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An App A Day…

With smart devices taking over every aspect of life, Go Tech helps content owners brush up on their app essentials

Smart phones or devices and their apps (short for applications) are the new way of the world, and developers and content owners are being attracted by their increasing popularity. All popular smart phones and many new devices like televisions and tablets can use apps to provide numerous functions to the end user. These apps in many cases are designed by individual companies or programmers who are independent of the owner of the app store and offer the end user the ability to personalise his or her phone or device beyond the range of a regular cell phone or device.

Common apps range from the ability to receive live weather information, stream songs over an Internet connection to watching videos, among others. But with two major platforms, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android leading the market and competing with each another, how does a developer or content owner choose between them? In fact, how would content owners interested in maximising exposure for their apps fare by targeting either or both platforms? For content owners who have one app in mind and envision it running on multiple device platforms, the going is very rough in today’s world.

An app store as it exists today is distinctly different from direct vendor downloads or third party distributors. Many benefits to the end user and the vendor make an app store distinct from classical distribution platforms. Some of the key attributes are that the distribution and delivery is controlled by the app store owner. Only organisations or individuals that have undergone a registration and vetting process are allowed to distribute apps in an app store. This ensures accountability and additional safety to the customer.

Delivery of the software is done through a controlled channel to the device that the customer is using to ensure that apps are delivered safely from a trusted source and that the app is free from interference and tampering. Updates are delivered the same way and a good app store will notify users when new updates are available using a centralised mechanism. An additional advantage is that the app store is a self-contained application directory and store.

An app store itself may have a web site or other external presence but one of the most important features is that it is available from inside the device itself. Apps can be loaded locally with little external assistance or additional resources and wireless connectivity is preferred. The best app stores will reduce the effort to discover and download new apps to as simple a process as possible to ensure easy access to and uptake of apps.

Some app stores also provide centralised payment processing. Though many apps are freely distributed in app stores, if payment is required for the app, the app store provides for payment processing. There is usually a charge of a distribution fee as part of the payment. The benefits of the app store model are considerable and the key point for customers and software developers is that the app store brings trust, security, and convenience, something that the Web so often lacks in the end. Most of us will find app stores a very appealing model for safely getting the software we need while trying to get the most from our services and devices.

If a content owners’ content is already on iTunes, does one really need another app for the content, since making an app is not free. It is vital that you know in advance that, at some stage in this process, you’ll be spending large amounts for developing and maintaining the app. Well, the answer is basically in the type and depth of content in one’s catalogue. If you feel that your catalogue of content can interest a user to install your app, then you need an app on Apple’s app store and on Google’s Android market, at the very least. You may also need to develop apps in Java, Blackberry, Windows and other environments and in other languages to cater to the entire market of handsets, tablets, TV’s, Set Top Boxes and computers.

Before I go into the technical details, I must stress that one must plan the app design on paper or perhaps in any graphics software and design the layout of each screen and logic flow well in advance. It is worth spending time and money on this at the initial stage rather than adding features later “on the fly”. Spend time thinking about the app, its use by the end user, and ensure that it contains the features you desire in your wish list and the possible wish list of the end user. Some apps may take just a few hours to plan while some apps may take months. It will be worth your while to download a few apps similar to what you plan and use them. Don’t be concerned about how your app will work or even how the app is going to be coded. Just discover the idea that you are enthusiastic about and really have confidence in your idea. The likely cost of development by a third party developer may cost anywhere between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,00,000 or more, depending upon the complexity of the app concept and just how difficult it will likely be to execute and the range of devices that you want your app to run on.

To begin developing the app, the first is to sign up and create your account on the store. To work with actual Apple resources, you will need to register to be an official Apple Creator. Registration is free of charge (but membership requires USD 99 per year for the iOS alone). Once you are an Apple Creator, you can create applications for any of Apple’s products. When you are an official creator, you can obtain the SDK (Software Development Kit) for iTunes. You will also need “Xcode”. According to Apple, “Xcode is really a complete, full-featured IDE constructed around an even workflow, which integrates the actual editing associated with source signal, with the development and building steps, to a visual debugging experience – all without leaving the vista of your source code.”

If you value programming dialects, you will love Objective-C, the programming language used for apps for iOS. If you don’t understand how to program, this is actually the part that may get fairly sticky, so you should look for a good programmer. Once you have a minimum understanding of the fundamentals of Objective-C, you are ready to program your own app. The Software Development Kit (SDK) comes with a beautiful iTunes Simulator. You will have to load your app and do through testing. You need to debug as much as you possibly can and consider all the methods and inputs by which someone would use your app.

One of the best methods is to have other people test your app. Once the app is ready, it is time to submit it to Apple for their approval. Apple’s staff will test your app to ensure that it complies with their guidelines and legal requirements, and if content is involved that you have the required licenses to use the content, before the app can be authorised for use. The process of testing and obtaining authorisation can take some time, so have patience!Google’s innovative Android OS is the new flourishing software, which requires programming using the Java programming language. The Android OS additionally allows a multitude of applications, however with one main difference, which sets this apart from its rivals: Android is an open source program. This enables designers to produce applications with regard to Android based phones and devices with an astonishing independence. As an alternative of the applications becoming managed by the smart phone makers, designers are free to make use of their creativeness to provide the perfect applications for the end user.

Google have themselves provided a good SDK which has assorted built-in modules, which make app designing very simple. Integrated in the SDK are a string of primary applications you can use to build apps from the foundation. Included in this are an email client application and movie viewing software for example. The SDK also has the functionality to debug and check applications, which are currently in development. It also includes a good emulator to allow you to see it running on your computer before setting up the new software on the phone or device itself. If you are not really acquainted with programming and/or the particular language as well as syntax utilised by the Android SDK, Google provides a useful tutorial to assist in getting you started effortlessly. More complex techniques are available by getting together with the more experienced programmers within the many Android forums.

The world of apps is here to stay. Apps will be visible on a variety of devices within a few years and will result in a major shift in the manner in which we view content. Apps permit content on demand at the time when the user wants it and where he wants it, giving tremendous flexibility for the user. I also foresee a convergence where the user will pay one price for a service, which is then delivered through different platforms and devices, and apps will make this happen. This may result in opening a discussion on ownership of the copyright for a platform, or may force copyright owners to join hands. Whatever the outcome, the user will want this convergence.

Dr Pradeep Anand is Managing Director of MeraGana.com, the owners of the world’s largest collection of Indian Karaoke Music

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