Tag Archives: mobile apps

MobileDay – The Mobile Experience Made Easy

In my year-long experiment with working mobile-only, I have, on many occasions, run into the challenge of needing to join a conference call. While one wouldn’t normally label joining a conference call as challenging, doing so solely from the phone can prove tedious. The difficulty is that the information and pin code for the conference call is either in a meeting invite or an email, while dialing the phone usually occurs in a separate app. I usually have two unsatisfactory options. I can repeat the conference number and pin code to myself over and over like a half – crazed person in an attempt to commit it to short term memory. Alternatively, I can write down the information on a piece of paper beforehand. Fail and fail again – so much for simplicity. That is, until I connected with MobileDay Co-Founder Brad Dupee.

“The whole premise of MobileDay is the notion that it’s very convenient to be on a mobile phone, it’s not necessarily easy,” said Dupee. MobileDay is piecing together the little steps that make a huge difference in the interoperability of apps and services. MobileDay’s initial product offering is a business app that provides one-touch access to any conference call on any service provider from an iPhone or Android smartphone. MobileDay will dial your conference call, PIN and all, with a single touch. “We are tackling one particular problem to launch the company with, which is, one-touch joining of any conference call whether you are a host or a guest of the call,” Dupee said.

There are also a couple additional one-touch features around conference calls and meetings that MobileDay has identified and implemented. The first is one-touch meeting status updates. This feature allows you to quickly update all meeting attendees of your status. For example, if you are running late, one-click will update everyone via email or text. “Rather than searching for you or memorizing your email address, I can just quickly send you an update. I already have your contact information relative to the event right there,” Dupee explained. MobileDay also has a one-touch feature to pull up address in a map app. Best of all MobileDay and its conference solution is free.

While there is some overlap between MobileDay and existing native functionality, Mobile Day provides the ability to do this directly in one-touch from an alert that is displayed 30 seconds before a call. As Dupee explained, “To us, that is our primary feature, when you have a call and you have to get on. Oftentimes it is at that 30 second mark. People realize they have to wrap up one meeting and join the call. And even though you have had a reminder, it is that critical time period right before the call that you realize you don’t have the conference id. Then you have to go hunting for it. It is painful.”

MobileDay has created an experience that is advantageous to all involved in the conference call. “There are independent conference providers that have their app where it works if you are the host of the meeting. But you are out of luck if you are a guest of the meeting,” Dupee stated. “There is an average of 4.5 people per conference call, if only the host can use an app, then there are 3.5 other people who aren’t getting the benefit of the app. With MobileDay it doesn’t matter what you use, it doesn’t matter the service provider, and it doesn’t matter if you are the host or guest. If you are the host you set up your profile information one time in the app. If you want to host a meeting, you can either schedule it from MobileDay or form your regular calendar and it will show up, putting the same details you would normally put in there into the meeting. We can recognize when you are the host based on your identifiers,” he explained.

MobileDay, founded last year in Boulder Colorado, has been in soft launch since that time. However, Mobile Day is kicking things into high gear this week with the official launch of the company. MobileDay is also a finalist in the MobileBeat 2012 Innovation Competition put on by VentureBeat. MobileDay is backed financially by some pretty hefty financial partners such as Google Ventures, Foundry Group, SoftBank Capital, DH Capital, and others.

One-touch features around conference calling are just the beginning for MobileDay. If there is one thing that was abundantly clear in my discussions with Dupee is that MobileDay gets the concept of interoperability and the mobile ecosystem. The amount of effort that went into building the current app, which functions across many different platforms, carriers, and OS variations is a testament to MobileDay’s commitment to building an ecosystem. Dupee and the team at MobileDay are looking at several other services, both mobile and cloud-based, where business users would greatly benefit from one-touch integration. Dupee envisions MobileDay tying together other mission critical business functions with the same seamless simplicity. If the convenience, interoperability, and simplicity that MobileDay offers with one-touch conferencing is any indication of things to come, expect to see many exciting announcements from MobileDay in the near future.

