As SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott said in the Keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW 2011, “mobile is the new desktop”. In my humble opinion, PC running on traditional operating system is a dying breed. Yes, you will still need the good ‘ole PC to write Java code or PL/SQL…for now, until they come up with a system that allows developers to program and to design application using just gestures (and that is a discussion for another time). But for quick data analysis and data consumption, the mobile platform will shine. By the way, opening a report PDF through email attachment on your laptop while you are outside your office is not what mobility is about. Mobility is about interacting with data while you are on-the-go.
I believe the most important mobile analytics platform to the business world is the tablet because of the size. It is very likely that the tablet will overtake laptop as the primary tool for business users when they are on-the-go and not sitting at their desks.
With that being said, there are two major hurdles that keep the tablets from taking the center stage in the corporate world right now. Even though the tablets have been sold in millions, but majority of the tablet owners are connecting these devices through public WiFi or home WiFi and are using them for entertainment purpose ONLY. So basically, they are using the tablet as nothing more than a glorified iPod Touch….way short of the tablet’s full potential.
Apparently, one of the two major hurdles is on the connectivity. Currently, the tablet users have to either sign up for a separate data plan or resort to WiFi only. Corporations are not going to allow their mobile users to get on public WiFi when they are on-the-go. It is because public WiFi is not safe and it does not take a genius to hack into the devices that are on a public WiFi network. The vulnerability of exposing sensitive company information on a public WiFi network will always make the IT security folks very nervous. In order to “encourage” the wider acceptance of tablets in the corporate world for business analytics outside the office and not to limit them to only a privileged few, the wireless carriers need to come up with a better data plan…..something like sharing the data capacity between the customer’s smart phone and his/her tablet, and not to charge an insane amount of money for having multiple mobile devices.
Some might argue that they can tether with their smart phones. But carriers are cracking down on such practice and penalizing with higher data plan fee. Besides, tethering with your smart phone will drain your phone’s battery very quickly. So it is not a viable option, and definitely not an option for the corporate world.
The MiFi or mobile router can potentially be a solution because it provides WiFi connectivity up to 5 personal devices. But unless the wireless carriers allow their customers to cancel the data plan on their smart phones and connect through the MiFi devices only, you still have to pay multiple data plans which are not long term solution.
Having to pay multiple data plans for each individual employee can give corporations a moment of pause on their mobile ambition and deployment, especially when global economy is still very fragile and corporations are looking hard for ways to cut cost.
The second major hurdle is the availability of enterprise-level business applications for mobile devices. To the general consumers, a mobile device is useless without the applications. It is the same to the corporate world. Companies are not going to issue tablets to their employees to play games, watch movies, or get on Facebook. Companies want their employees to use the tablets to analyze company data and consume company data. To make it a reality, we need world class enterprise-level business analytics application for the mobile devices….especially on the tablets.
Yes, Mobile BI has been around for a while. I remember checking into the MoBI for Blackberry smart phone several years ago. But again, displaying static reports on a mobile device is not what mobility is about. Unfortunately, that was all we had back then.
The introduction of tablets and the upcoming SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 4.0 have changed everything. They are perfect marriage in my humble opinion. Having real-time data on your fingertips wherever you are is golden in any business. The SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 4.0 solution will definitely revolutionize the mobile computing landscape.
Added on 6/27/2011:
This unscientific survey result posted by Verizon Wireless on Facebook today proves my points…