Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly roundup of the most important stories and events surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and other issues that influence modern software.
This week, our top story concerns how a pair of banking giants are moving their app portfolios to the cloud and considering containers as the next phase of their software strategy.
TWiMS Top Story:
How Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Use the Cloud and Containers—Network World
What it’s about: Reporting from CoreOS’ Tectonic Summit, Network World’s Brandon Butler showcases two financial giants that would have once seemed like unlikely proponents of cloud computing: Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. Goldman Sachs now runs around 85% of its workloads in cloud environments. Bank of America, meanwhile, has consolidated 64 data centers into 31 this year, with plans to reduce to just 8 data centers in 2016. Now, both firms are seriously kicking the tires on containers as the next phase of their technology evolutions: Goldman Sachs already has some containers running in production, with plans for wider adoption over time. Bank of America is running containers in “dozens” of test and dev environments.
Why you should care: What’s most revealing here is that cloud—along with attendant development and architectural components such as containers and microservices—isn’t necessarily about trend-setting or potential cost reductions. Rather, it’s about building better software. Both Goldman Sachs and BofA have experienced bumps in the road, and with containers in particular they’re moving cautiously because the regulatory and compliance landscape hasn’t caught up to this technology yet. But its adoption in these enormous enterprises is all but inevitable. As Butler writes: “For [Bank of America], containers represent a way to get the company’s developers and infrastructure workers to focus on the highest-value work. Too much time is spent on managing middleware systems and messaging buses that don’t add value for the bank.”
- The Continuing Evolution of Cloud Computing—CIO Journal
What it’s about: Based on the headline, you might imagine choirs of angels serenading hordes of people as they gleefully fork over $100 at their nearest Apple Store to solve one of the most common gripes with the iPhone 6 and 6s: insufficient battery life. Alas, Apple’s Smart Battery Case has drawn Internet scorn for the visible “hump” that houses the battery unit. (Think we’re exaggerating? The Guardian’s Alex Hern, for one, dubbed it the “Tumourcase” on Twitter.) Even the gentler reviews can’t resist making fun: “I can’t believe I don’t hate it. —Gizmodo” and “Apple’s iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case Isn’t as Dumb as It Looks —9to5Mac.”
Why you should care: Despite the mocking reviews, though, the real problem isn’t the accessory itself but the fact that Apple felt the need to release it in the first place. The hard truth is that battery life remains a real issue for many smartphones, not just Apple devices. The demands of modern apps, digital ads, and the simple fact that we never put our phones down are working those diminutive batteries harder than ever—and battery technology just hasn’t kept up with all the things that we want do with our smartphones. Mobility has its limits if you’re constantly tethered to a wall outlet.
- Tim Cook Defends Apple iPhone Smart Battery Case, Says It’s Not a ‘Hump’—The Guardian
- Review: Weak Battery Aside, Apple’s iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case Isn’t as Dumb as It Looks—9to5Mac
- People Are Mocking Apple’s Latest iPhone Accessory—Business Insider
- Bad Apple—Slate
- iPhone Smart Battery Case Review: I Can’t Believe I Don’t Hate It—Gizmodo
- The Influence of Star Wars on Apple’s Classic Design, and Vice Versa—Quartz
One-Fifth of Americans Report Going Online ‘Almost Constantly’—Pew Research Center
What it’s about: We’re spending more of our lives online than ever: Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans report going online daily, according to a new Pew Research survey, and 21% say they go online “almost constantly.” Another 42% of respondents say they connect at least several times a day, and 10% report logging on once daily. On the other end of the spectrum: a mere 13% of adults (18+) say they do not use the Internet at all.
Why you should care: Pew’s Andrew Perrin notes that this is the first time the research group has included “almost constantly” as an option in its Internet usage surveys, so there’s no prior comparison point. Regardless, a fifth is a hefty chunk of the populace to be practically living online. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given our collective smartphone addiction. Indeed, it’s phones and other mobile devices that are driving this perpetual Internet usage: 87% of adults who use a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device to go online do so daily, and 27% of them say they do so “almost constantly.” (Just 8% of people who don’t use a mobile device to connect to the Internet say they’re online almost constantly.) Not surprisingly, it’s the younguns that are most Internet-addled: 36% of people ages 18 to 29 report being online almost constantly.
Another pattern is worth noting, and it might be instructive for developers struggling to make money from their consumer apps. Perrin points out that people living in higher-income households go online more frequently than those with lower incomes: 28% of adults with an annual household income of more than $75,000 are online almost constantly.