One-Touch into any conference call with MobileDay™.  No matter where you are or what you’re doing, eliminate the hassle of dialing, remembering codes, and writing down conference details.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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The Skinny on Mobile ‘Lacklications’

There was some light-hearted discussion yesterday on twitter surrounding Brian Katz’s open solicitation for suggestions of mobile ‘crapplications’. For the un-initiated, crapplication is a term to describe the effect scope-creep has upon an application lifecycle. Right about the time when you can start applying the 80/20 rule to an application, it has become a crapplication. Katz wrote a great article on it last fall that you should check out if you haven’t already.

As Katz writes, “a crapplication is really just a term for a bloated desktop application…an application that is bloated with many useless features for the majority of users.” He continues to say, that a crapplication “makes it difficult to figure out how to manipulate your data,” by which he means a bad user interface and user experience.

To build upon Katz’s idea of a crapplication, as well as what’s dogging me at the moment in my mobile-only quest, isn’t so much bloat and bad UI (though there is some of that), it is the lack of functionality in many of the apps I use.  From my experience, the current state of mobility isn’t in a state of bloat, but one of anemic proportions. Many mobile apps need some good old-fashion functional protein to put a little meat on their bones. The skeleton is there, but some of the basic features are just missing. I’m not seeing a lot of crap, but rather a lot of lack. These functional weaklings could be considered ‘Lacklications’.

For example, office productivity apps lack word count, track changes, and a table of contents. Blogging apps are missing features such as scheduling, comments, and preview. I have to use the web front end to accomplish this. The native version of apps such as Lync and OneNote are missing painfully basic features. The native Android email client doesn’t let me access notes or tasks in exchange. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Some of the cause for emaciation is due to market /platform/apps maturity. Some of it is due to the screen real-estate of the device itself – the small size limits and dictates some functionality. Some of it is due to the fact that certain functions are just not possible in a mobile context. Whatever the reason, it is painfully obvious that you can see the rib-cage of many mobile apps.

But here is the good news. Mobile is new! Mobile is exciting! Mobile is acting as one big, fat reset button not only for many enterprises, but app vendors as well. As I have written about recently, they are using mobility as the excuse to re-examine how ‘we’ve always done things’. They are looking at how we can perform functions and processes in a more efficient manner.   Hopefully this means there is opportunity for loads of excess functional fat to be left on the chopping block. This will also hopefully translate into clients working with app vendors to assure that the right pieces of functionality are being developed.

Who knows, perhaps one-day in the near future, I’ll be cursing my bloated mobile ‘crapplications’ with specialized functionality intended for just a select few and a bad UI to boot.  Hopefully, the mobile context will guide and spur just the right level of development. The question for the future of mobile apps is – are they going to exercise and eat a healthy diet to build functional muscle or are they going right back to the same fatty diet? Typical human behavior says bad habits are hard to break – but what do you think?

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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User Identity in a Mobile Ecosystem

For many of us in the enterprise our network identity is currently very limited in scope. Our userID is most likely comprised of just a user name and a password. This is all that is required and used to authenticate us to access the company network and information. But this concept of identity, which reaches back many years into a different era of computing, is too simple for the complexities of a mature enterprise mobile ecosystem. It is functional, but there are many aspects of security and services that are limited due to its relative lack of information. The use of identity in a mobile ecosystem needs to evolve beyond simply who (username/password) to an ecosystem identity of who, what, when, where, and how.

As enterprises move more towards a mobile enabled workforce, many of an organization’s resources, such as devices, data, and applications are not located solely on-premise. They may not even be connected via the corporate network and are therefore, not even behind the firewall.  As well, users are able to sync directly to cloud services to access vital corporate information. This exposure increases security risks that can be mitigated by leveraging solutions such as MDM, Single-Sign-On Services, Application Management, etc. Unfortunately, the notion of username/password is just one factor in this new reality of a mobile ecosystem. So, how can enterprises be assured that information is safe?

A mature mobile ecosystem will require that identity be able to address not only username and password, but attributes such as location, user devices, apps, and time zones. These additional attributes allow advanced systems further capabilities to ensure ‘network’, i.e. ecosystem, security.  For example, a highly-evolved mobile ecosystem shouldn’t allow a ‘user’ to login if they are not doing so using an expected device or from an unusual location. The additional information can also be tied into application functionality. For example, a company with a globally distributed workforce could leverage time-zone information for productivity and collaboration apps.

