From iPhone to Android

Wednesday, 28th September, 2011

No doubt I’ll get used to it but, after a week of living with a HTC Sensation running Google’s Android operating system, I’m starting to think the unthinkable: surely even Windows Phone can’t be as bad as this!

There’s been various gossip around the web this past week about Baidu’s forthcoming mobile operating system, (yì, easy).

  • Reuters wrote that Baidu Yi is “modelled” on Android.
  • 山寨机 (Shānzhài Jī, cottage machine or kind of home made) wrote about its compatibility with Android.
  • The English-language rumour mill says Yi is built on / based on / a fork of Android.

Without a decent grasp of Chinese, it’s quite difficult to get beyond the chatter. 搜狐IT (Sōuhú IT) has a couple of articles from the 6th September:

  • 百度易手机11月上市 戴尔负责硬件制造 (Baidu Yi mobile phone, devices from Dell, coming in November): quotes Baidu CEO on the importance of compatibility with Android (百度CEO李彦宏在接受搜狐IT采访时 … 百度•易“刚开始做,需要兼容现有流行的操作系统——Android系统”。).
  • 外媒解读百度易:剥离安卓应用 封装自己的服务 (Foreign media interpretation of Baidu Yi: Android with Baidu applications): has a passage mentioning Yi as a fork of Android, but the paragraph does start with “allegedly” (据称,实际上在中国销售的部分安卓手机上,百度的网络服务开始取代谷歌的服务,不过百度此次将更加深入,将在安卓操作系统基础之上推出一个独立的分支。).

I bought iScheme a while ago, purely for the novelty value, and thought little more of it. The other day I was browsing through The Little Schemer with my son, and we came across an exercise to write a function that adds two numbers, using only operations for add 1, subtract 1, and a test for zero (p. 60).

After taking some time to express our mind-bogglement, we decided that the problem would become more accessible if we thought of the two numbers to be added as two piles of coins, and the operations as “take a coin”, “put a coin”, and “is this pile empty?”

Later that night I couldn’t resist trying it out on my phone:

iScheme iPhone screenshot

iScheme: this little schemer is a perfect companion to The Little Schemer!

I scheme, you scheme, we all scheme on iScheme!


Immodest as it sounds, I have to say I prefer my implementation to the one in the book (reformatted for exposition):

; my version
; (define pls (lambda (x y)
; (cond ((z0 x) y)
; (else (pls (s1 x)(a1 y))
; ))))

; book version
(define pls (lamdba (x y)
(cond ((z0 y) x)
(else (a1 (pls x (s1 y)))

Why is the book’s version better?

Smartphone market share by manufacturer

Tuesday, 29th September, 2009

[updated 061009]

A year or so ago, I quoted a chart from the FT showing smartphone market share by operating system. Here it is again:

Today’s FT has a similar piece with similar data, this time breaking down the market by manufacturer (nb: the article on the website doesn’t have the data). Here it is as a pie chart:

I know it’s not a direct comparison but, if we assume that Nokia produces Symbian phones, RIM produces RIM phones, and Apple produces iPhones, we can see a few things:

  • Nokia has lost a quarter of its market share, but it still owns more of the market than all of its rivals put together (apart from the “Others”).
  • RIM, which I think is often treated in these iPhone days as a tired old brand, has almost doubled its market share. Not bad.
  • Apple has of course made huge growth.

Where might we find Linux and Windows in this data, as neither are phone maufacturers? HTC, Fujitsu and the Others all make Android and Windows phones, and the Others will also include Palm; note that some of these bottom three make Symbian phones too, eg Samsung. For a quick calc, let’s divvy HTC and Fujitsu half-and-half between Windows and Linux (including Android), and the Others three ways between Windows Linux and Palm. That would put Windows and Linux both at around 9%. Neither is doing well at all.

The disappearance of Microsoft from the mobile space is no surprise, but Linux’s lack-lustre performance is: Android is a much-hyped newcomer, and Nokia and others have been making linux-based internet-enabled devices for a while. Perhaps what Linux needs is for smartphones to cease to be luxury products, with boutique operating systems, and to enter the rough-and-tumble of the mainstream — which is exactly what the FT article says could be happening.

update 061009: Yesterday’s FT had a report saying that Windows mobile had 9.3% of the market in Q2 2009, so the quick calc wasn’t so bad.

