Founded by Dropbox and MIT alums, a new startup called Inbox is launching out of stealth today, hoping to power the next generation of email applications. Similar to the newly launched Gmail API, Inbox offers a more modern way to build apps that access end users’ inboxes. But instead of being limited to Gmail, it also works with Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and others, the company says.
In addition, jabs the company’s website, “Inbox is an email company. Google is an advertising company. This product is our focus, and will not be ‘discontinued’ unexpectedly.”Burn!
Google made waves with the announcement of a new “Gmail API” at its Google I/O developer conference earlier this month, which offers developers who build email applications new tools to access messages, threads, labels and other parts of the Gmail inbox without requiring full inbox access. The idea is to reduce the reliance on older protocols, like IMAP, when apps don’t have to work as an email client, but are rather focusing on a specific feature set – like snoozing messages, or only sending emails on behalf of an end user, for example.
Similarly, the idea with Inbox is to offer an upgrade of sorts from the “archaic protocols and formats” that developers would otherwise have to learn today in order to work with email. However, it supports a wider range of developers, from those who only need a simple feature to those who want to build full-fledged email clients for end users.
The company was co-founded by MIT alums Michael Grinich, previously an engineer at Dropbox and designer Nest, and Christine Spang, an early Linux kernel engineer at Ksplice (acquired by Oracle). The core team at Inbox also includes several other MIT alums, plus those with experience from Google and Firebase, as well as two graduates from the Parallel and Distributed Operating Systems group at MIT CSAIL, which spun out Meraki (acquired by Cisco).
“I actually wrote my thesis at MIT on email tools, and discovered how difficult it was to add features to email apps,” explains Grinich of how Inbox came to be. “One big issue was the underlying plumbing – IMAP, MIME, character encodings, etc. – which is what Inbox fixes for developers.”
But the larger goal with Inbox is not just to offer a suite of developer tools, but to create a new email standard. That means, Grinich says, the company has to provide the fundamental infrastructure as an open source package.
“The sync engine is available for free on GitHub, and we welcome discussion and pull requests,” he says. Currently the open source sync engine works with Gmail and Yahoo mail, with plans to expand soon to all IMAP providers. Meanwhile, enterprise users on Microsoft Exchange can request access to the Inbox Developer program, which supports ActiveSync, and is now in private beta.
Today, developers can download the Inbox engine, sync an account, and begin building on top of the platform in a local development environment. In the future, however, the company will release a hosted version of Inbox that will allow developers to create applications without needing to also scale their own infrastructures.
San Francisco-based Inbox is backed by Fuel Capital, SV Angel, CrunchFund (disclosure: TechCrunch’s founder also founded CrunchFund), Data Collective, Betaworks, and others, but funding details are not disclosed.
One of Google’s primary goals is to spread its Android operating system to any device that you may touch, and that’s going to be a major theme this week at Google’s I/O 2014 developer conference. Android Wear smartwatch development will be front and center. Android TV—a rumored entertainment service from Google—may make an appearance. Android is the prime delivery mechanism for Google’s advanced search product, Google Now.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once infamously chanted “developers, developers, developers!” at a Microsoft event. (A developer event, naturally.) Google’s head of platforms Sundar Pichai might as well come on stage at I/O 2014 and chant, “Android, Android, ANDROID!”
If Android is central to Google’s overall mission, Android Intents—a developer feature that lets Android apps interact with one another—is core to what makes Android unique. As mobile devices have proliferated, the basic infrastructure of how we access information on the Web—namely, websites connected by links—is being supplanted by apps that frequently just don’t talk to one another well, if at all.
That change hasn’t been to Google’s liking, both because it cuts against its long-held mission of indexing the world’s information and because it undermines its core search-advertising business model. So it has quietly built out an infrastructure based on Intents that in some ways replicates the functionality of hyperlinks in the world of apps.
In fact, Google embedded Intents in Android at its inception. They’re easily overlooked, but if you want to get a sense of how our access to the world’s online information will evolve over the next few years, Intents are a pretty good place to start.
What Are Android Intents?
