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Mobility – too different from Adobe Flash; could it be too different for your IT as well?

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One big news item that could not really go un-noticed due the headline writers’ interest in linking it to the comments on Steve Jobs and his legacy was the ‘victory’ of Apple over Adobe in the battle of HTML5 versus Adobe Flash. If you didn’t see this then the main point is that Adobe is dropping the mobile version of Flash, whilst the PC version, which after all is the big market for Flash, continues. The Informitv reported this and included the most important point in a quote from Mike Chambers, the principal product manager for the Flash platform at Adobe:

…supporting Flash Player across different mobile hardware devices, operating systems and browsers has proved challenging. “This is something that we realized is simply not scalable or sustainable,” he said.

Put another way, the development path of mobility operating systems and devices is simply following a different path to that of the PC, hence the increasing use of the term ‘post-PC era’ in various articles. This doesn’t mean that the PC is dead, which of course it isn’t, and if we look at the need for heavy duty desk-based transactional work it clearly won’t fade away any more than traditional mainframes have disappeared from heavy duty online transaction processing areas. Though by an interesting coincidence and timing IBM has just announced that Windows applications can be supported on their zServers, or mainframes to the rest of us. CRN news did a good breakdown of the announcement in detail including an interesting example around running SAP.

The ‘post-PC era’ really refers to the form factor and use made of tablets/smartphones, and, as the operating systems for both converge, the difference between the two is rapidly becoming the form factor alone. But it’s not just the form factor, the user experience, gesture driven, better battery life, new features etc., it’s for what and how we use mobility devices that is the important point.

The term ‘mobility’ is associated with devices that are able to function beyond the governance and delivery of traditional enterprise applications, outside the enterprise firewall, and are able to make use of all types of Web-based capabilities including cloud services. For these devices and the people using them the external focus is predominantly on doing business with others, and using external information from the Web via Internet connectivity. As it is the Internet-Web architectural model it is loose-coupled (hence the ‘mobility’ between all resources), stateless and non-deterministic, and with browsers as a key delivery element it is also thin client and requires hosting of its services and data. The Cloud satisfies this requirement and indeed enables the whole model of ‘mobility’ based as applied to outside-in.

As a practical example consider Apple, its App Shop and its iCloud. The Apple App Shop holds the ‘services’ or ‘apps’ that a user can choose to use and provides the authentication for their use. A download provides the enabling client, but in apps such as iFly all the data, or information is supplied as a real-time connection under REST. In the case of a banking app this can be a very secure method of separating the user in the external ‘unsafe’ environment from the secure traditional IT applications, data and systems housed in the ‘safe’ environment inside the firewall. If a user needs personal data, i.e. photos, etc., then Apple offers Apple iCloud storage which can be accessed by any of the user’s devices; PC, iPad, iPhone, or iPod that possess the authentication key thus ensuring that all personal user activities are perfectly synchronized at all times.

True mobility and true cloud are both parts of the same architectural model and business revolution in terms of delivering new capabilities outside of the enterprise. And they are absolutely different from a traditional enterprise client-server application delivered remotely, with its requirement for an extensive and complicated synchronization to maintain externally ‘state-full’ data on the device with all the security risks that go with it. So all in all not a huge surprise that Adobe Flash doesn’t transfer to the new mobility or post-PC world readily. The big point is a lot of other code won’t either, and as mobility is one hot topic at the moment it’s important to make the difference clear, and in a sense I have written it from the technology perspective.

However, it’s got a lot to do with business and business users, so much so that The Economist, very much a business publication, has recently run an online debate as to whether or not we are in a ‘post-PC era’ with the motion:

Some folk in the technology industry, including the late Steve Jobs, have argued that we are now in a "post-PC" era. According to this view, the PC is no longer the center of the computing world. Instead, it is taking a back seat to a wide range of new mobile-computing devices which will dominate the future. These include tablet computers and smartphones. Combined shipments of the two devices are forecast to exceed those of PCs for the first time this year. So is the PC passé? Or is talk of a post-PC world overblown?

The side ‘against’ the motion is led by a leading Microsoft person. But if you read his opening presentation even though he is arguing against the motion he accepts that it will be both PCs and mobility devices that will make up the business estate of technology. So if you’re contemplating making mobility work for your enterprise and maybe even controlling those rebel users who have gone off with their own devices do make sure that you understand the difference between connecting enterprise applications to mobile devices, versus true mobility which is entirely different!

About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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