Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, New Relic’s weekly roundup of the need-to-know news, stories, and events of interest surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and the other issues that influence modern software.
This week, our top story focuses on the implications of Apple’s latest headline-grabbing event, which revealed new iPhones, the long-awaited “supersized” iPad, and plenty more.
TWiMS Top Story
‘Hey Siri’ Event Roundup: iPhone 6s, iPad Pro, New Apple TV, and More—MacRumors
What it’s about: Another much-anticipated, not-so-mysterious Apple event came and went, and it turned out the rumor mill was pretty darn accurate: The company unveiled two new iPhone models, the ginormous iPad Pro, a new Apple TV, plus a slew of other stuff. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus aren’t radical makeovers from the existing 6 series, but boast 3D Touch (demo video), a faster A9 chip, and camera improvements, among other features. The iPad Pro—which some speculated wouldn’t make the cut for this event—is now real, and offers a laptop-like 12.9-inch screen along with an optional smart keyboard and stylus. The new Apple TV, meanwhile, includes Siri integration and a touch remote, and underscores the company’s ambitions to become not just the go-to media hub in your living room, but also to be your app store, gaming console, and search tool. Apple also released iOS 9.1 to developers, in advance of iOS 9’s full release next week.
Why you should care: The Internet obliged with the usual frenzy of analyses and fandom that follows Apple announcement events. But this time multiple observers noted that Apple kinda, sorta didn’t do much new here. The large-screen iPad Pro and its peripherals, for example, should seem very familiar to Microsoft Surface users. And coming up with a $100 “Apple Pencil” stylus—a concept Steve Jobs famously derided—isn’t exactly a groundbreaking invention. But maybe that’s just fine. As Fast Company’s Michael Grothaus notes, perhaps the key question shouldn’t be “Who did it first?” but rather “Who does it better?” Innovation matters, but so does execution. And no matter who wins the tablet-as-laptop market, app developers will have to grapple with a rapidly blurring line between Web and mobile environments.
- Apple Is a Great Copycat: Did They Improve Anything?—Fast Company
- New Apple TV “Good News for Developers”—Vancouver Sun
- iPad Pro vs. 12-inch MacBook Retina: How to Choose Between Apple’s Very Similar Lightweight Options—Network World
- iOS 9.1 Is Now Available for Developers—The Verge
- 10 Questions I Still Have After Apple’s Big Event—Fast Company
- Mac User Groups Fade in Number and Influence, but Devotees Press On—The New York Times
What it’s about: Rare is news coverage of Google that doesn’t mention the company’s “search dominance”—and for good reason: Google absolutely does dominate online search and no one else is close, which is why Google long ago became a verb. When Microsoft’s Bing reached 20% of the search market earlier this year, according to comScore data, it remained a distant second to Google’s 64.4%. This isn’t a tortoise-and-hare story, either: Google wrapped up the search race a long time ago, and there haven’t seemed to be any legitimate threats to that oft-noted dominance, which funds much of the rest of Google’s businesses. Could Facebook’s Messenger—including the A.I.-powered “M” assistant app covered in a recent edition of TWiMS—finally change that? Over at TechCrunch, Dan Kaplan explains why M is a “direct assault” on Google’s AdWords, the platform that turns Google search into a multibillion-dollar profit machine.
Why you should care: It’s good to be the king, but there’s always someone who wants your throne. Facebook is dominant in its own right in the social media sphere, but that hasn’t slowed down the AdWords mint. Kaplan lays out a vision for how the M digital assistant, if Facebook succeeds in scaling it to its massive audience via Messenger and WhatsApp, could reshape search: Not only will it find you the nearest mechanic, but it will make an appointment for you and tell you when it’s time to leave for that appointment. And that’s now how Google search—and especially AdWords, which lives in the clickable space between “search” and “here’s my credit card”—works. As a result, Kaplan sees an enormous opportunity for intelligent assistants like M, Siri, or Cortana to disrupt search, and, in turn, Google’s cash cow. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that there may be winners and losers in software, but there’s no finish line.
- 5 Ways Facebook Could Threaten Google in the Next 5 Years—Forbes
- Why Facebook’s $2 Billion Bet on Oculus Rift Might One Day Connect Everyone on Earth—Vanity Fair
What it’s about: Quantum computing may still be 10 or more years away from practical reality, but that still may not be enough time to address one of its unintended consequences, according to a new article in Nature: quantum computers will render useless some of the most critical methods for encrypting data on the Internet and other systems. In fact, computer security experts are meeting this week in Germany to discuss the problem and potential solutions—but they don’t sound optimistic that “quantum-resistant” cryptography will be ready any time soon.
