Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly analysis of the most interesting and important news, stories, and events in the world of modern software and analytics.
This week, our top stories concern quarterly results that spotlight conflicting views of the future of the mobile industry.
TWiMS Top Story:
Apple’s iPhone Sales Just Fell for the First Time—It Won’t Be The Last—WIRED
What it’s about: Apple’s latest quarterly earnings report rocked the mobile technology industry. As just about everyone and their grandmother reported, the iconic iPhone—the crown jewel of the Apple empire—posted its first-ever year-over-year sales decline. Apple moved 50 million iPhones in its first quarter, down from 61 million in the same period in 2015. That’s still a heck of a lot of iPhones, of course, but the sales drop led to Apple’s first yearly decline in revenue since 2003. As Gizmodo’s Michael Nunez pointed out, that’s 51 straight quarters without a revenue decline—until now.
Why you should care: Time to start stockpiling water and canned goods and head for our underground bunkers? Nope, despite some of the headlines after Apple’s earnings announcement. But the tech press went bonkers for a reason: the end of this historic growth period for Apple and the iPhone signals a maturing mobile device market—and increasingly fierce competition. For one thing, as the New York Times notes, the iPhone is no longer the must-have smartphone in certain key markets—particularly China. That could have a long-term impact on mobile development choices. Perhaps more important, even among iPhone devotees, buying behaviors have changed. Just as companies and consumers no longer automatically replace their PCs every couple of years, the near-automatic smartphone upgrade cycle has been disrupted, in part by stingier carrier subsidies. We’re entering the “good enough” phase of smartphone ownership, and we’re simply not buying new devices as often. Of course, that hardly means folks are actually using their mobile devices any less, as Facebook’s results remind us below.
- Here Comes the iPhone Apocalypse and the End of Apple As We Know It—ZDNet
- iPhone Sales Slump Leads to Apple’s Worst Quarter in 13 Years—Gizmodo
- Ding-Dong, Reality Calling: iPhone Slump Is Not Apple’s Doom—The Register
- Making Sense of Apple Now That Everything Has Changed—BGR
- Apple iPhone, Once a Status Symbol in China, Loses Its Luster—The New York Times
- I Am The Reason for Falling iPhone Sales—Network World
What it’s about: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it very simply: “We had a great start to the year.” That statement sounds downright humble, seeing as how Facebook posted $5.38 billion in revenue in Q1, a 52% increase from the same period in 2015. The company hit 1.65 billion monthly active users, a 15% year-over-year increase. Moreover, the company recorded $1.51 billion in profit, nearly tripling its Q1 2015 number. But make no mistake, this earnings beat is all about mobile.
Why you should care: Forget the iPhone sales decline; the mobile experience continues to assert its dominance. Facebook’s mobile ad revenue accounted for 82% percent of all ad revenue in the first quarter, up from 73% in Q1 of 2015. Both its daily and monthly mobile active user counts continue to climb: daily mobile active users averaged 989 million in March, up 24% year-over-year, and monthly mobile active users hit 1.51 billion, up 21% from the previous year. TechCrunch notes that means 91% of Facebook’s massive user base now visits the platform on a mobile device, with 894 million “mobile-only” users. If we use Facebook as a bellwether—and with numbers like these, we should—there’s no reason to worry about the health of the mobile sector from a software perspective.
- Facebook Swells to 1.65B Users and Beats Q1 Estimates with $5.38B Revenue—TechCrunch
- Facebook Is Doing Everything Right—Quartz
- Facebook’s ‘Moonshots’: All the Ambitious Projects the Company’s Working on Right Now Besides the Big Blue App—Business Insider
- Facebook Revenue Soars on Ad Growth—The Wall Street Journal (Paywall)
- As Facebook Profits Soar, Zuckerberg Moves to Consolidate Power—The Verge
What it’s about: Amazon posted its own Wall Street beat on Thursday. (The surging stock made Jeff Bezos a quick $6 billion—on paper.) But if Facebook’s success was powered by mobile, Amazon’s getting its boost from cloud. The company’s Amazon Web Services unit raked in $2.6 billion in the first quarter, a 64% year-over-year increase. As multiple outlets point out, AWS is on a fast track to become a $10 billion business annually, as the public cloud goes mainstream in corporate environments. And it’s not just Amazon: Last week, Microsoft’s Azure and commercial cloud business provided bright spots in the company’s earnings report. Azure revenue grew 120% year-over-year, as Azure compute and SQL usage more than doubled.
Why you should care: The crazy thing about AWS’ staggering numbers is that there’s still plenty of room for additional growth as cloud becomes the default setting for corporate computing. As TechCrunch’s Matthew Lynley writes: “AWS has become a go-to for most businesses, so it’s not surprising that it’s seeing that segment continue to grow steadily. The company is posting huge year-over-year growth here, meaning that demand is still increasing, despite increasing competition from companies like Google and Microsoft.”
