JAXconf Keynote

IBM’s Tracy Hutcheson: Mobile Innovation and Challenges

Chris Mayer
Tracy-Hutch

Tracy Hutcheson delved into the challenges we face designing mobile UI and the good position the Java community finds themselves in

IBM Client Architect Tracy Hutcheson kicked off proceedings on
Day One of JAXconf with his keynote ‘‘Why Mobile? Explain to
me why I care? Maybe you don’t’ providing an excellent
cross-section of the current state of mobile UI design and the
changing landscape for the Java community.

Hutcheson, who leads a cross-IBM architecture
strategy group that is focused on mobile strategy, was particularly
buoyant about the position the Java community was in to deal with
the challenges that we all face when designing across the plethora
of mobile devices.

Hutcheson said: “Some say Java’s not the thing
anymore – I’d contest that” before rattling off numerous as to why
the wider Java community was well placed to tackle issues but also
innovate.

He also reeled off some interesting stats in regards
to Android, saying that whilst the fragmentation was a curse, it
could also be a blessing for Java developers interested in creating
something new with the mobile platform. Over the last six
months, Tracy and his team at IBM have been logging the new
Android devices that download OpenSignalMaps,
logging 681,900 devices of which
there were 3997 distinct device models. That
clearly shows the pervasive nature of Android, but also the
challenges in designing distinctive UIs for different models.
From
his research
, Tracy also noted that one year ago the
top two Android versions accounted for 90% of devices but now it’s
closer to 75% – a huge challenge for developers as Android further
fragments.

He touched upon the differing formats and
near-field communication. Java developers need to be aware of what
to take into consideration when designing in this unknown
world of potential endless number of devices and surface form
factors. Getting responsive design is a key part of
this.

Tracy mentioned that 1/4 of people use
their mobile devices in the bathroom and asked if developers were
considering the implications of this – are you designing to the
bathroom or to the mirror where you brush your teeth. The
difference in contexts need to be considered when fully fleshing
out the creation of an app.

All in all, Hutcheson believed that whilst fragmentation was a
big issue, it could definitely be overcome by those in the Java
community, saying that ‘huge innovation’ was possible, but ‘huge
challenges’ remained to drive mobile innovation. A shift away from
the myopic and parochial culture currently present will facilitate
this.

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