Archive for December, 2009

Three Brides for Three Technology Specialists

December 15, 2009

 The season of good will is fast approaching. But let’s not concern ourselves with the triviality of showing good will to all men. After all, there’s fun to be had. When it comes to festive frivolities, sitting round the TV is a fairly basic staple of most family Christmases. There’s your annual cry-a-thon to EastEnders, the obligatory Morecambe and Wise re-runs and a collection of blockbuster movies. But this year, you can enjoy something a little bit different. Rather than an old time musical like ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’, sit back and enjoy a modern variation on a familiar theme – ‘Three Brides for Three Technology Specialists’.

In the style of a reality TV show, the three brides in question have agreed to celebrate their recent weddings to three technology grooms. And all three brides have agreed to come back and talk to the cameras after their big day. The three grooms all work in different areas of technology – there’s a software specialist, a design specialist and an integration specialist. Everyone will be on their best behaviour; there won’t be any talk of ‘solutions’ and PowerPoint presentations are strictly banned. So, sit back with a glass of mulled wine and enjoy the different stories of our three brides. First up is a bride that’s married the software specialist, a groom that is often seen hanging around on office computers and high street PCs. “Oh, his soft stuff was great,” says the bride, referring back to the big night. “We were able to get down to some pretty enjoyable basics. But when it came to his hardware, I was left disappointed.” Time for a long slug on the mulled wine, me thinks. Who’s up next? Ah, the bride that married the design specialist – a guy that has dedicated his life to looking cool and trendy. “Talk about fast,” says his bride, somewhat snappily. “His equipment was great to look at. But he just wanted to cut out the sweet stuff and get straight to the action.” Mixed reports from the first two brides, then – a groom that’s good at the soft stuff and one with great-looking hardware. But what about the other bride, how was her big night? The bride – who’s married an integration specialist with a reputation for being a satisfactory choice – simply bursts out crying. “We’ve been building up to this for years,” she says. “He told me everything would be awesome. But when it came to the big moment, he wanted to wait another six months.” Big promises and big heartache – in the end, it all feels a bit like an EastEnders Christmas special.

Pass me the mulled wine!


Mobile usability

December 4, 2009

The business world’s suddenly gone mobile, with workers logging on to enterprise applications through handheld devices. Sounds good, but are mobiles really ready?

Increasing hype surrounding cloud computing suggests more and more enterprise apps will be accessed online. Email is already a mobile mainstay, thanks in large part to the speed of BlackBerry Enterprise Server. But for many other tools, there is still some way to go before mobile working becomes a business reality.

The most obvious facet of mobile devices is their size; they are – of course – much smaller than their desktop cousins. Which means that for content heavy processes, creating usable apps for smaller devices can be a difficult task.

Think of your key enterprise tools; think of how much space you need to work with and manipulate the information held on your spreadsheets. Now think about undertaking that manipulation on a web-based mobile device.

For enterprises, going truly mobile means making sure form and function supports usability. So, what do we need to do that is special for handheld devices?

Some experts believe the first port of call should be the programming language, with proponents keen to push the significance of XHTML Mobile Profile (XHTML MP), a hypertextual standard designed specifically for mobile devices. However, such a harbour would be the wrong destination for two key reasons.

First, XHTML MP is by no means a common framework; different devices require specific tweaks and adaptations. Second, processor power means mobile devices are no longer constrained and creating a specific framework is a waste of time and effort.

Technology has moved on and browser capability has improved. Flash and Java-based applications are also beginning to find a suitable home on portable technologies.

But other problems do remain paramount – and, notably, the screen is still small. If you are going to work with enterprise information, you will need a bigger display. And when it comes to displays for mobile devices, I am open to potential solutions.

Philips has pioneered developments in rollable screen technology, which could help users work on larger mobile devices. High definition colour and video-based formats are still some time away, however.

Plastic Logic, meanwhile, is just months away from launching the first electronic screen, an A4-sized intelligent display. But again, the company doubts the market is currently ready for the roll-out screen.

Give it time. In a few years, we will be all carrying enterprise-ready mobile devices that allow us to manipulate information on the move. And when I am right, you can remember that you heard it here first.


Further reading