Who Said That?
by Nick Carter
Pete Townshend of The Who, had no idea that the group’s
1971 hit, “Going Mobile,” would come into fruition many years later. A
few weeks ago, my alma mater was scheduled for its first game in the Big
Dance. Unfortunately for me, the tip-off was at the same time as my take-off
for a business trip. Not too long ago, this would have been a very depressing
situation. Today, it is a different story.
whipped out my handy iPad, downloaded the “NCAA March Madness” app for
$4.99, signed up for the in-flight WIFI and bingo! I was able to watch
the majority of the game during the first leg of my trip. The quality
of the video was jerky, but I easily followed the flow and score of the
game in real time.
It is truly astonishing how this new mobility seems to now touch everything
we do. Compared with having to sit at a stationary computer, this new
untethered freedom is addicting.
The business world is no exception. Everywhere you look, from your banker
to your baker, everyone has an app for that.
There are two primary methods that software providers can use to accomplish
this: native apps and web apps.
For certain uses it makes sense to develop a “native application” for
the particular device(s), using their guidelines (Apple for iOS, Google
for Android, etc.). This makes it much easier to use features such as
the built-in camera. The application is then submitted to the provider
for approval. Once accepted, the provider will push it out to the application
marketplace and make it available for download to the proper devices.
Many of the specialty apps (such as the NCAA March Madness mentioned above)
carry a nominal fee while many of the others (iHeartRadio, Pandora, WeatherBug,
etc.) are free. Business-specific apps on the other hand rarely carry
a fee since the application provider (i.e. your bank) is more interested
in making it as easy as possible for the end users to do business with
There are different levels of native. Some apps are built entirely in
each vendor’s toolkit while others can utilize a shared core with a device-specific
interface. Depending on how native the developers want the application
to appear, they may have to stay on top of several programming languages
and delivery systems (Apple, Android, Windows Phone Market, etc.) and
push bug fixes, enhancements and new functions to all of the platforms
they are delivering their apps on. Although there are tools available
which can make this much less of a chore than in the early days, it still
adds work and, depending on the application, may not add business value.
Taking it to the Web
The other main deployment method is to deliver the application to the
user as a web app. This takes advantage of the mobile device’s built-in
web browser. The app’s flow can be tailored to the device’s screen format.
The tablet format makes this very attractive, especially when compared
with a Smartphone, since the screens are large enough to deliver an experience
that is similar to the user’s interaction with the primary website via
a normal PC.
The beauty of this approach is that once the nuances of the various browsers
(Safari, Chrome, etc.) have been compensated for, the application becomes
somewhat independent from the device. This helps from a development standpoint,
since the programmer worries more about the application and making it
fit the end user business needs rather than fretting over the intricacies
of each vendor’s specifications.
Some bandwidth hungry apps, such as streaming video, can be stretched
beyond its means when connecting on 3G and really need a WIFI connection
for optimal performance. Our experience with business applications is
that while WIFI is preferred, 3G access has proven more than adequate.
The mobile application market continues to expand, with the tools and
technologies changing at a breakneck pace. What remains constant, however,
is the need to connect with customers, partners, and vendors while combining
increased efficiency and improved service. Mobile devices can leverage
your existing systems to deliver more business value—all at the end user’s
convenience and with increased personalization, a mass personalization
if you will.
Pete may have been “Going Mobile” with a home in the 1970s, but I think
he’d change some of the lyrics if he were writing it today!
Nick Carter is president of WoodWare Systems in Memphis, Tenn.
© Copyright 2012 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.