Google Blows the Door Wide Open for Testers and Developers at I/O

At its annual Google I/O developer conference yesterday, Android_auto_1-520x292Google upped the ante in terms of possibilities for developers and testers alike, by moving beyond mobile into the realm of wearables and emerging technologies. Here’s some of the major areas which should get testers and devs excited.

Android TV

Google announced Android TV, which will combine live TV programming, Google Play services and Android apps, and will have cross-interaction with your Android-powered devices. Just think, that latest House of Cards episode on your Netflix queue is just a touch of your smartwatch away from being streamed to your TV.

Android Wear

This will be Google’s platform for everything wearable, including smartwatches. According to Mashable:

“Wear will integrate with Android L (Google’s new OS) and Android TV. When downloading a new app to your phone, for example, the Android Wear version of the app will automatically download onto your device. Subsequent app updates will also be automatically downloaded.”

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Localization Halts German Spotify

Depending on who you ask, Spotify’s highly anticipated German launch has been delayed due to problems with translation (aka localization). TechCrunch writer Mike Butcher covered the story yesterday:

Spotify seems a little late to the German party, but as Bringéus told Focus Magazine today the company “allowed a little more lead time” because of translating the site, establishing German partnerships and building a team.

Some speculate that the delays are due to to the “notoriously difficult” GEMA, but for the sake of this blog post, let’s take them at their word and focus on the localization issues.

In terms of testing complexity, Spotify’s streaming music application would rank somewhere near the top, so few could fault them for the delays. After all, they are not simply translating a static web page, but rather localizing a  highly diverse, customized application. There’s literally a world of difference here. To get a better grasp of these challenges, let’s revisit a great quote from Google engineering exec Patrick Copeland, who should know a thing or two about launching products in new markets:

“Not surprising, our global customers have different demands of our products. We want products to ‘feel local’ and we need to support features that may be unique to specific markets. For instance, in Indic-based languages using a standard keyboard is difficult, so we develop strategies like virtual keyboards or category browsing for search. As we specialize our products for certain markets, it introduces more challenges for testing (eg. requiring special cultural knowledge). When we can’t find internal talent, community-based testing is an interesting solution to this challenge.”

For those experiencing similar delays (and if anyone from Spotify is reading this), I wanted to share some more valuable observations on L10N testing courtesy of FierceDeveloper.com:

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uTest Joins the Ranks of Hot Startups on VatorTV [VIDEO]

What does uTest’s Doron Reuveni have in common with Box’s Aaron Levie, Turntable.fm’s Seth Goldstein, AirBnB’s Brian Chesky, Kaggle’s Anthony Goldbloom and Gaia’s Craig Sherman?  They’ve all been interviewed over the past year by award-winning journalist Bambi Francisco Roizen for Vator.tv.

Last week, uTest joined the ranks of these hot, innovative startups by appearing on VatorTV, one of the largest business networks dedicated to entrepreneurship, and the sister site to VatorNews, which is focused on the business and trends of high-tech entrepreneurship and innovation with 400-plus contributors.

Bambi, the CEO and founder of Vator (short for ‘innovator’), caught up with Doron to learn the ins-and-outs of uTest’s business model and what our expansion plans are for 2012 following our recent $17M D round of funding.

IE6: “Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated”

You thought IE6 would die after Facebook, Google and hundreds of other companies stopped supporting it. You thought IE6 was dead when they held a mock funeral for it in 2010. You thought it would be even more dead (deader?) when just last week, we learned that Microsoft will be automatically upgrading users to the latest version of the web browser. You were wrong. To quote Richard Pryor: I Ain’t Dead Yet, Mother#*%$@!!

And neither is IE6. In the past, we’ve called IE6 the zombie browser that can’t be killed and it’s certainly lived up to that moniker. However, regarding that last piece of news (Microsoft’s upcoming automatic updates) it looks like IE6 may finally get phased out. For real this time. Or maybe not.

