Reviewing Planet of the Apps

Initially I have to say that I’m not a great fan of reality TV. I am done with Big Brother, X Factor, The Voice and so many more. In the early days they were fun, but now IMHO are a little stale and predictable, except for Dragons Den and The Apprentice (UK with Lord Alan Sugar), I still love watching those. Maybe it is the ideas and task, maybe it is seeing these entrepreneurs in practise. Until now… I had the chance to watch a program that was based on something I love, live and do… technology and mobile technology to be precise!

Yes, I recently finished watching the Apple Music series ‘Planet of the Apps’, something that I had been waiting for for a while since stumbling across conversations by the tech press and the twitter-arty about its creation and shout out for developers to apply to the program.  Not only was it a great play on words, of a wonderful science fiction movie, but it gave the mobile development community visibility to those consumers, who wonder about the folks that create the apps they love for the mobile devices that have become a daily part of their lives. I’m sure many applicants did not make it through the first stage of the selection process, or even subsequent stages that eventually lead to they being just a segue in the program and a few seconds of air time before the more successful and interesting pitches on camera. What was great about the applicants, was seeing the complete diversity of developers represented, which was a breath of fresh air!

Initially it was with a little confusion that I saw the panel of advisors being made up of Jessica Alba,, Gwyneth Paltrow and Gary Vaynerchuk, but as the series progressed and the apps that pitched on the ‘escalator’, rather than ‘elevator’, it became more obvious. took mostly music/entertainment, Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow split the fashion, shopping etc, leaving Gary Vaynerchuk to pick up some of the more interesting digital content redefining apps.

So far so-so good for me, but not for other reviewers. Maybe it was the choice of panel that gave input to quite a few negative reviews, or the format of the program. I’ll pass on that, though for me all of the apps were either already in beta or live and looking for a second round of funding to take them to the next level. Then some were enhanced by the panel/advisers, I’ll leave it up to you if you think they were advised for the better or worse. Call me naive, but I was expecting developers to come along with raw ideas such as prototypes, then see how far they can advance in the six weeks ‘incubation’ before the next pitch. Personally I think it would have been far more interesting TV to follow the design , development and evolution of a cool mobile app, but that’s from my developer side of my brain.

What was interesting in each program to get a slight glimpse, though I’m sure probably not as harsh as it can be behind closed doors, into venture capital pitches with Lightspeed Ventures, a well-respected Silicon Valley venture capital firm and first invested in Snapchat. The questions they asked, the details and predictions they needed and the wholes they picked in the pitches. What was disappointing is that Lightspeed passed on a number of really great ideas, IMHO… though it seems that some of those whom were passed over, are still carrying on with their dream to make it big.

All in all, I liked it! and I would like to see a follow up program that revisits those developers that both secured funding from Lightspeed and those that were passed over. It would be interesting to see their next steps and the progress both sides have made. Let’s hope!

Maybe it will be called… Battle for the Planet of the Apps! 😉


Developer Evangelist Stories – Places visited, people met

As a Technical Evangelist at Sybase for nearly 13 years and then through an acquisition, onwards to a Developer Evangelist at SAP for over 4 years I have had a number of interesting locations I have visited and chance meetings I have had.

Let’s start with locations, well countries in fact that I have visited for presentations… OK, USA and Germany are a given but I can add… Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia, Greece, UAE, India, Australia, Nigeria and South Africa. I nearly made it to Japan, Singapore & South Korea, but unfortunately they were cancelled, shame as its always nice to go to some new locations & evangelise! My most favourite country was Australia, but the most favourite location, and being a tech you may not be surprised, is California… San Francisco, the Bay Area and the Silicon Valley are to be precise!

My first trip to the Bay area was with Sybase, to Emeryville across the Bay Bridge on the East Bay, then on to Dublin/Pleasanton, when they relocated to a new campus. Now most of my trips are in the true Silicon Valley area & Palo Alto… SAP’s Palo Alto offices are based just up the road to Xerox PARC,  across the road from Tesla on Deer Creek Road, HP and VMWare on Hill View Avenue. You could not imagine such lovely location. A million miles away from the start of my IT career in the City of London, the campus nestles into the hills around the edge of Palo Alto. It was only during a recent trip that I found out that Building #9 on campus was the original NeXT office. Downtown Palo Alto has locations that are historic for the first production of an IC and lost more, even the Crown Plaza Hotel is the location for the creation of the spec for TCP. The area is linked with so many companies, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple… lets get on the Apple trail!

