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Mobile Applications on Laptop or Handheld; And The Winner is….

Confinement has always been meted with a rebellion to move out free. The desire to be your own boss, to plan your own schedule or to work on your own terms has always been inherent in every living species (I did not want to state and confine these desires only for humans).

Though not all mortals are lucky enough to fulfill these desires but some of us get this opportunity, because of the very nature of our job itself. “Sales Force Professionals” could be cited as an example.  Organizations plan and spend to keep this mobile force active, productive and efficient.  But in this ever-changing technology world, the choice of tools to be given to your mobile workforce should be planned cautiously.

Primarily application service providers have been offering mobile services on two technology platforms:

·        Laptop based

·        Handheld based

Both the solutions might have different technology platforms, but the intent was same: “To provide an offline medium for your workforce to manage their work, which could later be synchronized with organization’s central servers upon finding the connectivity”.

Both the solutions were evenly placed so far but with the emerging technologies of SOA and Convergence, the tide seems to be tilting more towards handheld when it comes to mobility.  The reasons are as follows:

1.      Wireless networks dominance

a.       Gone are the days of physical LAN connectivity when it comes to internet. Wi-Fi networks are prevalent everywhere from Starbucks to Airports. So why companies should invest in a laptop based mobile solution for CRM/ERP when the users can get connected to their central application servers despite being outside their offices?

b.      Does it make a difference if a Sales Executive accesses his organization’s CRM application from his office or from Airport lounge or from his client’s wireless network? His laptop in Wi-Fi  network is as good as his office PC connected to LAN.

2.      Web-Services based offline content/documents

a.       Companies like Adobe have revolutionized the offline document content and storage facilities. Why should companies invest in expensive laptop based mobility solutions when offline content can be stored in Adobe forms and synced up with servers through web services?

b.      These solutions are economical and easy to implement instead of setting up heavy mobility infrastructure requiring multiple servers and development workstations.

3.      Rich internet applications availability on handhelds

a.       It is needless to state that the likes of Blackberrys, Palms, iPhones etc. are leading the convergence revolution like never before.

b.      Most of the leading packaged applications provider including SAP and Oracle have out of the box solutions for hand-held devices like Blackberry. 

c.       In this context, why a Sales Executive need to open his laptop to update an opportunity after meeting a client? All he needs to do is to open his CRM app on blackberry, attach the meeting note to an existing opportunity and save. And huh… he is done !!!

 

Though these few points should no way be considered as writing an obituary for Laptop based mobility solutions but this is just an indication of the things to expect in mobile world for the future.

Lastly, some of the specific industry’s business processes will keep utilizing the services of Laptop based solution due to the inherent nature of their business. One example could be the Pharmaceuticals, where the Medical Representatives will keep using the laptop to discuss drugs, formulations, regulations and order booking on his/her laptop irrespective of connectivity.

Considering the fact that mobile infrastructure needs heavy investment and longer implementation cycles, decision to choose optimal devices for your mobility needs can go a long way in managing costs in these challenging economic times.

Comments

Laptops offer mobility. Handhelds offer ultramobility. And of course mobility comes with compromises: battery life (imagine 800MHz processors with WiFi!), cramped up keypads (QWERTY in 3 rows), limited screen estate (320x480 on 3.2 in). Imagine filling out a form or looking up product availability while listening to music on an iPhone. Saving grace is that there's no multitasking on the iPhone (yet). Netbooks are the rage lately (think Macbook Air). And I see enterprises investing more there than on a fleet of iPhones. Perhaps even Android powered (blurring the distinction even further). My two cents anyway.

Hi Vishal,

I think much has been said about the security issue when it comes to mobility. One of the biggest deterrent for handheld adoption in the near future will be the fact that customer information is readily accessible in a easy to lose device. Without proper security in place, organizations will think twice before pushing handhelds to their sales forces.

Hi Deepak

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, which are so very valid.

Though my point of view was not on laptop alone but rather specialized mobile apps for laptops. Companies like SAP have invested millions on developing mobile apps for laptops, so that their SFA users can access master data and create transactions on laptops even in offline mediums. And that is where the the trend is changing. The focus to invest in such applications is receding by both vendors and customers. Reason is simple, that the same SFA user can connect to organization app servers through Wi-Fi through secure mediums even when he is out of company's premises. I mean, the line between the PC and laptop is getting blurred in that sense.

Instead they would rather spend money to provide mobility on handhelds, which do require specific mobility apps to access same enterprise solutions.

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