- Digital Ad Spending Expected to Soon Surpass TV—The New York Times
What it’s about: If you want a popular app developer to help drive interest in your platform, it’s tough to find one with a brighter star right now than Uber. So Microsoft scored at least a minor victory with the launch of Uber’s new Windows 10 app, which Uber product team member Yuixin Zhu announced in a post on the Windows blog. In particular, the app could help generate publicity and interest in Microsoft’s fledgling Universal Windows Platform, which enables developers to build a single app that runs across all device types and screen sizes running Windows 10—from desktops to smartphones—rather than writing different versions of the same app for various operating systems and devices in a particular ecosystem.
Why you should care: In spite of what might seem like a logical appeal to the universal apps approach, Microsoft continues to face hurdles in convincing developers—and especially mobile-first developers—that Windows is worth their efforts. Given the dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, detractors, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, say the company should enable Windows-based phones to run Android apps instead. The Uber app might not change Microsoft’s mobile fortunes overnight, but it does constitute a useful validation of the Universal Windows Platform. Oh, and it also means you can now hail an Uber directly from your PC!
- Maybe Microsoft’s Weird App Strategy Is Working After All—Business Insider
- Uber Has Arrived for Windows 10—Windows Blog
The State of UX in 2015 / 2016—uxdesign.cc
What it’s about: It’s December, which means its time to reflect on the year that was and forecast what the new one could bring. And that’s exactly what the folks at uxdesign.cc have done for the ever-changing world of user experience design. Lots of good stuff here, but the key takeaway is this: “User experience is not a differentiator anymore; it’s a necessity.” As a result, it must be the responsibility not just of some random staffer with the letters “UX” in front of their job title, but of anyone who works on the broad spectrum of a digital product.
Why you should care: Two insights in particular jumped out at us:
“The end of apps as we know them.” No, people aren’t dumping their apps. Rather, their interactions with those apps and the hardware they run on are changing: “Apps are not necessarily your user’s final destination anymore; they’re just an engine that translates raw data into actionable information.” Indeed, the high-profile investments that platform owners like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple are making in contextual awareness, artificial intelligence, and related areas mean the app is the vehicle rather than the destination. The boundaries of what we call an “app” are evolving.
“From pixels to people.” Thanks to modern software, there are more options than ever for building an app and iterating it: Add a feature, tweak another, remove something that’s not resonating. But that’s not a good thing if you’re doing so simply because you can, rather than because your customers want you to. As the uxdesign.cc team writes: “[Let’s] focus on the other side of UX that we often neglect: User Research Methods. After all, it’s useless to try to find the best design pattern for your product if the feature you’re building does not solve a legitimate, research-proven user need.”
What it’s about: The holiday season is upon us, and gift-giving is in full swing, from your friends and family to the office Secret Santa exchange. Wondering what to get the techies and data nerds in your life? The Internet will gladly help, with more tech-oriented gift guides than you can shake a keyboard at. CNET’s is a good one, and so are the entries in the “Further reading” list below. And we couldn’t resist plugging a few of our own favorite geeky gifts.
Why you should care: We’re constantly looking to juice up our phones and other devices. (See above: Apple Debuts Smart Battery Case.) But why settle for a boring old car charger when you could give a Flux Capacitor USB Car Charger? After all, it’s still 2015 for a few more weeks. Or perhaps the keyboard jockey in your life would like to start her day with keyboard waffles. (Seriously, they’re a thing.) Need to stay under $25 so you don’t violate the office white elephant rules? POPSUGAR has you covered. Feeling flush? InformationWeek serves up nine tech gadgets you wish you could afford. What to give the friend who already has tickets for The Force Awakens? A Millennium Falcon drone, of course! Finally, don’t forget about the mini-techies at home, either.
- 9 Tech Gadgets You Wish You Could Afford—InformationWeek
- Cool Gifts for Tech Lovers—Real Simple
- 25 Adorably Geeky Stocking Stuffers Under $25—POPSUGAR
- 6 Techie Star Wars Toys to Get You Pumped for The Force Awakens—Mashable
- The 11 Best and Most-Wanted Tech Toys for Christmas 2015—Gizmag
- Best Tech Gifts and Gadgets for Kids 2015/16—TechAdvisor
- 100+ Tech Gift Ideas—Tom’s Guide
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