Life after RIM in the enterprise?

30 03 2012

There has been a lot of talk about RIM today, caused mainly because the company has stated it is giving up on the consumer market and heading back to its roots, the enterprise. Couple this with the $120m loss the company has made and the hints at “sale”, and you do see why lots of people have been talking about RIM. (If you don’t know RIM – Research in Motion make the BlackBerry devices).

One of the big conversations I have been involved in today (on Twitter with @BPMredux @puleen @souvikbonnerjee and @AlbertoManuel) is just what do we think will happen in the enterprise regarding the use of mobile devices, and vendor offerings for mobile based solutions. @BPMredux asked in his blog two simple questions

“How many BPM vendors have a mobile BPM solution based on Apple, Android or Windows Mobile”

and

“Now how many of you are still stuck with RIM and Blackberry in your own corporate environment?”

You can join in his debate at http://bpmredux.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/mobility-inside-the-bpm-scene/

So in this blog post I have want to have explore at some of the main points and give some thoughts based on conversations and relationships I have with a number of IT professionals that work within the enterprise supporting their systems…

BlackBerry

Are we seeing the BlackBerry swansong?

RIM is still a big player

For sure RIM is still a big player in the enterprise. Most people I know and speak too (within large corporations) have BlackBerry devices handed out to them as their corporate phones. There are lots of reasons why the enterprise opts for BlackBerry – security being one, durability another. Many people I speak to who have to support mobile devices within their business prefer BlackBerry, and that’s because they have better control over them, they are easier to administer, the battery life is second to none and the devices are durable (they do seem to get dropped a lot). These things mean less time is spent with the end user trying to address issues, and after all, time is money…

Apple is making in-roads in the enterprise

This all being said, the iPhone is making in-roads in the enterprise, especially within the “exec” levels of business. While the phone is undeniably a great phone, it does cause headaches for business, especially if you are already standardized on RIM. Throw into the mix that not much else in the enterprise is Apple based and the fact that you do pay over the odds for their devices, and you can see why, even with a great offering like the iPhone, Apple still isn’t king of mobile for business.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

This is something I hear a lot about and read about. However, in reality, this really hasn’t shown any traction with the enterprise, and I very much doubt it ever will. Predominantly BYOD is a media thing based on what some SMEs maybe doing – it simply isn’t a great option for the enterprise, and here is why…

The enterprise needs to support its workforce and their devices, mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop whatever. This means they have resource dedicated to help ensure IT runs smoothly. That IT needs to administer these devices, ensure business applications run as expected, ensure everything is secure as possible and support end users. (They do other things also, but no need to list out everything). If the IT department has control over its devices, it knows what they are, it can secure them better, ensure the software works as expected, manage roll outs, upgrades etc etc and help users with their devices (without having to train IT staff / mobile support staff on every handset available to a consumer). In addition, standardization allows the enterprise to strike good deals with their suppliers and all big business has preferred suppliers – that’s just life. So imagine you take all that control away from IT. What are you left with? Yeap, a mess. You simply can’t have users connecting random devices to your network. You can’t expect vendors to support all mobile platforms under the sun for bespoke software for that business. You can’t expect in house IT to help users with their particular phones OS or hardware issues, and you can’t expect everything you need to work on the device to work on every single device (have I said that one already?). All in all, BYOD is a great concept, lovely for startups and SMEs, but for the enterprise, this isn’t an option…

Software vendors and their mobile offerings

The BYOD issue does illustrate that software vendors do not support all mobile devices. Sure there are comments that solutions should be mobile web enabled, that they should run using HTML 5, but that user experience is going to be pretty poor. The reason we love our native apps is that we can do more with an app, and the experience is a lot better than anything we see on our mobile web browser. This means vendors have to support native apps, and do they really need to support so many different platforms? Ideally they want to support one, but realistically know they may need to support a few. The problem for a vendor at the moment is which to support? RIM is a must, or is it…It used to be. Apple devices, well they are a must aren’t they…well yes and no…Android? No. Symbian…erm No….Windows Phone…Well potentially……

So what do you do as a vendor? I personally would wait until the end of the year to make a decision…

