Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going Mobile for your enterprise? What to consider?

There is a lot of buzz out there. Every enterprise wants a presence on the hand held device and rightly so. We have enough proof that it is the future. There are a plethora of platforms to run on, all of them distinct and to an extent proprietary. It is always a tough choice for the architects to choose what are the steps to follow and what to target. The following are some of my experiences and learning on this.

The Mobile Web

For any organization which is venturing out to the mobile platform, the first and the easiest option to have a presence is the Mobile Web. Most smart phones come with full fledged HTML browsers capable of running JavaScript and even flash. It is very quick to do so as all you need is to make a customized UI for fitting in the smaller screen sizes. (More on what to consider on my earlier post here)

The advantages are many,

  • The time to market and cost is minimal.
  • You target all or most of the devices in one shot.
  • You can reuse your entire back-end infrastructure as it is.
  • You could always have 2 versions of your site - one for high-end devices and other for lower end and redirect traffic according to the User Agent headers.
  • It helps to understand your user base. (Explained in next section)

Understand your user base

If you look at the web there is enough data available on the prominent platforms, which is most popular today, which one is growing faster etc etc. I would think that as architects we look at our specific enterprises user base before jumping in to conclusions.

For following points to be noted regarding developing native apps:

  • It is practically impossible for enterprises to target all platforms.
  • Also generic solutions like J2ME (which can run on all platforms having the run time installed) have been found to be not as powerful in exploiting the phone's specific features in a lot of platforms. So at times, your application loses the coolness it could have had by developing on the native SDK.

Which platform should I target?

I believe the answer lies in knowing your user base. And that is where your mobile website helps. By capturing the analytics on your mobile website, you could easily come up with the required data for the most prominent platforms in your user base. This is a fairly quick exercise and the patterns should be clear in a couple of months if you have enough traffic on your mobile web site.

It makes sense to drive your decision based on data and customize your solutions to your specific user base.


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