Posts Tagged ‘portals’

Technologies for the new age of mobility

September 1, 2009

The talk of the IT industry is that we are about to enter a new age of mobility. But as the market for mobile phones and chips is actually falling, it is important to seek the deeper trends beneath the vendor puff.

 The semiconductor industry posted a decline in revenue for only the fifth time in the last 25 years in 2008, according to Gartner. The analyst reports that global mobile phone sales are being hit even harder, with a record 8.6% drop in sales during the first quarter of 2009.

 But not all areas of device manufacturer are struggling. The new age of mobility requires a new age of mobile devices, with technologies and applications to match.

 Gartner says sales of multimedia-enabled smartphones – such as Apple’s iPhone or RIM’s BlackBerry – rose 12.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2009. In fact, smart devices should account for at least half of all mobile phones by 2012.

 So, why the rush to smartphones? And from accelerometers to micromachines, what are the technologies that will drive the next stage of device interactivity?

 Apple’s iPhone uses an accelerometer to automatically reorient the screen to landscape when the device is tipped on its side. Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii controller uses an accelerometer, too.

 Consumer demand for smarter applications on interactive devices means growth will continue, with market researcher iSuppli expecting the market for accelerometers to almost double by 2013 and hit $1.7bn.

 It is not just about mobile gamers, either. Due to the continuing spread of consumerisation, businesses are being forced to find innovative ways to adopt the collaborative and interactive technologies that many employees now take for granted.

 The use of accelerometers is part of a broader use of micromachines, a set of minute components and a microprocessor that allow mobile devices to act smart. Certain micromachine technologies, notably inkjet printing, are already commonplace in business.

 Technology firms are now finding other pioneering ways to ally micromachine and mobile technology. Take Texas Instruments, which is pioneering the use of micro projectors and digital light processing in portable devices.

 Or computer giant IBM, who continue to work on the Millipede data storage project and which aims to provide data density of more than one terabit per square inch.

 Such developments help to illustrate why traditional semiconductor revenues are struggling and sales of smart devices are soaring. Micromachine technology means that a new age of mobility is fast approaching.


Further reading


The 2nd Wave of Mobile Applications

June 18, 2009

From the banking crisis to rising unemployment levels, the downturn has had a number of damaging effects.

 Losing your job and struggling to repay your mortgage is an all too visible sign of the recession. But some affects are more underlying.

 Businesses – and IT leaders, more specifically – are continually being told of the need to innovate their way out of the downturn. Attend any conference at the moment and the message is the same: those that continue to invest will be best prepared for an upturn.

 So much for the rhetoric – while it is one thing aiming for innovation, it is quite another investing in new areas of business IT. Having to account closely for all areas of spending means some projects are being delayed or shelved.

 The consequential affects on innovation are clear. And mobile device development is one outlying area of development that has been affected by the recession. In particular, the downturn has helped apply the breaks on the quicker emergence of a second wave of mobile devices.

 User spending on mobile entertainment services will slow dramatically, increasing by nearly $13bn during the next five years, according to Juniper Research. The analyst previously predicted pre-downturn growth of $26bn (see further reading, below).

 The new figure represents a significant drop. But $13bn still represents a considerable increase when other areas of IT and telecom development are stalling.

 And while spending on high cost content is slower than might have been anticipated, businesses are continuing to invest is in the area of mobile services.

 Analysts suggest mobile social networking, applications and broadband will continue to receive significant investment (see further reading), helping to support the emerging bandwagon of a ‘desktop in your pocket’.

 Take Apple’s iPhone, with its excellent web-browser rendering and billion-selling, or freely downloaded, apps (see further reading). The success of the iPhone shows how users are already benefiting from a second wave of mobility, where individuals can stay connected and create knowledge through an easy-to-use interface.

 Reports suggest the level of mobile and online activity is increasing in importance, with people today spending more than 20% of their time consuming ‘new media’ (see further reading).

 The message is clear. When times are tight, businesses are unlikely to spend on expensive content that has an indeterminate value. At the same time, they will continue to invest on usable mobile technologies that help boost collaboration and provide access to information.

 So when the green shoots of recovery sprout, make sure your business users already have access to a desktop in the pocket.


Further reading


Wake up to the power of the web browser

May 11, 2009

Are you still using the desktop; still choosing to access enterprise applications through Windows?

It can be difficult to break away from accepted ways of working. Managing such a break is even more complicated when the business is bamboozled by a series of marketing buzzwords.

The big hype of the moment is cloud computing, a generic term used to describe the provision of scalable enterprise services over the web. Rather than having to access applications through a traditional desktop interface, businesses can use the cloud to host applications and store data.