Windows 8 in the enterprise

Let’s be clear, Windows 8 may not be rolled out across the enterprise as soon as it’s released, but business will be reviewing it, and scheduling in a Windows upgrade path. Some upgrade paths will be quicker than others, and some may do their normal, and wait for the version after – so upgrade when Windows 9 is available as they haven’t long been on Windows 7. The point is Windows 8/9 will be the standard OS on the enterprise desktop and on majority of their servers. With this comes the normal office based software and legacy applications that every enterprise has running on a Windows environment. However, Windows 8 is a little more than just a desktop OS. All of a sudden the enterprise can have the same OS across all devices, including mobile and tablets. Think what a nice thought that is for IT within the enterprise and vendors alike. A single OS to administer across all devices,  a single user experience to support and the ability to seamlessly tie in lots of services they already use back into the devices of choice. Office, Outlook, Lync, Office 365, Sharepoint, cloud backups, device synchronization etc. That makes life a lot easier for IT doesn’t it…

As a vendor then, supporting Windows 8 is a must. But hold on, if you support Windows 8 metro what do you support all of a sudden? Yes, tablets (including ARM based tablets), desktops, laptops, netbooks and with a few tweeks, mobiles. All of a sudden supporting Windows Phone seems an obvious choice –  a necessity. So perhaps it’s back to the usual suspects, support Windows first, then perhaps Apple…Or vice versa depending on where you are with your mobile policies and vendor software.

Let’s think about suppliers to the enterprise. Most enterprises have a strict supply chain policy, and with Windows 8, this means the enterprise can choose who supplies their hardware, including desktop and phones. Remember Fujitsu, Acer, Dell, Nokia, Samsung, HTC and others deliver Windows 8 mobile devices. These same companies will deliver Windows 8 tablets, and most of them will deliver desktops, servers, laptops and netbooks. The enterprise therefore has the flexibility it desires regarding suppliers, but the security, administrative advantages of being tied into a single ecosystem, which runs all their legacy software. Essentially, for the enterprise, Windows 8/9 is a no brainer across all devices….

Where does this all leave RIM?

Well, to be blunt, I believe in a very deep, dark hole.

Essentially if it becomes a no brainer to support Windows Phone in the enterprise and Windows 8 tablet devices, then Apple will continue to struggle in the Enterprise, but that’s not a great loss to them. RIM on the other hand, if they struggle in the enterprise then I believe we will be saying goodbye to RIM and thanks for the BlackBerry memories. Without a consumer market, Windows 8 could well be the last nail in the BlackBerry coffin. I for one am already starting to think that by mid 2013, I could be writing a blog along the lines of “bye bye RIM, thanks for the BlackBerry memories…”

Advertisements




HTML 5, Native Apps, the iPhone and Windows 8

7 03 2012

I have been a tad quiet on the blogging front for a little while, simply because I haven’t had time really to sit down and write anything (though I have found time to read a lot)….Ok excuses over…

In this post I want to look briefly at the whole HTML 5 Vs Native app debate, and how Windows 8 potentially changes that landscape…

 

HTML 5

It’s something that has been a dream of developers, a single code base, a single “app” if you like that works on any system you can think of. HTML 5 does deliver that, well sort of. You see HTML 5 maybe being touted as that multi platform solution, but the whole architecture of using a browser and HTML isn’t right for actual applications. If you want to present some information and some basic functionality (think blogs for example), then HTML makes great sense, and that after all is what it was originally conceived for, to deliver content (not applications) to any machine.

The issues arise when we start to use HTML to deliver actual applications, and this is something that has been going on for some time – long before HTML 5 raised its head (my own companies have done this too). There is nothing wrong with web apps as such, but you must realise that they do lack certain functionality, and equally important, the user experience is NOT as good as a native application.

 

The iPhone effect

Before the iPhone was released, many software development companies were starting to deliver real business solutions as “thin client” applications – essentially web apps. I personally hated these, but did see the benefits when it came to roll out, updates etc over standard “thick client” applications. Many companies even started to deliver apps via FLASH, providing the software with a richer environment, much improved user experience but still rely on the distribution architecture of the web to actually deliver the app to the end user.

With mobile devices, there was no flash support, and we started to deliver “mobile” web apps, though not that great and a little clunky, they did work to an extent…But then along came the iPhone and this did change everything.

The iPhone had a much better web experience than any other handset, yet still using web apps on such a device was not good. The iPhone though had an app store, and an environment that worked well for delivering applications to the device, and these were native applications, applications that actually worked very well and provided the user with a much improved experience. All of a sudden to support mobile well, it was expected you write a native app…

 

Flash support

Flash did provide great experiences over the web architecture; the whole plug-in concept did get round so many issues with traditional thick and thin client apps, though Flash did have a lot of issues, especially security ones…Flash was also dependent on support on the device, on PCs this wasn’t a problem, but on mobiles etc the game was different.

