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This article continues our blog series that will offer the four critical mobile capabilities we at SAP recommend you consider. Today we cover the third crucial capability to have cost-effective support for a variety of devices.  This is important to make sure you can keep up with user demands where they expect more than one type of device.  Moreover each application can have devices fit for purpose based on the task such as a gun-type for inventory tasks while a tablet for field service.

#3 Critical Capability:  Cost-effectively support a variety of devices

The mobile devices market is highly fragmented. Not only are there five major smartphone operating systems out there, but the mobile devices themselves are vastly different in size, screen type, hardware controls, supported peripherals and data input types. Just think about all the current- generation smartphone devices: some have a physical keyboard and some don’t, some have built-in cameras and capacitive touch screens — and others are more Spartan.  Each of these variations signals a need for change in the mobile application, making it difficult to standardize on a single code base even within a single platform.

Compounding the effect of diversity is the incredible rate of change in both mobile devices and operating systems. Whereas a typical Windows desktop PC got a new OS version three times since the turn of the century, mobile operating systems like Android put out a major release every three months. Each of these releases comes with great new features, but also with the threat of rendering your mobile application useless. For example, two of the largest business-oriented mobile platforms (RIM BlackBerry and Windows Mobile), underwent complete “code breaks” in 2010.  Quite simply, applications coded for the previous version of the OS don’t work on the new one.  Coupled with rapid change in device chipsets and components, these updates create a very unpredictable runtime environment for mobile apps — which is something that’s hard to keep track of and manage across multiple platforms.

The users, of course, are completely oblivious to all this and want their mobile applications to just work. The sophistication and the high level of user experience of today’s mobile operating systems creates the expectation that all mobile applications designed for the particular OS will look and feel native to the platform and will support the device’s unique sensors, screen capabilities and peripherals.

What should you look for in this environment?

  1. Ability to not need to generate and maintain separate sets of code for each platform
  2. Ability to not need to acquire and maintain multiple developer skillsets and development environments
  3. Ability to configure your application once and deploy to all supported platforms
  4. Native look and feel on every device
  5. Easy application modifications; no need to redistribute or recertify each application version

A true-cross-platform framework thus allows developers to create the application just once, distribute it to any supported platform with minor UI modifications and effortlessly maintain it on all devices with quick, pointed modifications to a single set of definitions.

So to summarize, the first deliver critical mobile capabilities you should consider are:
1. deliver secure, scalable and reliable solutions
2. easily develop and configure applications
3. cost-effectively support a variety of devices

In the next blog article, we will cover the rationale to create a great user experience.  Until next and final segment of this series!

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