Mobile's Next Era: Not Apps, Not Websites — Experiences!

I was fortunate this week to attend a presentation by James Whittaker in which he delivered his view on the next era of computing. This was one of the best presentations I’ve seen, because the content was presented in a compelling manner that created an outstanding overall experience. I point this out because it parallels James’ message: The future of computing isn’t apps or a collection of websites, but experiences delivered across an ecosystem of devices. I absolutely agree with his vision and am excited about the possibilities ahead. The pertinent question is then: How can enterprises adjust today’s behaviors to best prepare for this future? Let’s take a look at some of the key points of Whittaker’s talk and how we can take action on them today:

  • Search was king of the last era. As of September 2012, overall search volume on the web has started to decrease. This means that your customers are now using app-driven mechanisms to find your content as these provide context around their requests ensuring they get more accurate responses. Don’t immediately jettison your SEO strategy but prepare for how tomorrow’s customers will access your data: through well-designed and easily consumable APIs. This API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.
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Enterprise Mobility -- Are You Ready For The Ride?

My colleague Melissa Parrish recently posted how perpetual connectivity will change how we experience the world. I read this and couldn’t help but get excited about the endless mobile possibilities — but I can see how enterprise leaders are filled with an equal amount of trepidation. Consumer mobile devices create countless new opportunities to engage your customers, employees, and business partners at a level never before seen. As Melissa points out, this will change nearly every facet of how your business operates. Here are the areas that Im excited about:

  • Enterprise architectures will change from a three-tier model to a four-tier model that incorporates an aggregation/data transformation tier. This will allow existing enterprise infrastructures to react to the new mobile demands on performance and scalability while allowing the enterprise to migrate existing services (public and private) to a cloud-based service-oriented offering.
  • Successful mobile strategies include four key areas: mobile delivery, cloud, social, and big data. The service tier in the new four-tier model will not only federate internal services for mobile consumption but will naturally extend to include third-party services. This statement will cause security leads to block my blog from being accessed within your company, but don't fret: new security architectures (zero-trust, among others) are being developed with exactly this service-level interaction in mind.
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Mobile Devs -- The 3 visual tooling changes that will make your life better in 2013

2013 is going to be an amazing year for mobile and web developers for a number of reasons, but the top one on my list today is the advance in tooling. This isn't simply a turn of the crank adding a few features/functions to the existing state of the art but instead the realization of a growing paradigm shift in how developers (experience creators, to quote my colleague Mike Gualtieri) create software. Today the majority of web and mobile apps are written by developers manually writing source code in text editors or IDEs, but tomorrow's tooling is becoming much more visual in nature. Here are the three tooling areas that excite me looking forward to 2013.

 
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Enterprise Landscaping: Pruning The Trees In Mobile Development

"Enterprise mobility," my two favorite words. The reason I so enjoy working in this space is that the overall landscape changes almost daily. When I graduated college nearly 14 years ago, I immediately became a mobile developer working on cutting-edge platforms like Palm and Windows Mobile. Attempting to drive performance and efficiency gains in the enterprise on these platforms was quite a challenge.
Fortunately, we've come a long way from that point, but we still have similarly large challenges: should I use native, web, or hybrid technologies? How do I integrate with my existing back-end services? Will our existing tools, ALM processes, and testing methodologies work when implementing mobile initiatives? I am fortunate to discuss these issues with clients and vendors every day and am excited to be working on research that will use these discussions to provide a high-level direction and path through our mobile playbook for application development and delivery professionals. This report will act as your guidebook for your enterprise development concerns when navigating the current version of the mobile development landscape. As I dive into this, are there areas that you'd like me to focus on? If so, either shoot me an email or stop and see me in person in London or Orlando at our Forrester Forums and let me know what you'd like to see!

Enterprise Mobility: How Fast Can Development Go?