Android Intents are a developer-level technology let apps “shake hands” with one another to help a user complete an action—opening a map, say, or sharing a photo. Unlike similar capabilities in Apple’s iOS and Windows Phone, Intents allow developers to easily create features that connect multiple apps together without having to build each integration separately. (They also make it possible for Android users to choose alternatives to various default apps such as the browser, the mapping application, or the interface theme.)
Example of Android Intents with Link Bubble browser
Intents is used by over 90 percent of Android apps in the Google Play app store. They allow developers to share data between apps without having to hard-code that behavior into the apps themselves. Intents live deep within Android and serve as a kind of plumbing system that shuttles all manner of media and other data into and out of apps in a consistent and universal way.
Have you ever clicked on a link or a video in an app in Android and had a screen pop up asking you which app you would like to use to complete that actions? For instance, if I clicked on a video in an email, a box pops up and asks, “Complete this action using …” and then lists a series of apps such as YouTube or Chrome.
That’s what users experience from Intents. It’s less cumbersome than it might sound, as you can choose a default option and then never see the dialog box again unless you clear the default in settings. The important thing is that the system provides the choice in the first place.
For developers, Intents means that they don’t need to get the cooperation of every other app maker in order to make a feature work across apps. The Intents system includes a long list of actions it can complete; developers simply register a new app with the appropriate capabilities in the Intents system. If an action doesn’t exist in the Intents directory, it’s possible to define it and build it into Intents so any other app developer can use it.
For the last several years, Android Intents was pretty much a unique developer feature. None of the other major mobile operating systems had anything quite like it.
Apple’s own home-grown apps could communicate with each other, but third-party apps were largely left out in the cold. Apple’s control over iOS gave consumers few options beyond Apple’s default apps. Microsoft’s Windows Phone also doesn’t have many developer hooks for cross-app communication and functionality, letting apps live in their own hubs and tiles on the home screen.
Android has never been the easiest operating system to develop on—oddly, the consensus among developers I have asked is that Windows Phone is the easiest on which to code. But Android-first developers and designers have embraced and evangelized features such as Intents as important and unique aspects of the operating system. The fact that nine out of ten apps in the Google Play store have adopted Intents is a good indication of just how deeply ingrained they are in the Android app development experience.
Apple has belatedly recognized the value of letting apps communicate among themselves. One of the biggest new features in its forthcoming iOS 8 operating system is what Apple calls “extensibility.” This is a feature that allows apps to share data and communicate with each other despite being isolated in “sandboxes” for security.
One consequence of extensibility is that iOS apps will, for the first time, be able to receive and handle data that would normally be the province of a designated default app—such as, say, the iOS keyboard. If the popularity of Android Intents is any indication, extensibility is likely to be a big hit among iOS developers.
Cross-Linking For Android Apps
On the Web, the link is king. Site addresses in the form of uniform resource locators (URLs) have long been the standard for how users navigate the Web, clicking through from one page to another.
Smartphones and tablets are beginning to change that basic paradigm. On mobile devices, the app is king—and that means URL-based links often just won’t work for many purposes. Google built Android Intents to offer an app-based alternative that offers something like the universal access to information we normally associate with the Web.
Android Intents may not even register in the mind of the average smartphone user. They are just bopping between apps, reading a Tweet and sharing a picture and reading an article and watching a video and sending an email. But the app-to-app sharing is taking place nonetheless.
One good example of Intents user interaction is seen in an app called Link Bubble, built by independent developer Chris Lacy out of Australia. Link Bubble is essentially a mobile browser, reimagined for the modern smartphone users.
Link Bubble essentially “grabs” links that users click in various apps. Instead of then opening a browser and forcing the user to wait while a page loads, it loads pages in the background, showing the link as a bubble—something like a Facebook Messenger chat head—right there on top of the app user interface.
Users can tab on a bubble to expand it immediately, or share the link by flicking it across the screen (to the right for Facebook, to the left for the read-it-later app Pocket, for instance).
Link Bubble will also automatically open apps from links you click on in other apps. For instance, if you click an Instagram photo on Twitter, normally you’d be redirected to the Instagram website before going into the Instagram app itself. With Link Bubble, you’d click from Twitter and be taken straight to the Instagram Android app.
