Author Archive

Mobile Payment Movement Leads to Concerns Over Security

Earlier this month, Starbucks bet big on mobile payment company Square, investing $25 million in the rapidly growing startup and adding its CEO Howard Shultz to Square’s Board of Directors. August also brought an announcement from Google that their mobile payment solution, Google Wallet, now works with any major credit card. These major changes indicate the rapidly growing mobile payment movement, an industry some experts predict to reach $74 billion dollars by 2015.

Google Wallet Mobile Payment

Google Wallet interacts with the Mastercard PayPass system.

But the convenience of mobile smartphone payments have many concerned over security issues with the new payment platform. Both technical and personal concerns have arisen, and the companies heavily invested in mobile commerce are making efforts to ensure consumers stick around.

Many personal concerns stem from a fear that easy payments mean easy money for criminals who get their hands on consumer smartphones. However, most mobile applications that process payments have built in features to make them possibly more secure than traditional credit cards.

First, most mobile commerce apps require a pin number to activate the NFC (near-field communicator) antennae. Coupled with pin-based locks screens on smartphones themselves, consumers often have two layers protecting their digital wallets. Also, stolen smartphones can be tracked with the built-in GPS capabilities and shut down remotely. While these features aren’t universally true of all mobile payment applications, major players like Google and Square lead the market with these security features.

From a technical standpoint, things get more interesting. With a new transactional platform, new methods of exploitation arise. Indeed, Square has already been hacked twice since 2011. However, it seems that these breaches in card security aren’t significantly different from fraud issues facing credit cards.

Some experts even feel that mobile payments are safer from exploitation than traditional 16-digit credit card accounts. Because credit cards have been in use so long, much more developed and sophisticated methods for cracking these accounts exist. Mobile payment systems may have the added security benefit of simply being new.

While valid concerns surround this new method of payment on the go, the security issues currently facing mobile payments seem manageable at this point. With the continued rapid growth in market share, it seems that the mobile payment movement will continue to march onward.

Stay in touch with all things mobile, tech, and software with the Unidev News.

 

5 Bold Moves Microsoft is Making with Internet Explorer 10

In May 2012, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer lost its long-reigning position at the top of the browser usage charts to Google Chrome. While no longer the world’s most-used browser, IE is not content to stay in second place for long. With IE 10 this Fall, Microsoft is making bold moves to stay relevant in the fast-moving “browser wars”. Here are 5 big changes in IE 10 that are sure to make an impact:

1. Speed and Performance

When it comes to web browsers, speed and compatibility are of utmost importance. With improved HTML5 functionality and a sped up Javascript engine (a new iteration of IE 9’s “Chakra” Jscript engine), IE 10 is Microsoft’s fastest browser yet. Preview releases of IE 10 have already impressed reviewers with Javascript speeds on the Metro version, optimized for Windows 8 on tablets.

2. Web App Focus

Microsoft is betting big on the future of web applications, particularly those using HTML5. IE 10 is incorporating major updates to its HTML5 functionality, allowing video with links to specific times and embedded captions. With these updates, advanced web applications can be optimized for IE 10, allowing for complex browser games and applications, like Office 365, to run smoother than ever. Web developers and designers can take advantage of this improved horsepower with more robust sites.

Internet Explorer 10 Bubble Test

Internet Explorer 10 flexes its muscles with high performance benchmarks.

3. Touch-first

Announced last month, the Microsoft Surface tablet demonstrated the company’s commitment to mobile browsing. The new hardware, along with Windows 8’s “touch-first” design standard, means IE 10 is built from the ground up around touch screen interaction. With a rapidly growing smartphone and tablet market, Microsoft saw the need for a browser that is truly mobile. Fluid design and a tile-based interface for favorites and tabs are key components of the touch-first standard.

4. Windows 8

Microsoft is tying the fate of IE 10 closely with that of its new Windows 8 operating system also releasing this Fall. Finally shedding its older operating systems, IE 10 will not run on Windows XP or Vista. Even its support for Windows 7 is suspect, as recent preview builds have only been made available for the Windows 8 developer’s preview build. Microsoft is completely changing their model by charging only $40 for their latest OS upgrade.

5. Do Not Track

Perhaps most controversial is Microsoft’s decision to enable their “Do Not Track” setting by default in IE 10. This represents a strong stance in favor of consumer privacy from Microsoft. However, it has certainly angered online advertisers who rely on tracking technology to deliver targeted ads. The effects of this change are still unknown, as some critics believe the do not track setting won’t even help consumers protect their privacy. Regardless of the outcome, Microsoft aims to be on the forefront of evolving web standards.

 

With these significant upgrades to their browser, Microsoft is making a major push to get back on top of the browser usage charts. But will it pay off? We’ll find out when IE 10 and Windows 8 launch this Fall. For up to date web applications and technology information follow @Unidev on Twitter.

 

Google Brings New Mobile Opportunities for Developers and Users

Late last month Google I/O 2012, the company’s annual developer conference, streamed out live to over 3.5 million people in over 170 countries. Since its inception in 2008, I/O (short for input/output and “Innovation in the Open”)  the place to hear the latest announcements and innovations on Google’s platforms, including Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, and many others.