I discuss mobile enablement of enterprise apps every day with our clients. The common trend is that it needs to be done now and in the most cost-effective manner (shocking, I know!). The good news is that meeting these expectations is quickly becoming easier. Recently I published a blog post about back-end-as-a-service (BaaS). I've recently published my latest research on these BaaS platforms. During this research, three things became very apparent:

  • BaaS enables mobile apps to be written in hours, not days. Nearly all BaaS platforms that I investigated had a web-based step-by-step approach to setting up your mobile back-end services, and some even offered a pure command line interface. Depending on preference, either approach allows for the mobile app back-end scaffold to be available in a matter of minutes. Add in some business logic for connecting to your line-of-business (LOB) applications (in your language of choice, no less), and you're ready to focus completely on the mobile interface of your app! At this point, the biggest challenge is how to manage your development vs. production back-end environments. Not surprisingly, some vendors (StackMob and FatFractal, for instance) already have a solution for managing this as well.
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The Future Of The Mobile Web Just Became Bright

Great apps are generally native apps. I discuss with our clients daily that, given unlimited time and money, every app should be native, as this affords the ultimate in user experience. Unfortunately, budgets rarely use the word "unlimited," so compromises must be made. Commonly, one of the first tactical directions away from native is to the mobile web. This asks users to painfully type a URL on their device and then suffer through a browser experience that takes away from the immersive experience that the app should convey. This all changed with Mozilla Junior, a browser being developed for the iPad targeted directly at the iPad user. Thanks to some outstanding design decisions, the mobile web now has a very bright future:

  • A browser without chrome. This is the biggest stylistic deterrent to mobile apps. Today’s mobile web experience is always wrapped in browser “stuff” known as chrome (URL bar, navigation buttons, toolbars, etc.). Junior changes this by providing a browser with no chrome at all. This allows you, the mobile web developer, to use the entire screen as your app canvas. Native interactions (swipes/long presses/etc.) can now be fully implemented without fear of accidentally pressing a browser button.
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Contextual Personal Data: Mobile Changes Another Landscape

Mobile computing and the apps that run on our smartphones and tablets are changing our lives every day. This goes without saying. What excites me is the pace at which this continues and the fact that we're just starting to scratch the surface of what's to come. For application development and delivery professionals, the challenge is how to remain relevant and compelling in this ever-changing landscape. An area that will immediately provide game-changing value-add is what I term Contextual Personal Data (CPD).

What Is Contextual Personal Data?

To level-set, we are all familiar with personal data. This is the information that drives advertising and marketing today, such as email/calendar/contacts, browsing and online purchase history, and everything that you divulge to social networks and allow them to harvest. CPD is the next evolution of this, enabled by mobile computing. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices can now generate a new meta layer of information about an individual that is far more valuable because it is contextually relevant and dynamic. This is data such as "what time do I generally leave the house for work?" and "when I have coffee on the way to work, how much more productive am I that morning?” The next generation of compelling and successful mobile apps driven by CPD will interact with my life without requiring me to interact with them directly. This is the new landscape of contextual mobile computing.

Next Generation Success Stories

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The New Design-Driven Development Landscape

How did we get from single-channel desktop apps…

In the not-too-distant past web-centric software development had a standard workflow between designers and developers.  This was possible because there was a single delivery channel (the web browser) and well-established development constructs. Design patterns like Model-View-Controller had well known coding counterparts such as Java Server Pages, the JSP Standard Template Library or Struts.  But now, the introduction of mobile computing has significantly altered this design-development workflow.  The key disruptor is the need to target multiple mobile devices with a common set(s) of source code. Regardless of whether devs use a single HTML5/CSS3/JS implementation or native implementations on iOS and Android, there’s a greater burden on designer than in the web-centric past.  What’s worse, the success or failure of mobile apps is more dependent on the complete user experience than ever before.  This new reality requires a major shift within development organizations.

…to multi-channel mobile apps?

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Mobile Backend-As-A-Service: The New Lightweight Middleware?

It’s no secret that demand for mobile applications is skyrocketing in both the consumer and enterprise space. To meet that demand, application development shops are continually looking for new ways to accelerate development of apps that meet their consumers’ needs. In response, many new ISVs are beginning to offer a set of cloud-based, server-side mobile services to make app development quicker and easier to deploy. ISVs are referring to those services as “mobile backend-as-a-service” (not a particularly good name, but we’ll use it for now). MBaaS offerings sit squarely between the existing platform-as-a-service vendors and the full end-to-end solution space occupied by mobile enterprise/consumer application platforms (see Figure). I’ll go into more detail on the other layers of this mobile service triangle in the future, but for now let’s take a look at the MBaaS space.

Why should I use an MBaaS solution?

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