression
I am not happy about this keynote and it’s not because there’s no new Apple TV or other new toys. WWDC is a developer conference and it should focus on new operating systems and SDKs, not music. Unlike previous years’ WWDC, Apple rushed through announcements and demos and spent what seems like forever for their new music streaming service. I understand it’s important business for Apple but they really should have spent more time talking about WatchOS 2 and Swift 2.

Not Impressed

Not Impressed

 

Google IO 2015

Google I/O 2015

 

By Ganpy

I may not be technically qualified to analyze all the new announcements made at this week’s Google IO purely from a programmer/developer’s point of view, but I find myself qualified enough to comment on the overall outcome of the many things that came out of Moscone West, generally, as someone who is closely associated with the industry. 

The beauty of Google IO is that it is a little more grounded and humble compared to let’s say Apple WWDC. Not that I have a problem with the latter approach. It’s after all a dog and pony marketing event & you got to be in your A game. Google just likes to adopt a different strategy. With the Google umbrella casting a much larger shadow on a typical global citizen’s daily digital life than that of Apple’s, it is simply impressive that this strategy works for them, every year.

To me, what clearly stood out was how much Android centric Google IO this year was. This also highlighted the significance of the times we live in – Mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and all new innovations around them.

M

Well. Google acknowledged that it is going to focus on ‘usability’ with Android M. It’s not that Android is not usable in its current form. But the general focus with L was on design. So with M, Google may just be polishing off the usability issues that came with L. Again I am not a programmer, so wouldn’t know how to technically break down the improvements. For example, the ability to change permissions on the fly in an app is such a leap. Improvements like these will put Android always ahead of iOS when it comes to features and what one can do with them as a developer.

Android Watch

No one saw how quickly or how powerfully Apple Watch will dominate this wearables market space. With so many different Android based watches to choose from as opposed to a single device in the iOS world, Android wearables have sort of turned out to be secondary choices for many users who are looking for smartwatches. With some really new cool features that were announced this year, it is clear that Google will continue to show Apple how to get it right in smartwatches and Apple wouldn’t mind playing the catch-up game as long as they can keep their market share this high.

Brillo and Weave

Internet of Things – Just a few months ago, this was such a complicated phrase to explain. Now, it seems like everyone talks about it. What a rapidly changing time we live in!! We are definitely living through a phase in technological development where we are inventing more solutions to solve problems created by our previous technological innovations, than actually inventing some completely new solutions. Brillo and Weave are good examples of this. Brillo is sort of like Android lite, an OS to be used by all devices that are connected to your life’s IoT while Weave is the new protocol which the devices will have to follow to communicate with one another. I know that is putting it simply, but that’s exactly how they pitched it. Let’s see how rapidly they take over our lives. I am not going gaga over them yet.

Google Photos

Well. In some ways, all Google fans could slam my statement – But I for one feel, this is one of the few areas where Google is playing catch up with Apple. Nothing that they announced as new features in Google Photos made me go “wow”, the lifelong free storage for Google Photos notwithstanding. I will be very curious to see how many people really feel that the free storage is an incentive to switch to Google Photos. This may be another area where Google treads the dangerous privacy issue in a ‘greyish’ sort of manner, if you know what I mean.

Google Now

I will keep it short. Google Now is really how Google is trying to make all your frequently used apps redundant. As conflicting as it may be, it is very impressive nevertheless. Google Now may be the only thing you need soon on your Smartphones. 

Cloud Test lab

Another eyeopening announcement. We as a team, haven’t fully discussed how this could change our testing scenarios. It is a well known fact that there is one thing that has been haunting the Android development labs all around the world and that is the fragmentation issue. With something like this, Google could potentially eliminate that being a factor to consider while developing your next Android app. We have been seeing spurts of some third party services offerings along these lines and we were interested in looking at those for our internal use. But if Google can provide something like this which has all its blessings, then we don’t have to look too far for this service in future.

VR/Cardboard/Expeditions

Expeditions was the biggest breakthrough announcement yesterday (for me). It may be hard for to express why in a very eloquent way, but the classroom expeditions demo awakened the student in me.

The GoPro rig combined with the kind of VR editing options you have, which in combination with youtube being a new platform to actually play/watch VR videos, using a ridiculously simple device like a cardboard…….I think we are sitting on the next major technological innovation.

GoPro rig may not be for everyone as I expect the cost to run into a few thousand dollars, but the day is not far off when all of us can sit in the luxury of our couches and perhaps discuss the rate at which climate change is happening all around us, as we watch a live VR capture of another big ice shelf breaking away from the coast of Antarctica. 

And that, dear readers, would be the ironical and the bittersweet future we all can look forward to!

Sapphire Now 2015 – Preview

By Ganpy

Sapphire NOW 2015

We at Cogent decided not to participate at Sapphire this year for different reasons. So with that said, we will definitely be keeping an eye on the conference through many channels.

What to expect at Sapphire 2015?
Here is a quick preview.

The Usual Suspects:

  • Bill McDermott and Hasso Plattner – We sort of know what to expect from them. The message for this year will continue to be around “Simple” or “Run Simple” which they introduced last year. We can expect the whole venue being splashed with that Run Simple message with all customer case studies and demos being geared towards selling that message.
  • Analytics, Sports Analytics, Mobility, SAP Apps on all devices including wearables like Google Glass and even Apple Watch, et al.

Some old wine in some new bottles:

  • HANA – There will lots of HANA talk as SAP is definitely increasing its bets on HANA. The next couple of years could decide the future of HANA. But the HANA messages will be packaged differently. There will be many customer presentations, case studies on how S/4HANA changed their businesses by increasing their efficiency, etc.
  • Fiori and Lumira. Unlike the last couple of years when both Fiori and Lumira were presented in a disjoint manner, I expect SAP to present Fiori and Lumira more & more in the context of HANA. Fiori with HANA or Fiori/Lumira with HANA.

Speculations:

  • CRM – Even though SAP has been pushing its initiative “Cloud for Customer” for the past couple of years, with increased talk on Oracle having an eye on Salesforce, I speculate some action in this space. Either the “Cloud for Customer” initiative gets a brand new image or an absolutely out-of-nowhere announcement that SAP decides to make, I am expecting/speculating some big news in the CRM space.

In a few days, we will find out how I fared with my speculations.

If you are going to be at Sapphire, Do Enjoy the show!