The ReadWrite team will be at Google I/O this week, bringing you all the news and analysis that you will need from Google’s biggest week of the year.
The Internet of Things is real and growing, but the money will come neither from Internet nor the Things. Instead, the big money will derive from business services that pull data from those IoT networks.
Unfortunately, a lack of standards threatens to slow the market’s maturation as vendors are forced to build the devices, sensor networks and services that run on top of them.
Lots Of Sensors, Lots Of Standards
According to Gartner, the Internet of Things will balloon to 26 billion devices by 2020. If we add in smartphones and tablets, that number grows to more than 33 billion devices. There’s big money in these little devices: Gartner projects IoT will result in $1.9 trillion in global economic “value-add”—the combined benefits that businesses derive through the sale and usage of IoT technology.
The question is how to make the Internet of Things even bigger. As is often the case in tech, the answer seems to be standards. The Internet of Things has standards today—it has too many, in fact, which is roughly the same as having none at all.
The lack of standardization can’t entirely be blamed on greedy vendors hoping to lock out competitors and lock in customers. As ARM’s Bill Curtis noted at a recent MIT conference, “Because most Internet standards are too complex for the constrained devices in the IoT, these devices tend to run proprietary protocols, creating data silos.” In other words, the proprietary protocols aren’t an end in themselves, but rather a means to an end (getting a network of sensors to talk to each other in order to provide a business service).
Unfortunately, this complexity issue with the Internet isn’t getting any better. As my ReadWrite colleague Brian Proffitt recalled, “unlike the early Internet, where the military and university complexes were working towards a common cause, today it’s every company for itself.”
There is no forcing function for these individual companies to collaborate. But that may be about to change.
Services, Not Sensors
Gartner expects Internet of Things vendors to top $309 billion in direct revenue by 2020, with most of that money deriving from services.
Companies like Bosch are building out services like fleet management that currently depend upon them building the sensors and services, but building sensors today is merely a means to the end of providing the service. The real money is in the services, not the sensors/devices.
Hence, the answer to O’Reilly’s Andy Oram question about standards may simply be “wait and see”:
How do we persuade manufacturers to build standard communication protocols into everyday objects? For those manufacturers using proprietary protocols and keeping the data generated by the objects on private servers, how can we offer them business models that makes sharing data more appealing than hoarding it?
Where there’s money to be made, standards will emerge—likely driven by vendors, as has been the case with the AllSeen Alliance. Bosch, for example, is already building out services based its own sensors but also those from rival sensor manufacturers. It’s why the company spends so much time talking about business models, not merely machines, calling itself “development consultant for new business models.”
No hardware company can depend on its sensors alone. Even a massively successful hardware company like Apple ultimately gives way to an open, services-based alternative like Google’s Android.
With the Internet of Things, we’re still in the early days of the market. Following Clayton Christensen’s pattern for how markets develop, it’s natural that vertical integration of sensors and business services would dominate IoT. But this isn’t how things will end. As sensors proliferate, each of them speaking to different “standards,” services vendors will arise to ingest and interpret disparate data, and will drive standards to ensure they can.
The trick will be whether hardware companies will push hard enough for standardization so they can capitalize on services revenue. Companies that see themselves as pure hardware manufacturers are likely doomed, but those that see beyond the “things” to instead focus on the services built on the “Internet,” the future is very bright.
Are you a web programmer? These free ebooks could give you a lot of useful information on your trade. Learning the tricks of the trade and reading about innovative ideas makes you a better web programmer. So, read on..
1. Heroku: Up and Running: Build, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud with Heroku, one of the first PaaS platforms to offer sophisticated hosting and development services. With this book, you’ll learn how to use Heroku’s Cedar runtime stack, a polyglot platform with native support for several languages and frameworks, including Ruby, Python, Node.js, Java, and more.
2. Single Page Apps In Depth: This free book is the book I would have wanted when I started working with single page apps. It’s not an API reference on a particular framework, rather, the focus is on discussing patterns, implementation choices and decent practices.
