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If you own an Iphone, an Ipad, an Android phone, or any of the other highly connected mobile devices, you get a very good idea of where computing is going. The problem is that we are still stuck on the same paradigm when it comes to services and work. Chained to a desktop is no way to go through life, but even some of the sparky new apps that you can purchase – there is still a very long way to go.
This year I have bought two new devices, an Ipad and an Android phone. The part of those purchases that have so caught my attention is that they immediately fit into how I use computers. I didn’t have to change anything, how I work, what I wanted to do or how I wanted to do it. The Ipad took about an hour to set up for me, my Android phone about a day (I upgraded from a Motorola Q Windows phone and was unsure of how the Android phone polled the 3G and Wireless networks or what its default poll setting was when searching for a network to connect to, that took a phone call to Verizon who was wonderfully spot on with information).
Some issues though crop immediately to mind – especially when trying to work with work related enterprise systems. Our windows infrastructure is not up to the task, nor is the wireless network ready for prime time. Both of those deficiencies simply stop the mobile worker from accessing corporate resources at anytime from any place. When traveling on Friday – I had to break out the laptop to do work; modifying documents via SharePoint was not going to happen on either the Ipad or my shiny new Android phone.
Another thing I noted along the way was the applications available in the android marketplace, along with the Ipad apps that I wanted to use show a shocking disregard for UI (User Interface) design in many cases. Some apps were so bad they had to be removed because they were not ready for prime time. We are not talking fly by night small studio applications, but applications like Friends Around Me, Facebook, and others that were not updated to be on the Ipad.
Some applications like the twitter client for my HTC Incredible were polling twitter so much eventually it was easier and better to turn off the application because I kept on running into hard stop limits on the number of twitter logins I could have. With the twitter client engaged on the droid, I was effectively locked out of twitter by any other means. When I was talking to Verizon about this, they simply said many people turn it off and never turn it on again. As a company, you do not want people downloading your app, then turning it off never to use it again.
We are still significantly working out the bugs and chinks when it comes to small footprint applications that tie into back end cloud computing or enterprise computing systems. That does not mean that developers should forgo good UI, or ensure that their applications behave on the network. We are at the point now where the proliferation of crappy applications with serious defects outweighs the number of great applications that work and function as advertised. There is not an excuse for applications that behave badly, or do not have simple clean elegant user interfaces. This is especially important on small screen mobile devices where the size of keys, and screen real estate are at a premium. No one wants to struggle though an application to make it work.
Enterprise systems, those systems that we actually attempt to do work from are also subject to the same rules as any other good interface design. In the end people will move data from those internal systems to external systems with better UI, or better performance which can lead to security issues if the data is subject to oversight or corporate governance standards. It is the enterprise that needs to truly start developing effective UI and well behaving applications when dealing with the mobile environment. The next big frontier is mobile, and enterprise systems need to ensure that they are as easy and as clean to use in a mobile environment as they are on the desktop.
(Cross-posted @ IT Toolbox)