The mobile software industry has failed us all. If you've been reading this blog, you know how strongly I feel about the importance of improving the mobile user experience. That's why we started Aeroprise nine years ago. Using mobile applications should be more like driving a Prius or using an iPod - things we're good at because we love doing them - and less like shaving - something we hate but get good at because the alternatives draw blood. When designing software for handhelds, the end-user experience is all that matters and yet as an industry we've consistently ignored it.
Need proof? There are more than 4.1 billion mobile subscribers. And 6.7 billion people. Phones are quickly eclipsing PCs as the primary computing device. Mobile data usage is soaring while PC shipments plummet. 70% of corporate employees spend more than 50% of their time away from a PC (source: IDC). And yet... a sliver of a percent of all spending on enterprise applications will be for mobile solutions this year.
Talk to any CxO to confirm it's not for lack of demand and it certainly isn’t the weak economy (in fact, the reverse is true). They'll tell you that within 18 months, any application that's not available on mobile devices will be obsolete. So where's the rub? Talk to any subset of five mobile enterprise app users and you'll see it first-hand.
Too few love them and too many are merely proud to know how they work. That must change. If the same principle applied to driving we'd be Emerson Fitipaldi at Speedway by commuting to work accident-free. To meet expectations, mobile business applications can't be about wireless technology and the experience can't be about who can figure them out. They must be about business benefits like improved productivity and real-time collaboration.
Vic Gundotra, Vice President of Engineering for Google's mobile and developer products, points out in an interesting guest post on TechCrunch: "...for the first time ever, half of all new connections to the internet will come from a phone in 2009." The post focuses on mobile data from a Google perspective but the themes are universal: "users appreciate well-written software, but ease of use and on-device navigability are critical preconditions for usage." Case in point (from the same post): Google Earth had more activations the day it launched on the iPhone than on any other day in its history because the iPhone App Store makes it easy to find and try it. It’s no secret what’s missing and yet we can’t expect different results until we change our approach.
Touch screens aren’t keyboards, wireless networks aren’t always available, and mobile devices aren’t PCs. But when their real value is unlocked, they do things like geo-locate and make voice calls that make them better than any PC ever will be. I'm biased but I think our approach to end-user personalization, presence-awareness, and automatic device optimization are leading the industry in the right direction. Even so, I’m the first to admit we have a lot of work to do. More on what lies ahead in future posts but rest assured, those nicks and cuts will heal soon.
The postings in this blog are my own and don't necessarily represent BMC's opinion or position.