My first WWDC attendance in 2010, was representing Sybase. That was the year of Steve Jobs’ last keynote to the developer audience, presenting the iPhone 4 and I managed to get into the hall at least half way to the front. It was the launch of the iPhone 4 and FaceTime and the infamous demo hiccup, where overloaded airways in Moscone, caused Steve to demand that everyone turn off their MiFi’s etc. Needless to say, Steve got his way and the demo completed. It was also the first time that I headed down to Cupertino and a visit to the Apple Company Store, sadly that was the closest I got on that occasion. My next attendance was WWDC 2016 representing SAP along with other colleagues and watching the Tim Cook keynote presenting iOS 10. Also at that conference I luckily met Craig Federighi.. a really nice guy! Here’s the picture! Later the week after WWDC I was invited to a lunchtime meeting inside 1 Infinite Loop at Cafe Mac, an awesome experience to enter to doors of the worlds most influential tech company, amongst other things!

For both of my WWDC attendances I have been lucky enough to hang out with the awesome @flexicoder. Paul is based in the UK and I first met him by chance in Heathrow Terminal 3’s departure lounge, on the way to WWDC 2010. Just imagine it, the departures hall was  more than normally filled with MacBooks and developer looking folks. I took a chance and spoke to a guy near me, and he was also going to San Francisco and on the same flight. Our friendship started then!

To keep the Apple link flowing, I attended a small conference called ‘Update’ in Brighton, UK and met Ronald Wayne third co-founder of Apple Computer. That event went down in history as up to that point in 2011, Ronald had never owned an Apple Device until Aral Bulkan, the event organiser, present Ronald with a new iPad 2.

Other notable meetings I could mention, would be in the Speaker Ready Room at DR Dobbs in Santa Clara in or around 2007, where I had a chance conversation with Bjorne Straustroup, the inventor of C++.  We spoke for about 5-10 minutes about Copenhagen, where I had been just a week before (Bjarne is from Denmark) and what we both did for a living. I told Bjarne I was covering Sybase’s PowerBuilder & PocketBuilder. When I asked him (yes I asked him as I was totally unaware of who I was talking to), he replied that her taught and did ‘a little bit of C++’, so modest and humble. Then at SAP Labs in Palo Alto during the summer of 2014, I met James Gosling the inventor of JAVA. James was a friend of my SVP and she asked him to come in and talk to a hackathon audience on his latest IoT based project ‘Wave Glider’ at Liquid Robotics.

I will keep you informed of more!

Get Social Graphing

Ok I admit I’m a little too structured sometimes, on things that some folks wouldn’t care about. I like everything to be orderly and in its place on my devices, so you probably wouldn’t be surprised that all of my contacts on my iPhone have pictures and as much data associated with them, that they allow me to keep. For example all friends and family have relatives associated with them, which I’m guessing you may think would have great advantages and to a certain extent you would be correct.

I noticed lately, as I enter more contacts that have associations with other contacts on my iPhone, I can just select them with one touch, nice! Though when looking back at that initial contact I can’t touch on any of the related names that exists and be taken to their contact card. To me that seems strange and that’s the sort of behaviour that I would expect if they are just a name I entered which didn’t already exist on my device. It makes me think that Apple are missing a trick here by omitting some cool nice productivity features that social graphing as a by-product could bring.

What is Social Graphing, well you guessed it already… Social graphing can be defined as the context that depicts the personal relationships between people.

At the time of writing I can ask Siri on my device such as, message my wife/mother/father and it will do so. I can even ask to message my daughters and with my daughters it will create a group message… cool! Now ask Siri, “message my wife’s sisters…” and today that voice command will give a response of… “what do you want to say to Mrs Thain”, not what I wanted. So today it is totally centred around me, the owner of the iOS device. That’s the trick I think they are missing, even down to an API level, if my digging around in is correct. In the future I would expect to see, as Siri evolves and gets more powerful, features that extend into the other contacts that I have defined, using that social graphing context.

