Tag Archive for Mobile Development

Intelligent Apps Are Friendly Apps

Whether you are a human or a computer, it pays to be friendly. When you buy something, are you more likely to buy from friendly or unfriendly salespeople? I like to spend time with people, but only if they are friendly. I am more apt to be generous with people who are friendly and am more easily persuaded by friendly people.

With technology, I love to interact with friendly software, or should I say “intelligent apps”. What makes for an intelligent app? Well, they are apps which exhibit a kind of machine intelligence which we associate with human intelligence. Not “super computers,” but computers and software which exhibit the same qualities I enjoy in friendly people. Let me get a little more specific:

  • People whom I have met before usually recognize the sound of my voice. Those who listen to what I say are ones which I admit to my inner circle. My friends may disagree with what I say, but I know that they listen and understand me.
  • People whom I have just met make some guesses about my mood and interact with me accordingly. My friends recognize my mood pretty quickly when they converse with me. My close friends always seem to respond to me in ways that are intended to bring me back to a positive frame of mind.
  • Most humans I come across recognize that, when I get to the “heart of the matter,” I am not performing surgery, or dealing with organs in any way. Only a literal minded person, or a super-computer, would come to that conclusion.
  • Finally, I often come across humans who do a great job of sharing knowledge with me. When I ask questions, they provide me with a lot of great information. I enjoy spending time with people who are knowledgeable, yet humble, and try to maintain contact with them professionally.

Of course, computers and software have historically not done any of these things well! It’s no wonder many people may find them infuriating. Our computers and software just haven’t conformed to our perceptions of intelligence – therefore, we don’t perceive them as friendly. But, longstanding ideas about what artificial intelligence (AI) looks like have inspired what are called “Cloud-Based Cognitive Services.” In other words, scientists and engineers have figured out that cloud computing, big data and data sciences have enabled the technologies needed to deliver AI.

Meet Your New Best Friends

I think the thing which is so attractive about “intelligent apps” is that I perceive them as being friendly.  Take Windows Hello, the facial recognition software in Windows 10 which recognizes your face as your login. I much prefer logging onto my Surface Pro 4 at home (which has Windows Hello) than my work laptop (which does not). My face never expires, does not need to be reset, and doesn’t need to be remembered! This is just a fabulous experience; it’s almost as though my tablet “knows me.”

Here is another example of intelligence which makes life easier- natural language processing in Power BI. Before natural language processing, I had to apply filters to my data, click around to find the thing I was looking for and format the graphs and charts on my report. With Power BI, I can simply type “Show Me Last Year’s Sales by Territory” and the data appears. This is simply one example. Power BI dashboard authors do not even have to have created a report in order for this intelligent app to suggest it as a possible solution. When paired with the voice recognition capabilities of Cortana, it may seem that you have a digital assistant with limitless access to the dashboard, reports and data you need to run your business.

Cloud-Based Cognitive Services

Today’s modern applications are intelligent apps, and the hallmark of an intelligent app is human-like artificial intelligence. Most application developers do not have access to the AI algorithms needed to be truly effective. However, the giants of cloud computing have made these capabilities easy to acquire and integrate into your next product, service or business systems.

Microsoft Cognitive Services are a set of Cloud Application Programming Interface’s (API’s) which application developers can embed into their modern apps to make them intelligent. There are API’s for visual recognition, speech recognition, text analytics, recommendations and much more. Perhaps you want to create an app which recognizes a face, or a user’s voice. Perhaps you want to create an app which interacts with users differently based upon the user’s perceived mood. Perhaps you want to make recommendations to customers on your website. It’s all possible, and in fact, a lot easier than you might imagine.

BlumShapiro Consulting is a Microsoft Advanced Analytics partner, with expertise in building modern intelligent apps. And we are extremely friendly.

Berry_Brian-240About Brian: Brian Berry leads the Microsoft Business Intelligence and Data Analytics practice at BlumShapiro. He has over 15 years of experience with information technology (IT), software design and consulting. Brian specializes in identifying business intelligence (BI) and data management solutions for upper mid-market manufacturing, distribution and retail firms in New England. He focuses on technologies which drive value in analytics: data integration, self-service BI, cloud computing and predictive analytics. 