3. Developing Web Applications with Haskell and Yesod: This fast-moving guide introduces web application development with Haskell and Yesod, a potent language/framework combination that supports high-performing applications that are modular, type-safe, and concise. You’ll work with several samples to explore the way Yesod handles widgets, forms, persistence, and RESTful content. You also get an introduction to various Haskell tools to supplement your basic knowledge of the language.
4. Java Web Programming with Eclipse: The purpose of the book is to introduce students to web application development in Java with the use of Eclipse. It provides instructions on how to construct solutions to various problems. The book assumes a familiarity with HTML and the Java programming language.
5. Exploring Lift: This book will educate you about Lift, a great framework for building compelling web applications. Lift is designed to make powerful techniques easily accessible, while keeping the overall framework simple and flexible. Lift makes it fun to develop because it lets you focus on the interesting parts of coding. By the end of this book, you’ll be able to create and extend any web application you can think of.
6. The Woork Handbook: The Woork Handbook is a free eBook about CSS, HTML, Ajax, web programming, Mootools, Scriptaculous and other topics about web design. The book contains articles with code sections, images, illustrations and links to original contents.
7. HTTP Programming Recipes for Java Bots: The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) allows information to be exchanged between a web server and a web browser. Java allows you to program HTTP directly. HTTP programming allows you to create programs that access the web much like a human user would. These programs, which are called bots, can collect information or automate common web programming tasks. This book presents a collection of very reusable recipes for Java bot programming.
8. Super Awesome Advanced CakePHP Tips: Super Awesome Advanced CakePHP Tips is free e-book about the CakePHP Framework. It covers topics that are generally missed in the beginner books that are on the market. This book isn’t meant for people wanting to learn CakePHP, use it if you want to improve your CakePHP skills.
9. Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application: Getting Real details the business, design, programming, and marketing principles of 37signals. The book is packed with keep-it-simple insights, contrarian points of view, and unconventional approaches to software design. This is not a technical book or a design tutorial, it’s a book of ideas. Anyone working on a web app — including entrepreneurs, designers, programmers, executives, or marketers — will find value and inspiration in this book. 37signals used the Getting Real process to launch five successful web-based applications (Basecamp, Campfire, Backpack, Writeboard, Ta-da List), and Ruby on Rails, an open-source web application framework, in just two years with no outside funding, no debt, and only 7 people (distributed across 7 time zones). Over 500,000 people around the world use these applications to get things done. Now you can find out how they did it and how you can do it too. It’s not as hard as you think if you Get Real.
10. Web Client Programming with Perl: Web Client Programming with Perl shows you how to extend scripting skills to the Web. This book teaches you the basics of how browsers communicate with servers and how to write your own customized Web clients to automate common tasks. It is intended for those who are motivated to develop software that offers a more flexible and dynamic response than a standard Web browser.
11. Sun Certified Web Component Developer (SCWCD) Study Guide: The following document was put together as a guide to study for the Sun Certified Web Component Developer Exam. It is intended to filter the important (potentially tested) parts from the Jsp and Servlet specification and not as an all-encompassing guide on how to pass every possible question on the exam.
Among mobile browsers, Safari continues to lead the pack by a wide margin according to this month’s data from NetMarketShare, but the real movement is happening within the Android segment, with Chrome growing fast as the stock Android browser lags behind. Android overall dipped slightly in May in terms of mobile OS share, hitting an eight month low according to NetMarketShare’s tracking.
Android’s stock browser lost over 2 percentage points of share between April and May, and Chrome mobile gained just under a full percentage point. Google has been pushing the mobile version of Chrome, shipping it on devices with Android pre-installed since last fall. That has resulted in a steady upwards movement of share, growing from 0.34 percent last July to 3.22 percent this past May. Stock Android browser share is actually flat over that eleven month period, however, indicating that Chrome’s share is all coming in new device sales, and not as a result of people switching from one to the other on their own devices.