This year’s conference brought many significant announcements for the mobile space, promising new experiences to users and new opportunities for mobile developers. Google stands strong in their 2012 mobile strategy with  announcements of a new tablet, mobile OS and many other mobile browser and app updates.
Of course, the most notable announcement from Google was their first foray into the tablet market, the Nexus 7. At $199 and with a 7-inch display, Google’s new tablet should be a fierce competitor with the Amazon Kindle Fire, an already popular Android tablet released at the same price point late last year. With full integration to Google Play, developers maintain an easily visible means to deliver now apps, games, and other content to users.

 

google mobile tablet nexus 7

Google’s tablet runs fast with a quad-core Tegra 3 processor.

Photo by Google

The new Nexus 7 also ships with a distinct advantage in the tablet market, as the first device to ship with Google’s latest version of their mobile OS, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.  Developers can interface with the new features of Jelly Bean, such as improved camera functionality, voice search, and customizable widgets. For the users, this update is the fastest Android UI yet.

Google also expanded its mobile software and application offerings during I/O 2012. One significant announcement was the release of Chrome for iOS, allowing iPhone and iPad users to utilize Google’s web browser on the go. Users can sync tabs using their desktop Chrome account, so it’s simple to transition from mobile to desktop browsing. Unfortunately, due to Apple’s restriction on apps mimicking default iOS apps (in this case Safari), Google Chrome can’t make full use of the iOS Javascript engine. This makes Chrome for iOS slightly slower than the default Safari application.

Google also announced Chrome for Android devices moving out of beta and introduced a Google+ app for the iPad and Android tablets. Overall, at this year’s I/O Google continued to engage users by expanding its mobile product and software base. Likewise, mobile developers will certainly be busy designing around Google’s new OS and hardware specification.

For the latest on mobile technology, software development and other happenings in tech, follow @Unidev on Twitter.

 

TXCHANGE Recap: Big Data with Splunk

Big Data is everywhere. As technology advances and becomes more integrated with our lives, data is being generated at an incredible rate. At our March TXCHANGE event with Splunk, we found some interesting ways big data is monitored and how companies gain operational intelligence from an endless sea of data points. Below are a few takeaways from last week’s event.

Watch Full Video of the Splunk Demonstration Here

Splunk in St. Louis

Denny Webb, Unidev's Splunk-certified developer, explains his social media Splunk app.

Big Data gives you the whole story

John Herzog and David Maislin, our presenters from Splunk, demonstrated the value of pulling data from information “silos” found in traditional IT architecture. Important interactions happen across many different servers, so it can be difficult to get a clear picture on a specific user session. Splunk takes a “slice” of data across all silos to create a complete time-ordered description of a session. This allows administrators to identify and address issues very quickly, increasing resolution speed by up to 90%.

Big Data is getting bigger

Many organizations are struggling to make use of the vast amounts of data being generated by web servers, databases, transaction terminals and mobile devices. However, as the devices in our lives become more integrated into other networks, there will be more and more data sources to mine from. To highlight the variety of data we’ll generate moving forward, John even mentioned a “smart refrigerator” that could push its data to a network. Splunk engineers realized this future is coming all too soon; the Splunk tool is compatible with any “machine data”, allowing data analysis across all types of devices.

Big Data isn’t just for the tech team

Decision makers need as much data as possible to take informed and timely action. However, data can be so complex and overwhelming that only experienced technical developers or engineers can read it. Thankfully, Splunk allows developers to customize high-level dashboards based on the ingested data. With Big Data only growing in importance in the coming years, its essential for organizations to make use of this “operational intelligence” from top to bottom.

Don’t miss our next TXCHANGE event, sign up for the Unidev News and receive monthly tech news, insights, and events!

Windows 8: What to Expect

“Reimagined” is the buzzword surrounding Microsoft’s latest update to their operating system, Windows 8. With a brand new user interface and design, Microsoft is displaying Metro-style apps on the PC to create a seamless, integrated experience across tablets, laptops, and traditional desktop PCs.

Main Features

The most reimagined feature in this major update is the touch-based design. Gone is the familiar start menu and taskbar that has been part of the Windows OS since Windows 95. Large tiled app buttons linking to various applications like music, email, social network activity, Microsoft Word, and Internet Explorer replace the traditional Windows layout.

Metro-app start Screen for Windows 8

The design closely follows the Windows Phone app layout.

Microsoft has essentially developed two versions of Windows 8 to facilitate identical experiences on touch screen tablets and desktops. The new operating system will support traditional x86 CPUs found in most PCs in addition to the low-power ARM processors found in most tablets. This could have major implications for mobile application development.

The new “Windows to Go” feature augments even further consistency across multiple devices. Users can create a secure image of Windows 8 and place it on a typical USB flash drive. Users can then boot their own operating system from other Windows 7- and 8-enabled PC’s and laptops. This allows for an easy transfer of important applications and data to other machines. These updates, along with native 3G and 4G support will make mobile workforces more productive than ever.

Will it be worth the upgrade?

At this point, it is impossible to say whether most users will make the jump to the reimagined Windows 8 or not. While the new design is receiving high praise, there are some concerns Microsoft may alienate long-time Windows users by obscuring the traditional start menu interface they are used to (as seen below).

 

 

Additional concerns call to question the likelihood that businesses will adopt the new operating system. Though the secure Windows to Go and mobile productivity additions are appealing to business owners and IT managers looking to expand their mobile workforce, the expense of training employees on the new interface could create a high barrier to entry.

So will Windows 8 be a success for Microsoft? We’ll find out this Fall when it is released commercially. For now, you can try it yourself with the recently released Windows 8 consumer preview. Let us know what you think by sounding off in the comments!

Full disclosure: Unidev is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.