As many as nine out of ten C-level executives know what cloud computing is and what it can do, according to a recent survey by consultancy Avanade and Kelton Research (see further reading, below).

But at the same time, 61% of senior managers are not currently using cloud technologies. For the majority, it is probably time you woke up to the power of the web browser.

Working through a web browser is no longer a niche activity. and Google Apps are high profile and popular examples of how users can access applications through a web browser.

Such cloud-based software suites mean users can enter the browser and work collaboratively on essential documents. The high quality of services also means users can also benefit from the functionality of traditional desktop software, such as drag and drop, and multiple interfaces.

There are still issues to overcome, of course. Some businesses remained concerned about hosting information outside the corporate firewall. And recent problems with Google Mail show how failure of the cloud could derail essential business processes.

Such issues mean providers will have to develop secure methods for accessing browser-based applications offline, as well as online. However, such problems are minimal given the quick development of cloud computing.

Businesses often need a high profile sponsor to help push new technologies. When it comes to browser-based apps, there can be no more prestigious supporter than Vivek Kundra, the new CIO of the United States and a confirmed fan of Google Apps (see further reading).

What’s more, the recession is likely to push interest in cost effective and hosted applications. The Avanade and Kelton research also found that 54% of executives use technology to cut costs.

In these economically sensitive times and with an increasing high level of functionality, the web browser can help your IT department provide a great customer experience.

Further reading

Cloud computing is a two-edged sword

The new US CIO is a fan of Google Apps

Why create portals when you can create a composite application?

January 21, 2009

Why create portals when you can create a composite application?


As I mentioned in an earlier post on usability issues, next generation portals will be unlikely to provide useful access to information unless IT managers take control of infrastructure issues.


By their inherent nature, portals require users to run multiple sessions on screen; each portal application requires a different connection to the back-end infrastructure.


If you’re running many applications in one portal, the strain on your network and hardware can be unbearable. So, why bother with portals?


Well, a well-implemented portal can help present essential information to essential users. But you have to get your approach right.


First things first – identify the process you want to solve. Whether it’s supply-chain management or customer service, recognise the information that will help drive increased business intelligence.


As you strive to create the right approach, don’t think of a portal as a bunch of separate applications that are best served by in-house storage assets.


If you do, the aforementioned information strain on your servers is likely to be unbearable. Instead, look to client side session management and keep data in the browser, rather than on the server (see my earlier blog posting in ‘Further reading’, below, for more details).


Then recognise that most of your users will have a small screen estate that cannot readily support four or five open windows.


Even if your back-end infrastructure can stand the strain of running simultaneous applications, your users’ eyes won’t – and as soon as key executives are straining to see detail, hopes for increased usability and high efficiency start to disappear.


Remember, that one process should mean one application. Pushing multiple sessions is not an intelligent way to provide clarity on your key business process.


Don’t think of your portal as a jigsaw, where small elements create a bigger and more effective whole. Instead, start with the process in-mind, and create a composite picture that includes all the functionality needed to solve your business concern through a single mashed-up application.


Analyst Gartner suggests mash-ups could emerge as an alternative to horizontal portals. I would go further and suggest that composite applications are the future of portals.


Giving users the power to create mash-ups through the browser will increase the effectiveness of your information push and reduce the strain on your servers.



Further reading:


Improving functionality for your users

November 28, 2008

While the benefits of a service-oriented back-end are well rehearsed, less attention is paid to the presentation layer and the creation of a user-friendly front-end.


For IT leaders dabbling with SOA, one question remains crucial: how can you improve functionality for users and create an intuitive method for data access?


Your task is unlikely to be simple. After all, the potential benefits of SOA can be a difficult nettle for business leaders to grasp, never mind technologists.


So, concentrate on front-end portal and dashboard technology – because it is a stand that is likely to help you convince non-believers.


Portals are best viewed as the presentation layer for users looking to access service-oriented enterprise applications.


Dashboards, on the other hand, can be integrated with an SOA approach to provide increased business intelligence. A dashboard – which is usually set in a portal environment – can provide visibility into previously unavailable information by combining unconnected systems.


Beyond simply providing a usable front-end service, an initial portal-based project can demonstrate how an SOA approach can help the business make use of existing resources and give users improved access to information.


Analyst CMS Watch raises some key concerns, notably suggesting that some vendors sell enterprise portals that only run on top of their own SOA software – an approach which seems to contradict the inherent aim of loosely coupled software.


SOA portals and dashboards need to flexible, so users can create new applications from existing components.


Look for a provider that priorities intuition and allows the business to fully customise the front-end.


Then as customer demands for services change, you will be able to really provide a user interface that evolves over time.