New Trends in Mobile Applications and Benefits for Business – One App for All! Xamarin

1969 – A new start for computers, the internet and mobile devices

Ancient and modern computers

The computer: also known as the electronic digital machine, the mathematical machine and, somewhat poetically, the electronic brain. Contrary to appearances, it was, in a simplified form, known in antiquity. The purpose and aim of creating computers have always been the same – processing and counting information. It is therefore safe to say that the computer is a kind of calculator. However, the differences in the operation of these two devices can be seen in the fact that computer data operations are performed repeatedly, automatically repeating calculations based on information stored in digital format. The determinant of the appropriate number of calculations to be made is the program, the “blueprint”. The calculator, on the other hand, is able to perform only one calculation at a time; unlike its younger brother the computer, it is not multifunctional.

As time passed, a turning point in the history of computers was reached when the British mathematician and cryptographer Alan Mathison Turing constructed the Turing Machine, the prototype for the equipment that today almost every one of us has at home. Current technological progress has allowed not only a reduction in the size of the computer, from a huge cabinet to a small handheld device. Modern computers differ somewhat in structure from those of 50 or 60 years ago. The basic elements are the processor, memory, RAM, and input and output devices that allow the user of the equipment to send and receive information. These include, for example, a mouse, a monitor and a printer.

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Scientists are working not only to miniaturize electronic equipment, there are continuous attempts to create a different kinds of computers:

  • Optical, which, rather than using electrical current for processing data, utilize photons (light), sending information via optical fibers. These are wires made of fiberglass, which are much faster and more efficient than electrical conductors.
  • Biological, or DNA computers, in which processing power is based on chemical reactions between DNA molecules, taking advantage of separate nerve cells.
  • Molecular, making calculations using individual molecules.
  • Quantum, which operate based on the principles of quantum physics.

Although most of these ideas are regarded as being in the initial phases of development, the pace of progress means we could within 50 years see real supercomputers.

The classification of computers is also fairly broad. Nowadays we can split them into the most popular micros: stationary, automotive, and consoles for entertainment purposes such as video games. To this group can also be distinguished in particular mobile devices, such as laptops, notebooks, tablets, palmtops (personal touch screen computers of minimum size, which can fit in your pocket), smartphones, and smartbooks. One may also distinguish minicomputers and supercomputers, which have a particularly high processing power.

Memory matters

We mentioned the difference between a computer and a calculator. It is worth noting another factor that distinguishes the former from all other electronic devices, something that lies behind the word “programming”. Every computer has a memory. Modern appliances intended for the basic consumer can have a capacity even greater capacity, of two or three TB (terabytes). Twenty years ago, people could only dream of having such memory in a computer. For comparison, the world’s first floppy disk, produced in 1971, had a capacity of 80 KB (kilobytes), and by 1999 this had risen to 200 MB (megabytes).

The company eBay, engaged in running the world’s largest Internet auction service, announced in November 2006 that it has two petabytes of information, which is about more 1015 than one KB (kilobyte). Microsoft announced that, during the migration of e-mail accounts from Hotmail to Outlook it collected a total of 150 petabytes of data, and Facebook, managed by Mark Zuckerberg, published data which showed that, in 2012, the company’s servers gathered more than 180 petabytes. What is more, this figure rises by 0.5 petabytes of information every 24 hours. The most interesting piece of news was reported by Google, which in 2008 declared that it could sort one petabyte of data by 4,000 computers in six hours and two minutes. Today, it is probably capable of doing this four times faster.

Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs

Programming became the foundation for the development of two independent companies that are still earning billions of dollars. They are Microsoft, set up by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and Apple, whose founders were Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. The main problem of the creators of computers was how to give commands for the equipment to start and stop operations. The concept of the interface provided the solution to this problem. The so-called (by real laymen in the field of computer science) “white letters on a black background” quickly evolved into eye-pleasing user images. The tasks of the operating system can be broken down into five sections:

  1. Segregation of duties, to plan and allocate CPU time to each task.
  2. Controlling memory, assigning to specific parts of the memory certain tasks and writing them to disk.
  3. Full synchronization, ensuring that, in the perception of the user, the computer runs consistently, with communication between tasks.
  4. Multitasking, handling equipment, performing several tasks at one time.
  5. Creating a library, saving, archiving and managing received data files and network connections.

