Latest UX industry insights

Left to their own devices

As ever, more activity to report on this month regarding the continuously evolving landscape that is mobile tech. Stories of Galaxy S4 demand heavily outstripping supply abound in the race for worldwide brand domination as Samsung continues its efforts to overtake Apple as the leading mobile phone brand. Supply constraints invariably point back to component providers, struggling to keep pace with speed and volume of demand. This time it looks like memory chips are the root cause. Elsewhere, Nokia weighs in with the announcement of two new devices to the Lumia stable. The first is the high end Lumia 928 with its unique selling point is its 8.7Mp PureView camera with a Carl Zeiss Tessar f/2.0 lens, Optical Image stabilization and Xenon Flash offering enhanced photographic and video capture. Nokia claims it captures 'bright, blur-free photos and videos, even in low light conditions'. Meanwhile Nokia’s Asha 501 launch is focused around making in-roads into the highly lucrative ‘affordable’ smartphone market. The term ‘Asha’ meaning ‘hope’ in Hindi is no coincidence, given the company aims to capture an increasing share of the commonly referred to emerging markets. Nokia already holds a 26% market share of the Indian market against Samsung’s 22% according to 2012 figures. In India alone consumers are expected to buy as many as 30 million smartphones in 2013, an increase of 100% over 2012 making it the second largest mobile market in the world. But it doesn't stop there, with other developing markets in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America following a similar upward trajectory. Further ahead, Samsung is rumoured to gearing up for a launch of the S4 mini at some point in late July, which might be just in time to crash Apple’s iPhone 5S launch. And, surely iPad5 will be making an appearance at some point in the next 3-4 months? Things definitely do appear to be hotting up for summer!

Making the world a smaller place

When the internet went down earlier this month in Syria (around 19 hours or thereabouts), official sources blamed cable faults, whilst critics referred to this as deliberate ploy to disrupt online opposition activity. This got me thinking. Not only about the root cause of the outage, but also regarding what the world wide web actually looks like from a infrastructural perspective? Can it all really truly be down to cables running this way and that like a sprawling mass of fibre optic digital spaghetti under our seas and oceans? Well, turns out it is pretty much that, as my salutary research testifies. Here’s how. Under the sea lies a multi-billion-dollar network of high-power cables through which 99 per cent of global internet traffic travels. More recent cables can deliver multiple terabits of data (1 terabit - 1,000 gigabit of capacity), that roughly equates to sufficient bandwidth for up to 20 million people at current usage rates. One cable between the US and the UK carries 3.2 terabits of data per second - the 7,600 mile journey takes 0.00072 seconds (compare this to the average human who takes 0.0003 seconds to blink) - this really is blink of an eye stuff! This speed equates to data moving at a staggering 38,000,000,000 miles per hour, if my maths serves me right! It goes without saying that failures can be catastrophic. One cable failure , between Sicily and Egypt, left more than 50 per cent of India without power in 2008, sending the country's computer industry and stock markets offline for hours. Apparently, sharks can also be attracted to the cables by the electric current being passed within them. The cables therefore also need to be shark-bite proof. To do this, the fibre-optic cables are encased in 6 outer layers, moving from an outer polypropylene yarn down to a gel-filled tube which ultimately houses the fibre optic cables (each the width of a human hair). Fascinating stuff indeed… Take a look at what this sub-aquatic spaghetti sprawl of cables for yourself.

Cloudwatching with Adobe

After nearly a decade, Adobe announced, at its MAX conference earlier this month in LA the end of its Creative Suite and its replacement with a range of Creative cloud only apps and services. Adobe then followed this up with the announcement of the end of its web design and prototyping tool- Fireworks. This means that the next generation of Adobe products for 2013 will be delivered under a cloud-based subscription model. Apparently Adobe is also simplifying its pricing structures to go with this. The death of Fireworks, whilst not a surprise to many, as it was widely anticipated in certain circles, will surely lead to a liturgy of fond memories of many an hour spent wiling away a button design or creative asset (from my own perspective that is - not least because it was relatively easy to use and navigate around! The core reasoning behind this change, according to Adobe, is the overlap in functionality between Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Edge Reflow. It will be interesting to see what happens if there’s a strong wave of opinion expressed in the design community and whether Adobe will allow this to wash over them. Certainly time and tide waits for no-man/woman (pardon the successive puns) as we head for the cloud. Interested to find out more? The Next Web: Yes, Adobe is killing Fireworks: Only plans security updates and bug fixes.

Youtube-paid media channels coming to a screen near you

Youtube’s recently launched a pilot scheme, under which a small number of content makers will offer paid subscriptions channels starting at $0.99 (£0.64) a month. Each channel will offer a free 14-day trial and many will have discounted annual rates. YouTube, which is owned by Google, said the launch was part of an effort to enable "content creators to earn revenue for their creativity". Whilst the initial stable of around 50 channels is considered to be relatively niche currently, some bigger hitters have stated clear intentions to offer program content when the service goes fully live. For example, expect to see Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Bert, Ernie and a host of other Sesame Street characters in full episode format coming to your screen soon. Subscription payments will be collected using credit card or via Google's own Wallet service. The arrival of paid channels on YouTube means Google joins Netflix, Hulu and Amazon in offering subscription-based alternatives to traditional pay-TV. If you ever needed further proof of channel convergence between the web and TV, this has to be it. And, Google appears extremely well placed to exploit this opportunity, not least given its gigantic infrastructure and inherent scaling advantages that come with this in terms of content hosting, delivery and billing. Clearly this marks a great step forward in Google’s efforts to monetise their acquisition, having bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65bn. And, Google has been making great strides into positioning itself as a more attractive proposition to potential advertisers, via its increasing inclusion of professional content (TV shows and full length films) to sit alongside its vast content arsenal of amateur video creations. YouTube says a billion people around the world use the service every month. Earlier this year, Google were quoted as saying, "If YouTube were a country, we'd be the third largest in the world after China and India." Just think what a small cut of the subscription revenue for Google would look like on such a massive base as this (I think a 50/50 split is muted between content provider and Google at this juncture). I, for one, would certainly like a cut of that. Who wouldn’t?