Monday, February 27, 2012

Can I support one App Instance and have Mobile Devices Apps

The answer is Yes with HTML5.  When you code your user interface with the HTML5 standard you are able to deliver the same app to any browser based device (pcs, tablets, internet only devices, and smartphones).  
In 2012, Gartner projects that worldwide PC sales will reach about 400 million units, while smartphones will surpass 600 million units. Tablets will sell about 100 million units. That means that only about 35% of the new devices sold this year that will be connecting to the web will be Windows PCs. You may Google these trends yourself or look at Cisco's Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.  Mobile is the new normal and mobile application access is a big part of current and future IT strategy. 

The new mobile app strategy

The first wave of firms whose apps exploited the explosion of mobile devices pursued a device specific "native" app strategy.  Most firms who have been successful at supporting multiple devices picked a mobile device platform to support for their first app and then worked to create versions for the additional platforms.  Today, there are software firms attempting to sell version control for multiple "native" platforms.  Perhaps, if you already have an inventory of multiple "native" app platforms then a version control solution that allows you to move back to a single code base may be useful.  The new method for achieving a single application code base is to use Web Apps instead of "native" apps.

If you are just beginning to plot your strategy for multiple device support please, take the time to look to the latest version of HTML; HTML5.  HTML5 is designed to support tablets, smartphones, PCs, and other mobile devices.  HTML5 will allow you to have a single application code base.  Two of HTML5's key features are designed to facilitate smooth application operation even when the device is not connected to the Internet (Application Cache and Client Side Storage).  The complete HTML5 feature set allows you to publish web apps that are usable by any device.  Not just usable but effective with the type of screen pop and response time that mobile users have seen via "native" apps. (check out the "HTML5rocks field guide for web applications" to see some examples).
Mobile is the new normal.  You can ease your support of the explosion of mobile devices, and conversely not have to rigidly mandate which devices align with your application delivery strategy, if you utilize a HTML5 centric app dev approach.  Your data may live securely: in the cloud; in a contracted hosting center; or behind your firewalls.  You may choose the data repository and coding language your team is comfortable with.  Then with the web as your delivery vehicle and HTML5 as your delivery method you will be able to maintain a single development image across all of your connected devices.
More than two decades after HTML was introduced, we’re are seeing that this is still proving to be an active standards based toolset (HTML began around 1990 and HTML5 work started in the World Wide Web Consortium - W3C - around 2007).
Here are some more useful links:

We are here to help.  Send us an email if you want to meet and discuss your application development initiatives

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Workflow (Programming in the Cloud)

Data in Motion
A Cloud Story

Firms have begun to talk about the benefits of their investments in Cloud Computing Services. According to a survey conducted by a large Cloud Service Provider, the biggest area of measurable financial return has been collaboration. The majority of their larger installed clients who responded have seen collaboration as the most important result of their migration into the cloud.

If collaboration was the expressed benefit for migrations to the cloud, during 2011, then I think we will see the next wave to be within workflow. You might term workflow as the art acting upon data in motion. I believe that we will see benefits within workflow for the same reasons companies exploited the cloud for collaboration: mobile devices are everywhere and the cloud allows you to exploit those devices.

Originally Cloud Computing was seen as an outsourcing play. Outsourcing had the traditional business “value” of being a service that you could buy cheaper than you could build. The better Cloud Solution Providers made the data center investments to demonstrate their reliability, recoverability, and security. As an example you can learn about Google’s Data Centers by clicking the link. This allows you to see how your data’s file name is hidden, how your file is broken into noncontiguous sub-components or sharded, how data center security is enforced, and how energy conservation is managed.

The collaborative power of the cloud became evident as users began to securely access cloud infrastructures with any device and from any Internet reachable location. The Cisco Corporation’s Mobile Data Traffic Forecast quantifies what we all have seen - users have gone mobile. Smart phones, tablets, laptops, and public PCs are being used by business employees from every imaginable location. The delivery of services from cloud providers who have integrated support for multiple mobile devices has freed employees to do business from any location. This “connected - mobility” finally gave the push organizations needed to remove location as an excuse for fully participating in the work value chain. Not since the introduction of the pager has the “office” been so aware of where the employees are.  Not since the widespread adoption of the mobile phone have we (as employees) been so available for collaboration. With the right cloud delivered service I am able to conduct a live webinar, participate in a group video chat, edit a document with a team of other remote workers, update my crm, and check my email.  

It is this same “connected - mobility” that will power the next benefit of cloud delivered services. An application delivered via a cloud infrastructure can reach any mobile device carried by any member of a business’ value chain no matter for whom that person works, this allows firms to process data in motion.
As an example of “data in motion”: there are cloud applications that automatically grade quizzes; deliver the detailed quiz results to the student; create metric reports for the teacher; and update the grade book. The teacher creates the quiz and the data is processed as it comes in from students. That application will work equally well if those students are in one classroom or spread across the world.  
Imagine the application that will let each of your disparate sub-contractors confirm receipt and completion of their work asynchronously from mobile web apps. Here is an example: Your call center schedules a client appointment; the application automatically assigns the appointment to the nearest service sub-contractor. The application presents a confirmation request to that sub-contractor; later, when that sub-contractor performs their work they interact with the application to indicate the activities that were completed. The call center gets a pop-up for a client follow-up call; the invoice is generated, and service timeliness’ reports are produced.  
These applications exit today but, with “connected - mobility” you are able to deliver these applications to individuals involved in any workflow no matter what device they carry. Your firm doesn’t have to code to a particular device. Your firm is not even responsible for the cost of the end device. Sub-contractors and partners who want to be part of your value chain bring the mobile device of their choice to the party, and you provide a browser based web app to grab data input as they move through their day. Your process automation extends across the entire workflow with no concern for organizational boundaries. With the right cloud platform, you will have the ability to securely deliver your application screens to any device anywhere and have the ability to process data in motion that is input into you application, or accessed from other data sources that are present in local or cloud provisioned data repositories.

The move to the cloud is a platform decision that goes beyond the build vs. buy decision. Your return from a migration to the cloud will be broader than a reduction in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). You will financially benefit from TCO, collaboration, and from “data in motion”. Some of the factors that go into the platform evaluation are:
  • Data/service availability, recovery, protection, and security
  • Support for document collaboration
  • Integrated support for the mobile devices used by your organization and its collaborative partners
    • iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, Android Phone, PC, laptop
  • The application development environment
    • Scalable to workload
    • Data input and output APIs to allow connections to other systems and data repositories
    • Integrated mobile device support
    • Secure device connections
    • Code that runs independently of the end users device
    • Secure data repositories

I wish you luck as you look for business impacting workflows to automate utilizing the connecting power of the cloud. The devices are out there it is time to play catch-up.