Here’s Webmonkey.com with the details:

The new auto-update feature will only apply to users who’ve opted into the automatic updates through Windows Update. Those that have opted in will be upgraded to the latest version of IE available for their system. If you’re still on Windows XP that means you’ll be updated to IE 8. Vista and Windows 7 users will move to IE 9. The Windows Blog notes that when upgrading, your home page, search provider, and default browser settings will not be affected.

Web developers still supporting IE 6 may not need to do so much longer if Microsoft’s auto-update strategy pays off. Since the new auto-update mechanism will apply to IE 7 as well, it too may not need to be supported much longer. Of course, even in the best case scenario where IE 6 and 7 users drop below 5 percent worldwide, web developers would still need to contend with IE 8. While IE 8 was a huge step up from its predecessors, it still lacks support for most of the HTML5 and CSS 3 features found in modern web browsers.

Somehow, IE6 usage currently stands at 8.4% worldwide. That includes a whopping 27.9% in China. As such, we’re going to hold off on pronouncing IE6 dead for the time being. However, the browser’s days are clearly numbered. Right?

Where’s the Cinnabon?… or, Will Indoor LBS Hit it Big in 2012?

‘Tis the season to prognosticate.

We’re 17 days away from the new year, and far before Auld Lang Syne begins playing and we pretend to know the words (after all the champagne, who can remember the lyrics we optimistically Google’d the day before anyways?), we’re pondering what changes are in store for us the next twelve months.

In a whitepaper released by ABI Research this week, their tech analysts took a collective look into the crystal ball for 2012 and (in their words) “have drawn some bold lines in the sand on a plethora of top-of-mind topics.”

But instead of predicting what WOULD happen in the mobile and telecom space, they took a different spin on the usual list and forecasted what WOULDN’T happen.  Nice twist.  (And a really good read.)

One of their more interesting predictions for those of us in software testing is by Patrick Connolly, Senior Analyst of Telematics and Navigation:  “Indoor location will NOT become commonplace in 2012.” 

It’s easy to see how this could be true…but also surprising.

After all, for as many articles that have been written about the technological challenges in making Indoor Location Based Services (LBS) a reality, there has been an equal amount of big name, big buzz announcements about it over the past few months.  There are dozens of industry-leading companies—including Apple, Navteq, Qualcomm and Nokia—tackling the challenge from every angle.

There are even some major apps launching to give Indoor LBS a jolt from vision to reality.  For instance, Google announced on their Mobile blog in November that the new Google Maps 6.0 gives users (on Android OS 2.1 mobile devices) the ability to Map the Vast Indoors, vis-à-vis:

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Life After Steve Jobs: Has Apple Lost its Core?

I found myself deliberating on something unexpectedly the other night.  I was thinking about buying the iPad–which I’ve wanted for a long time–and it occurred to me: What’s the future of Apple?

Previously, the issue was whether I should I invest in iOS and start the conversion over from a lifetime on Windows.  After all, my dad was a 30-year IBM vet, which put food on the table and paid my tuition.  I grew up seeing mammoth mainframes, punchcards…glowing green DOS.  No Apples of any color in our Big Blue household.

But on this occasion, it wasn’t a question of brand loyalty. It was the obvious: the loss of Steve Jobs.

I still find myself processing his passing both emotionally and practically. I remember how the AP alert popped up on my phone and it literally felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  I admired him for living authentically, taking billion dollar gambles on ideas, picking himself up after billion dollar failures, and holding steadfast (stubborn?) to his vision.

I’m convinced his near-religious zeal over every minutiae of product design stemmed from the same social ethic that led to Apple’s creation:  to make computers so easy and user-friendly that everyone could benefit from computing’s powerful potential.  Not just the technical, highly-educated and elite. Computers for Everyman.

