JAXconf Keynote

IBM’s Tracy Hutcheson: Mobile Innovation and Challenges

Chris Mayer

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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