I can only start to think what cool features they could create. So come on Apple get Social Graphing soon!

in closing, if you look at contacts you may see an option to LINK contacts, this feature is for those that you have, that may repeat in your contacts list due to being imported from various sources, such as Facebook etc. Then you have the ability to going into the ‘master’ entry of that contact and link with the secondary entry and iOS will merge the two. This is NOT to link separate unique entries as mentioned previously.

Accelerate to lock

A few years ago Apple and other smartphone manufacturers were petitioned to provide the facility to lock a device to an owner (Check it out here). This within months had a massive effect on smartphone mugging in a number of US Cities including New York City, dropping numbers as they really became a useless paperweight. Nowadays we are seeing a massive increase of ‘Moped Muggings’, where thieves snatch devices from their owners on the street whist dangerously riding on pavements and escape weaving through traffic.  The lowest win for them is they can sell your device for a pittance to be broken down as parts… battery, screen etc.

Basically the mobile device is so ingrained into our life we are happy to use it anywhere (why shouldn’t we!) and give our total concentration to it. The outcome of is that mobile users then don’t notice their surroundings and what’s happening around themselves… becoming easy pray .

Before I go on let’s get one thing said…  You should already have is a passcode and lock on your device! You should take advantage of your devices security features, both through software, hardware and the combination of the two! Keeping your data secure and the usage of you device, just to yourself.

Problem with the type of theft above is that these devices are snatched when they are being used and therefore in an unlocked state (if you’re making a call there is no way currently to lock the device, unless you’re using a headset), leaving you totally exposed if the thief keeps you screen alive! Exposed to use your device, review any information on it and change your passcode. OK what you should do is immediately get in touch with your cellular provider informing of them of your loss and making it as stolen with something like iCloud, but your primary device has just been stolen and their usually will be a window of opportunity.


Surely now the smartphone manufacturers could do something again to close this loop?

Our devices are a complex combination of sensors and I hope that we can have a feature that automatically locks our devices, if they measure a sudden and rapid acceleration. Or for folks that have paired wearable tech, such as the Watch, notice that the paired iPhone is out of range!

Come on guys, Accelerate to lock and lets close that loop! Until then be more aware of your surroundings… Be careful out there!

By the year 2040, who will rule the road?

It’s was last week than the U.K. and other governments announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will stop. This was at the same time as the launch of Tesla’s new car the Model 3, a stunningly beautiful car! So I though, what would it take for me to go all electric?

As much as the motoring analysts rate all car’s acceleration or top speed as a big factor, for me an electric car’s selling point will be the range, as well as the cost obviously. I don’t personally set out on too many long distance trips, but petrol stations are ubiquitous, on motorways and or towns. My longest trip would be to the West Country as you can see here on a Model S

Need a top up? then stop and in 3-4 minutes you should have enough to continue your journey, even at the same time as 10 or more doing the same. Even if there’s a line of other motorists, it will go down quickly and you’re back on your way. In the U.K. we don’t have many public charging stations, let alone the fast charging of Tesla’s SuperCharger network, so even now in 2017 a recharge will be a number of hours including waiting in line for the next free charger. For me as well as others, that’s a big issue that will be the deciding factor for my adoption and I believe mass adoption!

Now the next factor is the price. Tesla is a superior brand in design as well as technology, but comes at a premium that the Model 3 needs to address to break into the mass market and rule the road. I’ve heard reports of 1,800 new orders at $1000 a time, but he initial price of the Model 3 starts at $35,000 and rises to $44,000 for the extended range, taking it from 220 miles to 310 miles. Read more from Bloomberg at I wait to see the U?K. Price, but that’s a pretty high price that still only puts it into the reach of the few rather than the many! 

Ideally for me, I would like a Tesla Solar roof and powerwall that can store that power, taking nothing from the UK Power grid.  You can check them out at 

The One Device

In April 2008 I was representing Sybase with its Mobile technologies at the Orange Developer Codecamp in Faro, Portugal. Up to that point as a Mobile Evangelist of a number of years, my mobile weapon of choice was a Windows Mobile device and I was writing fully functional Mobile apps that bi-directionally synchrosed data as well as storing data offline & interacting with device features.