By not supporting FLASH and singing the praises of HTML 5, Apple effectively killed off the browser plug-in and cross platform support for technologies that could deliver thick client experiences in a thin client fashion. Instead, Apple forced that user experience to only be available via native apps, as it knew all too well, no matter how good HTML 5 is that it cannot compete with native applications…

 

Native Apps

I personally think the whole native app experience is far far better for the end user. Native apps deliver great usability, the look good and their functional capabilities far outweigh the potential of a web app. The App environments provided by Apple and now Microsoft also negate so many issues associated with installing “dodgy” software.

By controlling the distribution of applications, Apple and Microsoft effectively can ensure (to a high level) that the applications are good, that they perform well (which makes their device look good) and just as importantly, know the application isn’t up to no good. The problem with the web, installing plug-ins or actually applications is that the end user doesn’t have anyone else saying “yeap, this is fine to install”. As a consequence, the majority of computer problems, viruses etc are born out of the end user installing something by being tricked into thinking it was safe….

 

Native expectation

So many of us are now used to the native mobile app experience,  which we like, that we now expect the same sort of environments on our desktop machines, tablets go without saying.  Because of this, Apple and Microsoft are providing app stores on desktop machines, which potentially changes how we install applications on our machines – and the sort of experiences we start to expect. You could argue that the iPad has really started this migration of “apps” from the mobile phone to general devices that we use…

 

Windows 8 effect

Though the iPhone and iPad dominate their respective market places, Apple don’t dominate the desktop, and we must remember that the desktop is still a massive market. Windows 8 no matter what is written about it will change the desktop, and with Windows 8 you can only install “metro” apps via the application store. These apps are immersive full screen rich experiences, and they are native applications. So, just as we see with mobiles, we will start to users opting for “apps” over HTML 5 web experiences.

For businesses, even micro-online retailers, the importance of delivering native “apps” appears to be growing. On the plus side, this means you have the opportunity to really deliver applications and experiences of note to consumers, on the downside, you have to realise that you need more investment in the front end of your applications. (Mind you, the amount of time spent making sure your HTML website runs the same on all browsers across all platforms, and then is mobile compatible etc etc the difference may not be as great financially as you expect).





The Android debate

27 10 2011

When anyone talks about Android there is a lot to be said, be it “Android is the most popular Smartphone OS”, to comments that it’s “the stolen OS”.  Steve Jobs even stated he would “kill Android”. But there is no getting away from the fact that Android is a feature rich OS, that it has now almost 40% of the Smartphone market share (though Smartphone’s don’t even make up 30% of the overall mobile market) and that Google owns it, and now a mobile phone company…

Competition

There are so many Android devices out there now, and from a range of manufacturers, so much so, that getting your hardware noticed is tough. When you walk into a store and see so many phones all running the same OS, how do you set your hardware out to be different (especially to the average mobile punter). Price…Oh dear…

Poor mans iPhone

So many people who have Andoird have it because they couldn’t justify getting an iPhone. I know many people who have opted for Droids because of price, but they really wanted an iPhone. The same applies to the “kids” that have Androids. Essentially many have them because of price, and once they get a little older move over to the iPhone. That must be a worrying trend. However,
is it a surprise? Probably not since Android feels like a cheap clunky copy of iOS in so many ways…

 It’s free, it’s Google

One of the reason Android has been a success is that is been seen as the free OS, allowing many a manufacturer to ship it on their devices, enabling Android devices to be “cheap” and swamp the market. That is essentially how Android has got it’s market share, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But is it really free? In the past couple of months we have seen a number of patent deals being agreed with Microsoft for Manufacturers being allowed to use Android. In addition to that, we have seen Apple halting many Android devices due to patent infringement. These are problems manufacturers can well do without. Ask yourself, as HTC or Samsung, do you really want to spend a lot of time on R&D only to have your devices stopped from getting to market? Do you want to have to pay a third party company license to use software that essentially belongs to another company? No you don’t…

Throw into the mix that Google now owns Motorola and has effectively secured its own hardware for mobile devices. This must be a worry for HTC, Samsung and all those that sell Android devices. Do you really believe that Google will continue to provide updates to their OS to give away to competitors of their own devices? If they do, then that’s crazy business thinking from Google.

 

Nokia?