Attention to detail.  Risk-taking. Singular focus. These are among the core values of the Apple brand. As I considered buying the iPad, I wondered:  Are these values sufficiently infused in Tim Cook and the company DNA to continue on without Steve?  Or will Apple employees slowly lose direction like followers of the North Star left without guide over too many cloudy nights?
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Get Ready To Taste, I Mean Test, Ice Cream Sandwich

I’m talking about the Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) – the fourth major Android OS version – which is growing closer to its release! Google is urging developers and testers alike to get ready for it, so consider yourselves forewarned. For now, what’s most important is to make sure your apps work on large screens AND small screens as this “cool” release is going to run on both tablets and smartphones.

According to CNET:

“Developers who created their apps specifically to run on Honeycomb-based tablets will need to tweak their APKs (Android packages) to either prevent or support their installation on smaller-screen devices.

The [Google Android developers] blog also offered some recommendations for tablet app developers on how to ensure that their design of the Action Bar widget works on smaller handsets.”

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uTest Goes BIG at TechCrunch Disrupt

As you may have read on Monday’s blog post, uTest launched a new informational campaign to promote http://www.inthewildtesting.com.   The web site – and associated social media channels, including a Twitter profile – are intended to educate forward-thinking technology leaders about the necessity, benefits and real use cases of in-the-wild testing. 

We decided to launch it at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco because the very concept of in-the-wild software testing (versus traditional methodologies) is, well…disruptive. 

Sure enough, TechCrunch Disrupt turned out to be the perfect event!  There were more than 2,600 innovative, entrepreneurial-minded techies, investors and exhibitors (35% more attendees than expected) filling the halls of the Design Concourse Center from Monday to Wednesday.  In its usual fashion, the conference itself attracted top industry-leaders such as Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Marissa Mayer of Google, Vinod Khosla, and even Ashton Kutcher.

uTest hosted a ton of terrific activities over the course of the event:

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Friday HTML5 Fun – Testers Rock

American band Ok Go is well known for their sensational and imaginative music videos that combine simplicity with raw imagination. Their latest video is no exception, but for this one they took it one step further. After partnering with Google, they have created an HTML5 video/multimedia/app thing that takes full advantage of the capabilities of Google Chrome.

Being big fans of HTML5 and music videos (we were part of the MTV generation, after all), we couldn’t pass up sharing this. We’ve also included a little message in the video for all you software testers out there. Fire up Chrome and watch the whole thing here.

The Silver Lining to Motorola’s Comments on Android

Over the past week, there’s been some hub bub over comments made by Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha.  According to IDG News Service, Jha “blamed the open Android app store for performance issues on some phones,” based on his statement: “Of all the Motorola Android devices that are returned, 70 percent come back because applications affect performance.”

Even though Motorola formally stated today (see MoCoNews article) that Jha’s comments were essentially misconstrued and didn’t accurately reflect his intentions, the issue has remained a lightning rod for debate.

But for those of us in the software testing community, there’s a truly, positive message embedded in this issue:  Motorola was validating the critical importance of QA testing in the app development process.  

After all, consider Jha’s statement that, “one of the good and problematic things about Android is that it’s very very open. So anyone can put applications, third-party apps, on the market without any testing process….For power consumption, CPU utilization, some of those things, those applications are not tested. We’re beginning to understand the impact that has.”

For professional software testers, that confirms how important our work is, and actually suggests that the scope of mobile testing should be expanded.

Essentially, Jha wasn’t really referring to functional testing.  Or testing exclusively in the “clean and ideal” conditions of a lab environment.  Instead, he was describing the need for usability testing in the real-world to subjectively examine how apps and devices perform in live conditions and affect the user experience.  For instance, did the app run sluggishly?   Did it seriously tax the battery life?  These are vital questions, particularly for apps heavy on audio and video. 

At the end of the day, consumers are unlikely to differentiate whether their frustration over poor performance is caused by the smartphone or the app…or the interaction of both.  They just want to have a great experience with their new mobile “toy” or get their work done. 

Because if there isn’t enough testing on every device that the app is developed for, then (as Jha said) the smartphone gets returned and everyone– including the app publisher–loses out.