Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What if the killer app for enterprise mobility and tablets is actually access to multiple apps?

For every new technology, the holy grail is always to find the “killer app.”  That phrase existed long before “app” referred to a little beveled square on your iPad.
The killer app for the PC was arguably two:  word processing and spreadsheets.  (Anyone remember WordStar or Visicalc?)  For the Internet, it was email, later enabled by a notable app of its own: the web browser.
So, what’s the killer app for tablets?
What is the one thing that’s going to make tablets absolutely mandatory going forward?  The question is even more interesting when you add an enterprise perspective.  What is the thing that will make it a necessity for every employee to have (and use) an iPad or a Galaxy Note or a Surface?
In trying to answer this question, I think back to something our CTO, Stephen Vilke, said in a recent webinar about the dos and don’ts for bringing enterprise applications to the iPad.  I’ve been posting the highlights of his “dos & don’ts,” and here’s one that’s directly related to this line of thinking:
DO understand that the next “killer app” for the enterprise to be delivered on a tablet is actually the blend of multiple apps.
Stephen’s comments boiled down to this: if it’s productivity you want to enable, you must provide access to the suite of applications and tools that users are comfortable using and can be productive with.
This means that an organization needs to make a number of their key business applications widely available to the workforce simultaneously via mobile, regardless of which device they bring.  So, in fact, one single app is not the thing that will drive usage, but perhaps it's the ability to do productive work on a whole set of enterprise applications – the same ones they’ve already been using, and new ones that are being created.
As Stephen noted:
The benefits of a consolidated app workspace are clear: they offer an engaging and more user-friendly and productive experience to improve ROI on mobility investments. However, complexity increases, as application variety ranges from ERP through to the many hundreds or thousands of corporate applications required to support business operations – and finding the sweet spot might not be so easy.
There are a number of ways to achieve application mobilization in the enterprise, including custom client apps, multi-platform middleware, HTML5, software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud-based solutions, or through a virtualized/remote desktop.
IT managers need to assess each route for cost, speed, business benefit, and practicality. They’ll need to decide if development is best done in-house or through partnerships with other providers.  Will they want to build custom apps internally, or use an outsourced, hosted solution?  Influencing factors will include the number and type of mobile platforms being supported.  Not to the mention security, performance, and UX issues that we hear about from IT, from application owners, and from users.
But coming back to the “killer app as multiple app access” idea, Gartner thought this concept was interesting enough to come up with a new category for it, something they call “workspace aggregators.”  We’ve blogged about the concept here a couple times over the past few months, and think it’s an interesting way to describe a new approach (one that Framehawk itself is taking).
And, if you think about it, the rise of something new on the hardware side is generally matched by a parallel rise of a killer app on the software side.  If not, the hardware is generally headed for the dustbin of history sooner rather than later.
Tablets have followed a bit of a new trajectory, though.  Tablets have the interesting characteristic of trying to present all the killer apps from all previous computing platforms in this new form factor.  Or at least, that’s the promise.  For productivity apps like email, word processing, and spreadsheets, tablet makers have either tried to put forward their own versions (Apple) or are a bit slow to market with tablet versions of their existing packages (Microsoft).
Real enterprise tablet usage has been hindered by 2 things.  First, tablet providers have struggled a bit to deliver continuity with existing environments and tools as I noted.   And IT has had difficulty finding a safe way to incorporate them into the enterprise environment and still maintain a user experience that won’t make the users rebel.
So, it seems to me that a real tipping point for the official, legitimate adoption of tablets in the enterprise just might be the ability to get to those productivity apps AND intuitive, secure access for new and existing enterprise applications.
Put this all in one workspace for particular sets of employees and you just might have something, well, killer.
For more "confessions of a CTO" (from Framehawk's Stephen Vilke) about the 7 Dos & Don'ts for Bringing Enterprise Applications to the iPad, you can download our white paper.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

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