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Impact - A Blog by INM

Archive for 'November 2010'

    TED Phenomenon Hits Montreal


    Last weekend, the TED phenomenon came to Montreal in the form of Relentless Curiosity, a TEDxMcGill event. The TEDx  program offers communities, individuals and organizations the opportunity to deliver TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDxMcGill attracted nearly 600 attendees, making it the largest TEDx event in North America to-date.

    The event was very much in the spirit of TED, a non-profit organization devoted to “Ideas worth Spreading”. It featured a combination of local speakers from the academic community as well as some interesting community speakers. The organizers also aired some select TED talks that fit nicely with the local programming. Ideas discussed throughout the day ranged from stimulating curiosity among managers, through to saving a million lives by spending time online.

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    The Economist Tackles the Internet of Things

    Connected W keyboard letters

    Earlier this month, the Economist ran a special report on Smart Systems, otherwise known as the Internet of Things. The piece, entitled “It’s a Small World”, looked at the convergence of the real and digital worlds and the potential impact this has on us as a society.

    If we think back, two decades ago the world was revolutionized by a similar type of network that provided people with a way to interact with each other – the Internet.  In the last decade the evolution of the Internet, defined as Web 2.0 by Tim O’Reilly in 2005, added user-generated content and created the concept of software applications engaging with each other directly.

    Today, many analysts agree that this decade will witness another revolution with the proliferation of Smart Objects, defined as objects that interact with each other over the Internet. These objects may be truly smart and advanced, such as iPhones or set-top boxes, or may be simple and dumb, such as sensors, cameras, or RFID readers. These objects will further mesh into our social fabric in the coming years and become a part of our societal norms.

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    Celebrating World Usability Day

    World Usability Day Logo

    Today is World Usability Day, an international celebration marked by 144 different events in more than 43 countries. This year’s theme, “Making life easy!”, is focused on creating awareness for designs, products, and services that improve and facilitate communications.

    In celebrating this event, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on how our experience with software applications has changed over the years. Years ago, software was focused on features and capabilities -the more an application did, the better it was. The role of the user was to learn now to work within the constraints of an application. There were guides, training sessions and thick manuals for each application a user needed to master. If a user needed help, he could always hit F1 and filter through reams of text-based content to figure it out.

    Today many applications have evolved to better address the needs of users. Developers consider usability throughout the design process and the well-designed applications out there are built from the perspective of the users, fueled by real-life user stories. Advances in user interface design enable us to better guide the user and to provide more contextual and relevant help.

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    Death of Silverlight Greatly Exaggerated

    Microsoft Silverlight Logo

    Late last week a number of posts popped up online talking about the “death of Silverlight”. These posts were roughly based on a piece by Mary Jo Foley from ZDNet, who had reported on Microsoft’s change in strategy around Silverlight. Based on what Mary Jo saw at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) last week, Silverlight was more in the shadows than at previous conferences, so she spoke with Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s President in charge of the company’s server and tools business and got the scoop on Microsoft’s change in strategy with Silverlight. Bob stated that “Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone”, and he went on to state that it also has some “sweet spots” for media and business applications. However, he stated, for cross-platform development Microsoft was putting its weight behind the only real alternative at the moment, HTML5.

    Sites like Tech Crunch jumped on these comments, took them out of context, and reported that Silverlight was dead. This sparked outrage by a group of Silverlight developers who countered with their own list of reasons why HTML5 is not ready for prime-time. Finally Bob Muglia came out himself and posted a reply clarifying his position and reaffirming Microsoft’s commitment to Silverlight as a media and business application technology. He restated that Silverlight is an important and strategic technology for Microsoft, that it is the development platform for Windows Phone, and that the company is working hard on the next release.

    So what’s the final outcome of this back and forth? Silverlight is not dead. Microsoft is simply stating that if you are looking to do true cross-platform application development, then HTML5 will be your best option. However, for certain media application and for enterprise applications with rich interactions and complex data visualization, Silverlight remains a strong and viable alternative.