Oracle buys Java, MySQL, Solaris

Tuesday, 21st April, 2009

Lot of long faces over at /. about this. Here are the relevant pages from the companies:

Today’s Financial Times has a couple of articles (21/04/2009, p27; online version here) covering the story.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Java and MySQL. For me, the interest lies in Java (and Dalvik) on mobile devices.

Cupcake: Speech technology on Android

Tuesday, 27th January, 2009

In mid-December 2008 Google announced cupcake, an update to the Android platform. Here are some brief comments:

  • One of the new features listed under Framework is “Simplified SREC speech recognition API available”.
  • In the project layout srec is listed as an external project.
  • It’s in the source here.
  • The source is copyright Nuance and released under the Apache license. Here is an example copyright header (from AcousticModels.c):
     *  AcousticModels.c  *
     *                                                                           *
     *  Copyright 2007, 2008 Nuance Communciations, Inc.                               *
     *                                                                           *
     *  Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the 'License');          *
     *  you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.         *
     *                                                                           *
     *  You may obtain a copy of the License at                                  *
     *                           *
     *                                                                           *
     *  Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software      *
     *  distributed under the License is distributed on an 'AS IS' BASIS,        *
     *  WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. * 
     *  See the License for the specific language governing permissions and      *
     *  limitations under the License.                                           *
     *                                                                           *
  • As far as I can tell, there’s no discussion of srec on android-beginners or android-developers. According to Dave Sparks on android-developers (Jan 20), “We haven’t released a Cupcake SDK yet. Docs will come when the SDK is published.” I’ll keep you posted.
  • n.b.: Text-to-speech is available on Andriod, using the eyes-free TTS library.

Nuance to team up with Nokia

Wednesday, 15th October, 2008

Press release from Nuance:

Nuance Signs Multi-Year Agreement with Nokia, Spanning Advanced Input Technologies and Open Development Framework

And related piece in SpeechTech magazine:

Nuance, Nokia Strike a Partnership Deal

MocoNews has an interesting piece about it:

Nokia Picks Nuance For Speech Recognition And More; Will Open Up Technologies To Developers

What will this all mean for Nuance’s speech technology input to Android? At the moment Android has no speech and there are no concrete plans to introduce it. It seems like Nuance is playing the field. Well, why not?

Nice phone, shame about the speech rec.

Wednesday, 24th September, 2008

T-Mobile have just launched the first Android phone, the G1, and Android have announced the “1.0” release of the Android SDK.

Speech technology is conspicuously absent from the package index, and there’s no sign anywhere that it’ll be included anytime soon, or late.

News just in yesterday.

There’s a pie chart in yesterday’s FT showing smartphone operating system market share. Here it is again via Google’s Chart API.

Nokia intends to open source all of the Symbian code by 2010. This will include S60, UIQ, and MOAP.

Earlier this month the EU approved Nokia’s buying Trolltech (Reuters).

Google have quietly removed the speech.recognition package from the Android API. I say quietly: the removal is noted in the API Diff specification for M3-RC37a to M5-RC14, released 15th Feb, but I haven’t been able to find any more public announcements – for example, it wasn’t mentioned in the m5-rc-14 release announcement. Google have also not responded to a couple of queries about android.speech.recognition on the android-developers mailing list.

Back in November, Nuance claimed to have packaged and embedded speech technology components for open-source distribution. If these components have been removed from Android, maybe they could be released independently.

[update: June 19th]

It’s outrageous that speech technology has basically been pulled from Android on the sly. I should say the official position (from Nuance) is that speech (recognition at least) has not been dropped:

In August, Jerry Carter, Director of Speech Architecture & Standards at Nuance, will be speaking at SpeechTek 2008 about Speaking and Listening to Mobile Devices. The blurb says, “Speech technologies will be an integral part of the user interface on future phones using the Android operating system. Learn the basics for implementing Android applications that speak and listen to users.” Maybe Jerry will have news for us.

In the meantime, I see there are various efforts to port FreeTTS to Android. Does anybody know if any are bearing fruit? If there is scope for using C-based software on Android, there is also Flite. FreeTTS was based on Flite, but Flite focusses explicitly on issues like size, memory use, portability, etc.