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The Importance of Microsoft’s Purchase of Xamarin

Dashboard on a TabletThe Xamarin purchase by Microsoft is important for developers, entrepreneurs, startups and companies of all sizes. In the last 5 to 10 years, the industry has drastically changed, starting with the introduction of mobile devices and continuing with the rise of “Internet of Things” (IOT). Xamarin addresses these industry trends by being a versatile tool that builds software on any OS and can be distributed to any platform. With this purchase, Microsoft gives the industry a clear signal: mobile is here to stay. The future of software development will be done on any OS using the .Net Framework and distributed to any platform or device.

What’s in it for Developers?
Microsoft mobile developers could not be happier to hear that the years of invested knowledge and study will continue to have marketable value in the industry. But, Microsoft must choose its next step wisely. Current prices for Xamarin Tools are out of touch with the expectations of home grown developers, who would rather build on tools like Cordova or on the specific OS platform, rather than pay an annual fee. Of course, the discussion on pricing is much more complex than simply pleasing developers expectations. Xamarin accomplished the impossible, but they also have to make money in-order to continue delivering a great set of Mobile Development tools. It is up to Microsoft to clear the path forward. If they do, mobile developers will be waiting (and chanting).

What’s in it for Startups?
Mobile App startups rely on LEAN and RAPID tools for developing their products. Tools need to be highly customizable, flexible and cannot limit creativity. One bad technology choice can mean the difference between success and failure. Xamarin is attractive to startups because it provides cross platform capabilities, which their competitors lack. Xamarin has a proven record of accomplishment, they have shown commitment, they are innovators and have demonstrated strong community engagement.

Conversely, Startups are attractive to Microsoft. Microsoft can leverage the Xamarin community to market their other services such as Cloud, since Startups are not just Mobile first they are also Cloud first. Having said that, it is important for Microsoft to note that startups do not waste time, once they determine the tool and platform that meets their needs, they don’t look back. Therefore, Microsoft needs to get this purchase and integration right from the beginning.

Why does Microsoft care about Entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs will always gravitate to the best tool, as long as the tool is of high quality, affordable and is on the bleeding edge of technology. This is why Xamarin is important for Entrepreneurs: over the last few years the Xamarin Tools have provided the latest version of each mobile OS right from beta to GA. Entrepreneurs need to stay on top of the technology without having to learn 5 different types of platforms, dev tools or programming languages. Xamarin’s level of commitment makes it the perfect tool for entrepreneurs. If you are a mobile app entrepreneur, you are most likely independent-minded, always working to build your empire, and looking for opportunities to change the world. Entrepreneurs are also the best salesmen: they work day and night to build the next generation of tools, products or companies and will continue to look at Xamarin’s commitment and expect Microsoft to honor it.

How about Companies?
The importance of this acquisition will vary greatly, depending upon a company’s current mobile strategy. First, there are the companies that already use Xamarin Tools and own MSDN Subscriptions. No doubt they are thrilled. Their investment is strengthened by this purchase, and they look forward to improved licensing and integration with Visual Studio. On the other hand, if you are a company that has stayed away from mobile, this would be the right time to revisit your mobile strategy. If your company does not have a strategy on how it would compete in future markets like Mobile and IoT devices, then you need to develop one. Not all mobile applications are for consumers. The largest majority are in-house apps that improve their day-to-day operations. These types of apps can make a huge difference on how your company responds to market changes and remains competitive. Just take a look at small mom and pop stores and notice that they are mostly using iPads to track customer purchases. Those iPad Apps help improve customer engagement by tracking traffic, personalizing orders, gathering feedback, sending receipts via email and lots more.

Microsoft’s future is now Xamarin’s future. Microsoft clearly means business, and it is time to adopt a Mobile strategy and immediately set your eye on the next wave of technologies such as IoT, Big Data, and Machine Learning. All of which are part of Microsoft’s platform and will now be implemented via the Xamarin Tools.