Before that event my colleague Jonathan Baker was constantly telling me about the Apple iPhone which was awesome! Yeah, I’d heard about it the year before when it launched, but I wasn’t convinced. Whilst on the veranda one morning two things happened, Jonathan let me look at his iPhone, I was blown away, and a gust of wind sent a popup stand of John Chen (the Sybase CEO) crashing onto my head. Knocking some sense into me I guess!

By the next year I was looking at developing for iOS as well as using it every day and the rest is history.


Like the majority of users I have never even thought about the perfect storm of technology and the hard work by Apple that produced the one device to rule them all… until now! The book ‘The One Device’ by Brian Merchant is great reading and will put a lot of things into perspective, the technology, design, hardware, people, manufacturing and answer some of those questions you may have wanted to ask, but never knew whom to approach.

I totally enjoyed Brian’s glimpse into the ‘secret history’ of the iPhone.

Keeping a Watch on the last year

As we come up to another announcement on Monday March 21, I’m reminded that one year ago I took delivery of an Watch. Being someone who has used wearable tech before, in the forms of Fitbit & Metawatch Strata I knew it would be good, but I was not aware of how good.


Lets talk about power, apps, developing for watch, changes to lifestyle and customising,

There was a lot of talk before the launch of battery life, and for me this has not been an issue. I tend to wear my Watch from about 08:00hrs until about 19:00hrs on a normal work day and I would describe myself as a normal Watch user. By that I mean I’m glancing to the watch as I would a normal timepiece, but I’m also asking siri on occasions to set timers, I’m looking at iMessages I may receive, then quickly responding with one tap and glancing at notifications from other apps. To give you an example as I’m writing this on Sunday, my last fully 100% charge was Friday morning and it still has 21% battery left. During this whole year of watch wearing, I have only had to put the watch on Power Reserve twice. I’m always wondering what some folks were doing on their Watch in the early days, to drain the battery so quickly and to need to charge so often?

In the early days of Watch apps were not plentiful, but are now becoming so. It seems that every time I’m updating apps on my iPhone I’m seeing the list of Watch enabled apps appear longer in the iPhone Watch Control app. I don’t put all of them on the watch but carefully pick & chose the apps that will give me that great quick glance interaction, keeping my iPhone in my pocket. As I said before I would class myself as a normal Watch user, who uses glance on the wrist to benefit usage of iPhone apps. What I mean by that is I can reach immediately in a very inconspicuous way and decide immediately if I can respond with a quick tap, ignore until a later time & get the iPhone out of my pocket & dive into an app or feature for a more in hand experience. Here’s a screen shot of what I have so far.


I only have one personally built app on Watch & that’s one which extends an IoT demo I created for my job at SAP in Developer Relations. You can see it and hear me describe it more in my Interview show SAP CodeTalk here at Not every app on the AppStore should have a WatchKit extension,. Those that you see have really taken time to bring core functionality to the wrist that saves time, extends integration or extends usefulness in a very natural way.

In the last year the watch has set me milestones to stand more often, walk to reach goals, relax more often… which is great when you have a job which tends to tie you to a desk. I’m also, as I said before, less tied to checking my iPhone, where a tap and a glance enables the iPhone to say more in my pocket… so I’m more attentive on date night with Mrs Thain and more sociable on nights out.

I’m not one for customisation, I guess I can be a little boring. I like to let the beauty of well designed tech hardware to shine through. The most off track I ever went was to put some developer stickers on my macbook air, but after a while they were removed. On my iPhones that I owned, cases have been functional rather than stylish… I usually go for a wallet style case in black, but I surprised myself with the Watch. Within the first few months of owning the watch, which was a 42mm Sport in Space Grey, I had purchased another two bands from Apple… Blue and White. I think I can honestly say this was down to the summer, as I could change to match my clothes and the sunny weather (yeah we do get that in the UK, sometimes). But lately I have grown bored of the sports bands and have gone with replacing them with a leather band placed on to two third party connectors from Amazon. I think it looks pretty cool!


I was on a night out recently, catching up with an ex colleague from out of town and was asked by a friend of their’s… “So is it worth getting an Watch?”. My reply was, “Sure is, especially if you’re a totally compulsive iPhone user! Then yeah it’s the extension to your iPhone that will fit naturally into your iLifestyle!”