I have read many a comment in the past day or so that Nokia should have opted for Android, or they should be making Android devices as well as Windows Phone. But that makes no sense from a business point of view. The Android market is all ready crowded, and how does Nokia regain its Smartphone market share by entering a dog fight with pretty much every other manufacturer
out there? Especially when all they can compete on is price and some nerdy hardware specs (maybe some design too). That’s just too tough. Throw into the mix the hassles you can have with Android and the fact that Google now owns Motorola, and Android looks very risky…

Windows Phone makes perfect sense to me. In many ways it is the overlooked OS, and that’s because no one really knows about it (phone nerds do, but who else). Not many have actually seen it advertised or ever even noticed it in stores. So for Nokia, Windows Phone market is easier to enter, and they know they can sell aggressively against the other Windows Phone competition.

The Windows Phone OS is good, very good. Pretty much everyone I have seen play with it, likes it, they find it intuitive, they like the live tiles and they love it’s simply integration with social media.  It provides something very different to Android and iOS, and as such, that means making a Nokia device stand out on a shelf is made that much easier.

Finally, Microsoft want to get involved in the mobile world, and they know Nokia are the biggest mobile brand out there (still), and that Nokia can get Windows Phones into the hands of millions of people, and ensure Nokia and Windows Phone grab market share.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nokia grabbing Smartphone market share quite quickly, which I am sure will make other manufacturers look closely at Windows Phone and start investing more in that OS. It is already happening to some extent with HTC and Samsung…

To finish…

Android has shocked us all with how much market share it has grabbed, but should we have been surprised? In many respects it’s a free, clunky version of the iOS that DOES cost manufacturers in terms of licensing etc etc. Now that Google owns Motorola are companies confident that they will be given the same OS to compete with Motorola? How many other instances of Android devices being banned can we expect?

All in all, Android may have shot to popularity, but there are many question marks above it, and it seems many more are being raised as time moves on. Will these question marks deter manufacturers from using Android? I believe they will over time, and I believe that Windows Phone will be there to grab market share – and that at the front of that pack will be a company from Finland, a company we all used to love…A company called Nokia…





Apps Apps Apps. Oh and web services

31 08 2011

The growing demand for smart phones, and the ever growing number of us who now own one, and almost rely on one, means we (as consumers and end users) now expect to be able to consumer content and work in different ways. It’s amazing that “culturally” many of us now come to expect certain possibilities from our mobile devices, and that means we expect certain things from the content we wish to access or the solutions we wish to use to work. With this in mind, we need to architect solutions and user experiences not just for the “web” or the desktop, but for both, and not just for both, but also for mobile devices…

 

Apps, Apps and yet more Apps

It really all started with the iPhone, the drive for “there’s an app for that”, which means many of us now use apps for so many day to day type tasks. Apps deliver a far greater user experience than any web based “app” can in a mobile browser, even HTML 5. Keep in mind this fact, as it means consumers expectations are higher than ever, which ultimately means software developers need to provide “App” solutions, and not rely on HTML 5 for cross platform compatibility.

This same expectation on our mobiles means we expect similar from our desktop experiences. So while HTML provides cross browser capabilities and the newer HTML 5 provides richer experiences, it doesn’t quite hit the expectations consumers and users now have.  So what does this mean? Well it means that the desktop application is not dead, rather it is evolving, throw in the cloud and we can see where things “should” be going…

The Cloud

The cloud and SaaS opens up new doors, especially for “Apps”. Relying on HTML 5 to deliver cloud based applications is simply mad, simply because user’s expectations have moved on. For me, HTML 5 is simply 2 years already too late. The solutions then should be delivered in “app” type fashion, and this is where I believe Silverlight and Flash will lead the way. Both can deliver almost desktop type solutions and user expectation, but be deployed over the web. With Silverlight you can run it within the browser or out of the browse, as if a real desktop application installed on the machine. This surely is the way to go…

I know Apple goes on about HTML 5, but do we really believe that Apple sees people using HTML 5 apps on their iPad, when a user can access a far better experience, more features etc. by simply using the “App” for that?

Web Services

Good old web services play a pivotal role here, allowing any form of application (desktop, HTML 5, Silverlight, Flash etc) to communicate and essentially “work”. It seems that all these technologies are starting to “align” which means that these are exciting times…

One architecture for all?

With the cloud, web services and the drive for apps, we essentially have a single architecture that is already drawn out for us for so many different types of solutions. The only down side is that “apps” need to be developed for individual platforms, though Flash and Silverlight cover a few of the basis. But, “Apps” are essentially the front end of the solution, all the work is still being done down in the engine room and via web services, so it’s not as big of an issue as many may try and claim.