Why you should care: Massive innovation often comes with correspondingly enormous risks. While it might be overly optimistic to call today’s Web “secure,” encryption does work—security breaches are typically the result of unpatched software, outdated or otherwise vulnerable systems, human error, and other issues. But the unprecedented speed and power of quantum computing may quickly defeat today’s cryptography. The challenges facing security specialists, quantum physicists, and others aren’t entirely technical in nature, either: The article notes that, in addition to the extensive development and testing required of new encryption systems, it will take years for global governments and industry stakeholders to standardize on new cryptosystems.
What it’s about: It’s a long-running and sometimes heated discussion in software circles: Should designers write code? Fast Company’s Co.Design has jumped into the debate and the short answer is, No, they shouldn’t. But the argument, detailed in the ebook Interaction Design Best Practices: Mastering the Tangibles, is certainly more nuanced than that. For starters, designers have to understand the possibilities and limitations of various programming languages—they just don’t necessarily need to know how to write in them, because it’s probably not the best use of their time and talents.
Why you should care: You can stop circling your wagons and readying for a turf battle; this isn’t an us-versus-them approach to building software. The point is that pursuit of the so-called rock star who’s equally expert at designing beautiful interfaces, writing exquisite code, and maintaining client relationships with perfect Zen harmony is largely a wasted effort. Sure, there are designers who know code, and programmers who understand good UI and design principles. But today’s great products are built by teams, not individuals. Instead of striving to become a jack-of-all-trades, designers and coders alike would be better served by improving communication and empathy. Sure, the “just make it work” hand-off from designers to coders is fraught with pitfalls, but job descriptions demanding expertise in, well, everything, aren’t the answer. Rather, organizations need to bridge the gaps between design and production code with “open collaboration in which both sides have an inkling of what’s going on without having to specialize in each other’s fields.”
APIs Are the New FTEs—TechCrunch
What it’s about: Software is eating the world … and it might also be devouring the need for full-time employees. That’s Founder Collective principal Gaurav Jain’s premise in a post for TechCrunch: Many business needs that once required hiring people can now be easily solved with a credit card and software delivered as a service (SaaS). Remember the webmaster? That used to be a thing, but it’s gone the way of the dinosaur thanks to WordPress and other turnkey Web publishing platforms. On the development front, Jain notes that the growth of frontend frameworks and backend platforms has enabled startups and small teams to hyper-scale without necessarily hiring: Aided by tools, a VP of engineering might simply do the frontend work herself, or a single dev might now build a backend that once required a full team.
Why you should care: The news ain’t all bad for software pros: “Software development is going to be a lucrative career choice for decades to come,” Jain says, thanks in part to emerging arenas such as virtual reality and the Internet of Things. But it’s a thought-provoking, if not entirely new, scenario: Are we coding ourselves into oblivion? There’s upside for entrepreneurs: “Not only will you practically need no money to get started, you won’t need any tech skills either,” Jain claims. “Anyone with a great idea anywhere in the world can build a billion-dollar tech company.” Ironically, though, the democratic power of APIs, as Jain describes it, might ultimately fuel a tech oligarchy: “The promise here is that soon anyone will be able to start a business that can scale wildly. The peril is that the ones that win will only monetarily enrich a tiny number of people.”
What it’s about: Move over, Donald Trump: The 2016 presidential race has another candidate sure to present some interesting views on the issues. John McAfee, the eccentric millionaire founder of the antivirus software firm that shares his name, is running for U.S. president. Yes, really. For the record, “eccentric millionaire” is how McAfee describes himself on his Twitter account, which has also been updated to include “Presidential Candidate 2016.”
Why you should care: Let’s let Mr. McAfee speak for himself in his official campaign video on YouTube. And again in the “alternate version” of his campaign video. McAfee, you may recall, has led an eventful life, especially in recent years. He also has a particular knack for, uh, candid public commentary. McAfee, of course, plans to start his own political party as part of his White House run. If there’s any justice in the universe, McAfee will be included in a live debate at some point, which would be must-see TV indeed. Presumably, the security of government data will be a key pillar of his campaign platform.
- You Know What This Presidential Race Needs? John McAfee—Wired
- John McAfee Is Starting a New Political Party for His Presidential Run—Gizmodo
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