It is impossible to determine whether Microsoft was faster in its patenting and development than Apple. Both companies founded within the space of year, Microsoft in 1975 and Apple in 1976. The former got the wind in the sails thanks to the creation of the highest earning operating system, which by 2004 was installed on approximately 98% of all electronic devices in the world. First came Windows 1.0, and later Windows XP, Windows Vista and eventually Windows 10, and each signified real cultural, social and economic revolutions.  Meanwhile, Steve Jobs set about creating a more expensive and exclusive brand.

According to Forbes magazine, such a policy allowed Apple to gain the title of the strongest brand in the world in 2012. The first computer designed by Steve Wozniak sold was fully assembled, which was a great innovation on the market. Until 1976, equipment was sold as parts in the “do it yourself” model. Although Apple distributed only 200 units, it had a definite impact on the consumer electronics market. The target group of computer purchasers changed, and instead of hobbyists and fans people who you would not connect with this field started to buy them. In 2001 Apple started selling Macintoshes Mac OS X operating system. In the same year the iPod made its debut. Six years later, the world was awaiting another breakthrough – the presentation and release to the market of the iPhone mobile phone.

11-volume work

The work of Paul Baran, consisting of 11 volumes and published in 1962, concerned distributed data flow available in many digital networks. His project was to be a kind of Turing machine, which had had a great impact on the course of the Second World War. The American armed forces were preparing for the possible outbreak of a third total war. Project Aries greatly facilitated communication between specific military units. In fact, his work benefited mainly civilians, and the internet itself gained a reputation as the most important invention of the twentieth century.

Despite the military nature of Aries, Baran described in his work the phenomena of what is nowadays popular – for example, internet shops. Unfortunately, in the sixties this did not meet with much enthusiasm, and there were even those who laughed at the scientist’s idea.

The internet – the most important invention of the twentieth century

The United States, October 29, 1969. The University of California in Los Angeles and the scientific center of the Stanford Research Institute carried out a unique experiment. They were trying to build a computer network without a central point, which should been able to function even when a component fails. An organization called ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), which financed research projects supported by the military, took care of the money. It was the same ARPA that could boast participation landing a human on the moon.

The first network nodes were called ARPANET, and were the direct predecessors of the internet that we know and use today. Initially, there were four computers joined together, at four different American universities. Many experts in the still fledgling field of computer science took part in the work, including, among other, Paul Baran. The work on the experiment attended many experts still fledgling computer science, among others, Paul Baran. After only two years the most important institutions and research centers in the United States joined the experiment. The scientists faced another barrier, though – to come up with solutions in the form of special programs or simpler applications that would make use of opportunities that the network offered.

The first step taken in the development of the internet was the remote execution of calculations, on computers in other places. In the eighties, the project was under the strict control of the army, but in 1991 the National Science Foundation lifted the ban on the use of the network for commercial purposes. Then the internet became available to a wider range of users, and could be developed for advertising and sales.

There followed the swift development of programming languages and internet operating systems, for example, the commonly known WWW (World Wide Web). What’s interesting though, is that at the time the internet was undergoing rapid development, many people (at least in the US) already had mobile phones. It would be a mistake, though to assume that the SMS predated the e-mail. In fact, a string looking something like this “OGDMABDIWNEIE” (the author himself not quite remember the exact content) she was sent by Raymond Tomlinson in 1971 with the help of his self-invented program installed on his computer. The first SMS, on the other hand, included “Merry Christmas” wishes, sent in 1992 by Neil Papworth, an employee of the international mobile operator Vodafone, to friends.

A new era for business – mobility

Mobile devices

The next step in the technological development of the world was the mass production of mobile devices. They are simply electronic machines that allow you to send and receive information without being forced to connect to the network using cables. Most mobile devices are small objects that fit into the hand of the user. These include mobile phones, palmtops (handheld computers), smart phones, tablet PCs, notebooks, MP3 and MP4 players, and digital cameras. A breakthrough in the field of electronics and technology was the introduction of IBM’s prototype smartphone.

