The age of enterprise mobility is here, and millions of companies around the world are making the transition to mobile platforms. While in the past businesses were limited by on-premise, desktop operations, enterprises today have the opportunity to embrace change by implementing effective mobile solutions that move business forward. Making this transition offers many benefits, but also presents some challenges. Getting past those challenges requires a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) that can be deployed across multiple devices while taking advantage of the unique look and feel and interactivity standards of each.
The enterprise has been somewhat reluctant to go mobile due to security concerns, cost and functionality. Many fear that transmitting sensitive data over mobile networks could expose them to malicious attacks. Also, as the number of mobile operating systems and device types continue to increase, businesses are concerned about the training, planning and maintenance associated with the development of multiple mobile versions of core back-office systems to support these devices. Then, even if they get past the high cost of going mobile and the inevitable disruption to their core infrastructure, many businesses have doubts that mobile devices can effectively support heavy enterprise applications. What they need is a single development paradigm they can leverage for both enterprise-server and mobile-rich Internet applications.
MEAPs can provide device-independent solutions for fast, simple and cost-effective mobile deployments that take advantage of the functionality of today’s devices and set the foundation for the next generation of tools likely to be used by mobile workers. The latest generations of smartphones, for example, have the required processing power, memory capacity and high-resolution displays to support even the most advanced enterprise systems. When a MEAP is properly integrated, businesses can seamlessly mobilize their core activities, erasing any differences between back-office and front-end user experiences to provide mobile users with the ability to perform any business task from any location at any time.
Choosing a MEAP solution also negates the need for in-house IT departments to require expertise in all of the programming languages and environments needed to provide native client solutions for all mobile device environments individually, such as BlackBerry, iPhone, Android and Windows. Without a MEAP solution, the IT department would be tasked with having to anticipate addressing the challenges of each device, which can prove difficult due to lack of familiarity with the differences in all these environments.
When choosing a mobile enterprise application platform, businesses need to consider a solution that has the ability to deploy to any device. Even if the initial need is to simply deploy to one or two types of devices to start, a MEAP that provides the opportunity to deploy to additional mobile platforms in the future offers more versatility. So how can this be accomplished?
A mobile enterprise application platform must support the native user interface of each device. In other words, a BlackBerry application should look like a BlackBerry application and an application for the iPhone should look like an iPhone application. Approaches such as Web applications using HTML5 can run on more than one mobile device, but the interface essentially stays the same. This can create dissatisfaction when users realize they are basically using an app that was not designed for their device.
The best approach is to choose a MEAP that allows you to develop through a single paradigm and still run applications natively for all mobile devices. This option lets developers specify the use of the native look and feel of the device. A MEAP solution frees users from the burden of programming in several languages that require different skill sets. No longer must IT departments scramble to find experts in .NET Compact and Windows Forms for Windows Mobile, Java J2ME for BlackBerry devices, Java J2SE for Android, or Objective-C for the Apple iPhone. One professional can develop applications for all of these options.
For tomorrow’s smart businesspeople, the thought of having to sit at a desk to get work done will be not only illogical, but plain unnatural. For those users of the future, real-time mobility will be even more fundamental than it is today. Limiting your work force to a single location or static work environment does not make sense. Instead, IT efforts should focus on making it easier for employees to do business from anywhere, at anytime, today and in the future.
Glenn Johnson is senior vice president at Magic Software Enterprises Americas where he is responsible for evangelizing cloud architecture, mobile application platforms and integration solutions.
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