New ways of doing business

This architecture, and mobile devices, along with their apps, opens up so many new avenues for the ways in which we communicate, we consumer content, we play and how we work. It even means so many business processes that we believe are fixed in “stone” can be changed, and be changed for the better and at a cost that isn’t astronomical.

I think Apps, along with the cloud and web services will change the way in which so many day to day processes and tasks are done, I also firmly believe that there are a number of technologies in the pipeline that will take too long to evolve and will be overtaken by the “app” monster…I feel the big HTML 5 could well be one of them, with many organisations not investing in new HTML 5 websites, or applications, rather opting for real “Apps” leveraging web services…

What do you think will suffer at the hands of apps?

It would be interesting to know what other budding technologies, or big ideas, that you think may potentially fall by the wayside, because we now have such an architecture and consumer expectation for Apps…





iPhone still leading the way?

12 02 2010

A lot of friends of mine quickly jumped on board the iPhone when it was first released, only for all of them to quickly jump ship complaining of the lack of features, slow internet connection etc etc. Don’t get me wrong, they all said they loved the look, the feel, and how the iPhone works, it was just that the phone did a lot less than other phones…It was truly, look and feel over substance (something I often get to witness in IT a lot)…

However, even with the early iPhone there were the usual die hard apple fans that claimed it revolutionised the mobile world, claimed this and that, but they did have a point. The iPhone set the new standard for how a phone should look and feel and how we should interact with it…Nothing else….

So is the iPhone still the market leader here?

Function, function, function…

We have got used to phones doing more and more, which can now be said of the iPhone too. Originally it gave us less, but now the iPhone has a proper internet connection, can allow you to actually forward a text message, and has a half decent camera…So function wise it’s now up there…Or is it…If you’re a business user you more than likely have been advised not to go near an iPhone..Why is that? Well like other Apple devices think connectivity and synchronisation. Other phones are a lot better at it, especially from a business point of view. For starters, I would suggest pretty much any Blackberry phone is going to suite your needs more. In addition, though not overly popular with bloggers and phone reviewers, Windows Mobile 6.5 operated phones are also more in line with business user needs and there is still a wealth of them out there…

Look, feel and touch?

Ok we all want to go to touch don’t we? Well maybe not all, for some of us it is quite impractical, I know many business users that will choose a qwerty keypad over a qwerty touch, and that’s because with touch it is easier to hit the wrong key (I’m sure backspace is a very popular key – well it is with me on my own touch phone).  But touch phones do have a lot going for them, the size of the screen, the ability to interact with various media in a friendly fashion, and also a nice big screen to allow us to use mobile applications (think Google Maps, Live etc).

So is the iPhone still ahead in this area…Well until recently I would have said Yes for sure. The iPhone touch screen is impressive, and the interface for writing messages also pretty good. My own Samsung Omnia (which I have had a long time now) is ok, but the touch on the iPhone just feels and works better it seems. However, HTC HD Touch 2 has that same feel about its touch screen. It also boasts a big 4.3”, all in all, I think I prefer it…..

Applications and extras…

Ok here the iPhone is still miles ahead, nothing can really touch it. The iPhone app store is a pretty impressive place, however, again if you are a business user there isn’t that much there for you. Friends of mine who own the new iPhone 3GS have lots of apps on it, however, I don’t think one is of any use other than amusement – don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with that, I am just not a big games user on my phone…Also, I know there are some good iPhone based applications that are of use, look at the NatWest banking app for example…

So why is the iPhone ahead here, well it’s because of the open SDK that allows developers to make iPhone based applications. That is how iPhone got ahead here, until recently, it wasn’t that easy to dev mobile apps. However, other phones have caught up here, again let’s look at the HTC Touch 2. Windows Mobile 6.5 can support applications, however many of us just don’t go and get them. A popular app though is Facebook…One of the big things is using facebook on your phone, twitter and YouTube. On many phones this still isn’t a great experience, but with Windows 6.5, Android and the touch phones that use these systems (lets keep on track with the HTC HD Touch 2) the experience is just as good as the iPhone (if not a little better)…

So will things change…Well I can’t see Windows based phones, or Android based phones catching the iPhone any time soon with regards to applications. I believe in terms of functions and features, they are probably ahead now (well a few of the phones). But things may well change with Windows Mobile 7 – which could be out at the end of this year…Please note could be out…If Windows Mobile 7 supports Silverlight 4, then a very large community of developers instantly get access to delivering mobile phone applications. This means that potentially, Windows based mobile phones will almost overnight be able to provide an app store that can compete with the iPhone…Now that would be interesting…