- Amazon Crushes Earning on Strength of Web Services—Yahoo Finance
- Amazon Web Services Is Approaching a $10 Billion-a-Year Business—Re/code
- Amazon Shares Surge on Cloud-Powered Profits—USA TODAY
- There’s a Massive Company Hidden Inside Amazon—TIME
What it’s about: In its ongoing push into the enterprise, Dropbox used its Dropbox Open London event to preview new technology it calls “Project Infinite,” which aims to enable users to access all of their files locally without actually consuming any storage space on the local drive. That’s a real issue. Especially on corporate teams, the amount of data users are working with often far outstrips local storage available on most desktops and laptops. “Getting secure access to all the team’s data usually means jumping over to a web browser, a clunky user experience at best,” writes Dropbox product manager Genevieve Sheehan in a blog post. “Project Infinite will enable users to seamlessly and securely access all their Dropbox files from the desktop, regardless of how much space they have available on their hard drives.” Locally synced files will continue to get the familiar green checkmark, while Dropbox will add a new cloud icon for everything else.
Why you should care: This should resonate with anyone whose local drive is constantly flirting with max capacity, or anyone on a team working with copious amounts of data. (Computerworld’s Blair Hanley Frank, however, notes that Dropbox has yet to say whether Infinite will be available to non-business customers, among other unanswered questions.) But there’s another trend worth noting here: This is one more high-profile example of cloud computing’s increasingly pervasive influence and power. On the desktop, this is cloud without the browser, masquerading as your boring old Windows File Explorer or Mac OS X Finder. It’s another indicator that cloud computing is no longer a popular trend; it’s simply the way we do things, both at the individual and organizational level.
- A Revolutionary New Way to Access All Your Files—Dropbox Business Blog
- Dropbox’s Project Infinite Shows All Company Files Locally but Stores Them Remotely—VentureBeat
- Dropbox’s Latest Idea Could Change the Way You Think About Cloud Storage—TechCrunch
- Dropbox Will Now Show All Your Files Locally Without Using Any Disk Space—Ars Technica
Being a Developer After 40—Medium
What it’s about: Self-taught software developer Adrian Kosmaczewski has been writing code since the heady days of 1997, back when portals and search engines like Excite and AltaVista ruled the day and Netscape was a modern browser. Now 42, Kosmaczewski recently shared his thoughts on being a developer after 40 in a post published on Medium, and based on a talk he gave at App Builders Switzerland. In it, he shares his experiences and strategies for becoming a lifelong learner, avoiding burnout, and other “simple tips to reach the glorious age of 40 as a happy software developer.”
Why you should care: There is life after 40, even for developers. That’s not always apparent in the popular representations of the 20-something whiz-kid coders who fill the cubicles and offices of Silicon Valley, but it’s true. And we’d suggest that the word “happy” is the most important one in the quote above. Do you want to just survive and grind it out, or thrive and actually enjoy the work you do? Kosmaczewski’s advice is worth checking out for devs of any age. (In fact, in spite of the title, it might be especially useful for younger folks.) Some highlights: Don’t stay in a job you hate if you want to avoid burnout. Learn a new programming language each year, as a rule of thumb, and read at least six books a year. Become a teacher as well, so you don’t hoard all that learning you’ve been doing. “Teaching will make you more humble, because it will painfully show you how limited your knowledge is,” Kosmaczewski writes. “Teaching is the best way to learn.” Understand that APIs rule software: “Great APIs enable great apps,” he writes. “If the API sucks, the app will suck, too, no matter how beautiful the design.” Most of all: “The most important thing to remember is that your age does not matter.” Recommended reading.
- How Cloud Computing and the On-Demand Economy Are Remaking IT Careers—ZDNet
- Got Cloud Skills? Now You Can Get Certified by the Openstack Foundation—Computerworld
- A Future Without Code—Intercom Blog
- U.S. Tech CEOs Demand Congress Make Tech Workers Out of Kids—The Register
- What It’s Like to Use a Chatbot to Apply for Jobs—Fast Company
How to Design a Wearable for a King—Fast Company
What it’s about: It’s a wearable fit(bit) for a king. With the NBA playoffs in full swing, Fast Company’s Co.Design offers a peek behind the particular design and usability needs of a fitness-and-health wearable, called Whoop, worn by basketball superstar LeBron James and other professional athletes. “The Cleveland Cavaliers forward needs the ability to precisely measure his performance on and off the court, share that data with his coaches and trainers, and visualize it to make sense of everything—all at an extreme level of detail that would be overkill for regular users,” writes John Brownlee. Indeed, the Whoop measures things like heart-rate variability, for which us so-called “norms” would usually order up an EKG. There were plenty of design challenges that even couch potatoes can relate to, including extended battery life. The team behind Whoop also had to solve another mainstream wearable challenge: the device couldn’t look outlandish or otherwise interfere with the user’s daily habits.
Why you should care: Hardware is only part of the picture here; it’s the software and data that will have to make the difference for elite athletes. “The most important part of the Whoop is the data it collects,” Brownlee writes. “To sell this to sports teams and leagues, Whoop needed to be able to visualize the data so athletes and coaches could use it to make intelligent training decisions.” To help do so, Whoop hired data visualization veteran Martin Oberhauser, who’d previously worked with firms like Pepsi, BMW, and Airbnb. The article also asks the obvious question: “Why should pro athletes be the only ones to get a truly wearable wearable?” (Whoop isn’t available for public purchase.) When it comes to fitness and health, shouldn’t the “norms” benefit, too?
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