Monday, May 14, 2012

The Choice of Mobile Device

In our previous blog post—Are you ready for Enterprise Mobility?—we set the scene for an in-depth discussion of certain aspects of enterprise mobility, including choosing a mobile device, supporting mobile application technologies, cloud deployment, and integration with existing enterprise applications.

With the variety of mobile devices on offer today, organizations must decide whether to support deployment of applications on only a specific mobile device or on any of the mobile devices used by their workforce.

Most devices available today provide email functionality, some type of instant messaging, Internet browsing, and location-based services, often supported by a built-in GPS module. They also support a native client technology, such as Java (J2ME and J2SE), .NET for Mobile Devices, Objective C, and less common versions of proprietary languages, which is used to develop and deploy applications.
Choosing the appropriate technology for deploying mobile enterprise applications is essentially no different from choosing a platform and technology for deploying standard desktop applications. The question to ask is what should the application do, and who are its intended users? If anyone can use the mobile application, the solution must support multiple, disparate mobile devices. In such cases, we are not in control of the device and where the application will be deployed and run. However, if the projected users are employees of the organization, the choice of mobile device can be dictated.

A high-level understanding of what the application does and how it is used helps determine which mobile device to choose and what features it needs to support. For example, if the device is to be used in a manufacturing environment, it might need to be able to withstand the effects of a harsh environment, including dirt, heat, moisture, and rough handling. In this environment, a rugged and sturdy device is more appropriate than a fragile device with a touch screen. Alternatively, a sales executive working with customers on their premises would benefit from a lightweight device with a large touch screen, a high-resolution camera, and fast Internet connectivity.

Other device features to be considered include location-based services (LBS), with the possibility of a built-in GPS module, navigation, scribe and signature recognition, barcode scanning, and other similar functions. Determining the need for these features should be based on the description of the required functionality of the application being deployed.
From this point onwards, a detailed investigation should be performed to determine whether the capabilities and functions of the devices match those required by the application. Similarly, an assessment should be made of the suitability of existing software solutions for the functionality required by the application. The mobile application market has blossomed in the last several years offering thousands of both enterprise and public applications, which are capable of performing a variety of tasks, from plotting a route to taking notes with multimedia content, and to extending business applications to mobile devices.

The high cost of certain devices is another factor that can lead an organization to decide to support multiple technologies, enabling users of the application to use their own mobile devices. This approach, however, is not always appropriate, especially in harsh environments that could cause serious damage to a sophisticated but relatively delicate smartphone.
It is clear that mobile devices are capable of running a wide variety of business applications and enable users to rely more and more on technology, even in remote or predominantly paper-based work environments. In some cases, deploying multiple applications might call for multiple devices. Some applications, for example, require a task-specific mobile device that might need to be shared by multiple employees.
So, taking all these factors into consideration, choosing a mobile device for the deployment of an application is not a simple task, but is an essential part of designing and implementing a successful strategy for enterprise mobility.

For more information about Magic’s mobile offering, visit:

Andrei Migatchev is the Chief Technical Officer at Magic Software SA and has been active in the software industry since 1998