Android, iOS and Windows Phone

“Mobile application” is a fairly generic name for software that runs on mobile devices. The first software for mobile devices was Symbian, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. Today, three platforms lead the field, among which Android has the greatest market share, followed by iOS, with from which most market share is Android, iOS later ranks, with declining Windows Phone trailing and the niche Firefox OS and Ubuntu at the end. The main goal of all mobile application developers is to adapt their products to touch screens.

Several years ago, company development without an active internet domain was unimaginable. Today, business sets the bar much higher. Prevailing trends are the development of applications and customization of websites for mobile devices such as, for example, our smartphones and tablets. It is little wonder that the Google Play store available on the Android platform exceeded one million application downloads in 2013.

The management of mobile applications in practice

Experts in the field of mobile devices often indicate the errors of IT departments that try to “force implement” solutions that are popular in desktop environments into applications dedicated for smartphones or tablets. Managing applications is in fact based on two principles – clarity and flexibility. The target audience for a given application should be carefully analyzed, and prevailing market trends and possible development scenarios in the subject area of the created program should be known. In the effective management of applications, there are a few rules to keep in mind:

  • Not for rooted equipment – “rooted” (jailbroken) devices allow broader modification of the settings available on Android, which can lead, for example, the spread of malicious software on the user’s equipment.
  • Copy and paste only in special cases – it should be allowed to copy text that you want to save, to to be sent by the application user to another secure platform. Allowing careful consideration of what should be shared will often be more effective than a blanket ban.
  • Data follows the user – enabling the installation of an application from the same account on multiple devices, so that data can be accessed, is above all for happy recipients and a professionally developed application.

Sometimes it is also worth considering the possibility of signing a contract with a suitably qualified company that produces software to order, rather than to try to develop a small professional application yourself. This can save a lot of time and money.

A company that produces software to order is a good choice

Outsourcing is a popular way of managing human resources in an enterprise. It involves separating some of the tasks that a company has to perform, and having them carried out by other organizations. For example, most workers at an expanding fashion house may not have sufficient knowledge of the IT industry, which is why the owner of the company would sign a contract with a firm providing such services. In return, you will most likely get a comprehensive service and a great work. It works similarly for the mobile industry. The above mentioned fashion house may have a need for a mobile application to open an online store, and thus enable its customers to purchase products more quickly.

Any company that produces software to order should have good knowledge of the market trends, and possess the right tools for the job. This was described perfectly by Henry Ford, founder of one of the most recognizable brands in the world, namely the Ford Motor Company. He said: “If there is something we cannot do more productively, cheaper and better than the competitors, there is no point in doing it and we should hire to do this job someone who will do it better than us”.

Xamarin and new trends in mobile applications

The very definition and understanding of Xamarin is not complicated. It works by sharing code. The simple idea is that developers relying on the same source code can create mobile applications for almost all popular platforms. Currently, these are Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It is even considered that it is Xamarin that will be the solution in the high-profile case of the deletion of unofficial Spanchat applications from Windows Phone. Users of this platform cannot benefit from hugely popular applications, and their accounts were banned. Unfortunately, despite many promises from both developers and publishers of the program, its official release has not yet materialized.

Today, owning and actively benefiting from a touch phone is not limited to web browsing and playing games. Now applications can monitor your sleep, diet, measure blood pressure, count the number of steps taken in a day, and organize our lives. This presents a wide range of possibilities for the services industry. Every recognized brand has its own application, which allows users to share their opinions, information to be published on a particular topic, the range of products to be presented, and finally online shopping or promotional codes. Advertising is decaying as a means to drive buying and selling, and is beginning to give way to other means of reaching potential consumers. It is precisely in the internet and mobility that experts see the future of services. Only forty years after the 11-volume work of Paul Baran, who predicted a revolution in marketing, advertising and business, is this vision beginning to come to pass.