Suddenly Everything is a Development Platform
by Ron Miller
It wasn't that long ago that all you had to worry about was a few smartphone platforms. Sure, new ones come along every once in awhile like webOS and meeGo or even Mozilla, Windows Phone and Ubuntu and you are forced to decide if it is worth learning -- but suddenly everything is a development platform.
This week was the big Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and there were gadgets, and gizmos and appliance galore, but while watching the coverage of the show it occurred to me that many devices are computer-like and require sophisticated programming -- and I wondered what the implications were for developers and manufacturers alike.
One happy outcome from the developer perspective is that you're likely to have more competition for your skills. When you have "smart" televisions, refrigerators and stoves, suddenly programmers are going to be in even greater demand than they are now.
ieee Spectrum reports that LG wants to use near-field communication (NFC) most commonly used for payments on smartphones as a way for users to communicate with their appliances -- picture your smartphone as your appliance's remote control.
Meanwhile, GigaOM reported that Lenovo announced an Android TV sporting a 5 mp webcam, Qualcomm Snapdragon processor along with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage and 2 GB SD card. The TV runs Google Ice Cream Sandwich and sounds more like a computer than a TV, which is of course where developers come in -- it is essentially a computer
Heck, everything is a programmable computer now. We've certainly already seen this with the Nest thermostat, which you can program from your smartphone or tablet and which itself is smart, learning your habits and adjusting accordingly.
At CES this week, we learned that Ford is inviting developers to build voice-activated apps on top of the Ford Sync platform using the AppLink API for in-car apps in Ford automobiles. Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of Engineering, Ford Global Product Development said in a statement that the company recognizes this is a dramatic shift in the way they have developed for the Sync system in the past. "Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers."
The car company wants drivers's hands on the wheel, so these apps need to be voice-activated and shouldn't require the user to stare at the screen too long. So far, there are three main categories: news and entertainment, music and navigation
And Ford's not alone, Wired reports that GM has also developed an API for developers. Of course, there are no in-car app standards yet, so as each car company jumps on board, you can be sure they will each have their own operating environment until somebody develops the in-dash car app standard that everyone can agree to.
For now, it's a free-for-all and as developers that's a double-edged sword. You're going to be in huge demand, but you're going to have to learn to use a lot of different tools to develop across different device platforms. And you might find that it's better to develop an expertise around a couple of things -- and get some help when you need to develop on more obscure ones.
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo
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