According to OS share, Android is down slightly from last month, and inf fact hits a low point compared to many previous measuring periods. Apple’s iOS is up slightly from last month, but mostly flat, and Symbian, Java ME and BlackBerry actually all experienced small bumps, meaning Android’s nearly 2 percentage point fall didn’t result in a big win for pretty much any platform. Still, it’s interesting to see those numbers dip during a month when Android saw the launch of two big new flagship phones in the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
Overall, though, the most interesting story here is Chrome’s mobile growth. Google is making a big push for cross-platform compatibility and portability, and a lot of what it’s showing off on the Chrome side of things is designed to bring mobile and desktop together. To achieve that goal, it becomes instrumental that mobile Chrome achieve greater uptake, which is an uphill battle considering that it only arrived last year. Still, it seems to be gaining momentum, which is good for Google’s long-term goals.
Hang around in the tech industry long enough and you or someone you know will be heard saying, “that’s so crazy it just might work.” Two years ago, if you’d have told me that an open-source, P2P currency would soon be a thriving, billion-dollar market, I would’ve told you that you were on a lonely bus headed to CrazyTown, U.S.A. But today, Bitcoin officially became a crazy idea that’s actually working.
Today, all the Bitcoin in circulation — some 10.9 million of them — have collectively crossed the billion-dollar mark. As it is wont to do, the value of Bitcoin (and its exchange rate) has fluctuated wildly today. At one point, it hit a dollar value around $78, then pushed into the mid-nineties. As of this minute, it’s hovering around $90.
Okay, it’s still a tiny fraction of Google’s market cap, but this is something — especially for a largely unregulated, decentralized virtual currency. (Say that three times fast.) The world’s most popular controversial crypto-currency, mind you.
Bitcoin supporters will scoff and tell you that this is no news, and that Bitcoin has been alive and thriving for years. In fact, it first appeared back in 2009, and has been slowly gaining steam since. But Bitcoin has largely remained outside the realm of mainstream media attention, because no one has been quite sure what to make of it. Is it a passing fad, a hilarious geek-driven phenomenon, or the real deal?
In fact, it has really been relegated to the realm of the uber geeky, or seen as the currency of anarchists or crazy digital libertarians. The black market marketplace known as Silk Road, which allows pretty much anyone to anonymously sell “alternative products” (i.e. large quantities of one’s drug of choice), uses Bitcoin for its currency. Something which hasn’t exactly helped Bitcoin’s “cross over” appeal.
Read the full article: TechCrunch
With the first month of the year almost over, the Guardian’s Digital Development team offer their thoughts and predictions on what the year will bring us in technology, gadgets and business.
With the new year in full swing, we thought it was time for the Guardian’s Digital Development department to offer up a few predictions and thoughts on what might happen in technology over the rest of 2013. We’ve pulled together some observations, expectations and opinionated rants, giving you a flavour of what our team thinks the next twelve months could offer us. We put it together through a rapid-fire exchange internally. So without further ado, here’s our thoughts for 2013.
Wearable technology and other gadgets
Several people mentioned Google Glass, the wondergadget of much speculation. QA Neal Madlani suggested that Glass, alongside other “wearable tech” items like Pebble (a customisable watch), could be big for 2013, a prediction backed up by Head of QA James Murphy and developers Andrew Mason, Nicholas Tollervey and Michael Brunton-Spall. Michael added “While it’s easy to pass off Google Glass as being merely a toy, I suspect that as we learn more about it, the developer interest in it is going to skyrocket”. Client-side developer Patrick Hamann was less convinced, though, putting “wearable computing” on his list of things he felt 2013 “will not be” the year of (along with Firefox OS andUbuntu for phones).
Other gadgets abound: developer Justin Pinner suggested flexible screens and 3D printing as tech to watch out for this year. QA Troy Harris agreed on the printers, speculating that their rise could cause “overseas toy manufacturing industries to crumble” (with “object anti-piracy” quickly following – and failing – to prevent this).
Developer Andy Rome pointed out the closing stages of Galileo(European GPS), which should lead to more accurate geolocation, coinciding with the launch of “next-generation GPS satellites from the US”. Andy also went on to talk about “indoor geolocation”, leading to commerce-driven marketing: “where exactly can you pick up this product within 500 metres of your current position?”.
Read the full article: theguardian