In order to evolve identity for an enterprise mobile ecosystem, standard identity attributes need to expand beyond the norms of just username/password. This mostly likely will be driven by pressure from management platforms, such as MDM solutions, as they are a natural location to want to leverage this data. These platforms also intrinsically understand the notion of a mobile ecosystem and can therefore, put this information to better use than directory services. This will differ from current thinking about identity. Presently, the idea of network and identity, form a corporate perspective, is very directory and on-premise based. In a mobile ecosystem, Active Directory will continue to play a central role, but management of that ecosystem, will place pressure to expand its boundaries. The advantages are too great to ignore.

Management of this ecosystem identity doesn’t need to be a chore either. There is no reason that it can’t be part of a self-service portal, or part of the on-boarding process with the enrollment of new mobile devices on your network. This co-ownership of your identity increases accuracy as well lessens the management load on IT staff.

In much how Microsoft SharePoint helped enterprises realize the limitations of the attributes available to use with files stored on a network share, mobile ecosystems are pushing enterprise to see limitations with simple user identity.  SharePoint demonstrated that organizations can collect information beyond just file name and date and use it powerfully in company processes. An expanded notion of identity will provide additional functionality and enhanced security options. It will also allow enterprises to effectively secure and manage a mobile ecosystem. What challenges do you see with the current notion of identity? How would you envision its evolution? Post a comment and let me know!

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LiveCirrus – Mobile-Enabling Your Legacy Apps and Content

LiveCirrusAre you in a hurry to get an existing Java application mobile-enabled without a complete re-write of the code? Do you have content that have been developed in Flash that you want delivered via iOS or Android? LiveCirrus, an innovative mobile company, has a way for you to leverage your existing investment of legacy systems and content. LiveCirrus offers a service that allows companies to deploy proprietary software and content to a virtualized system that is accessible via popular mobile platforms. Speaking via phone, Mark Schinkel, head of marketing for LiveCirrus stated, “We create a native shell-app for your content.” This shell wraps your existing app or content, thus allowing it to operate in a non-native scenario.  “We can deliver content and apps to mobile devices that would be cost prohibitive to rebuild as an HTML 5 solution,” he continued. This is a huge win for organizations that have made a significant investment in content or apps who want to continue to leverage them but in a mobile context.

The enterprise offering of LiveCirrus is built on top of their consumer application, named Cloud Browse. Cloud Browse, which has been downloaded over 1 million times, allows users the ability to view and interact with websites containing content that is incompatible with iOS and Android. Cloud Browse opens a desktop FireFox browser session on LiveCirrus’ secure, remote cloud servers to provide the native experience. Both the consumer and enterprise services are hosted on Amazon E3 servers.

Besides delivering the experience in a SSL browser, LiveCirrus’ enterprise offering can secure content in several ways depending on needs. The shell-app can require a username and password upon launch or require authentication on the server side before granting access to the content or application. LiveCirrus offers the flexibility of serving content from their datacenter or yours. Currently the container that the content or app runs under is Linux based. Windows support is offered through emulation at the moment, but native Windows support is on the near-term roadmap.

Getting set-up is an easy process that can take a few days to a couple of weeks depending upon the amount of content and complexities of deployment. LiveCirrus’ enterprise offering is a conversion process right now, but an SDK will soon be available so that companies can integrate their services directly into their mobile strategy. Pricing is typically done on a per user basis. LiveCirrus’ offering is a great option for companies needing to bridge the gap between existing line-of-business investments and the advantages of mobility. Check them out today at http://www.livecirrus.com

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Speed up Your Mobile App Dev Productivity with tiggzi

I got a chance to catch up with Max Katz, Developer Relations, of tiggzi this morning at Mobile World Congress. tiggzi is a mobile application development platform that is hosted in the cloud (Amazon Web Services). tiggzi started off as a prototyping tool. What the team quickly realized is that this cool drag and drop prototyping tool could be extended to actually wire up the controls to RESTful web services as well. This, coupled with a very clean and efficient UI, has evolved into a very powerful productivity tool for mobile app developers. Katz related that their target user is the “citizen developer”.  Though the tool is primarily a drag and drop experience developers can still add custom java script to their application. tiggzi can leverage publicly published RESTful web services or those created through back-end services such as Parse. What is most intriguing to those of us who create mobile apps is the speed at which apps can be up and running. Below are a few shots of the UI to give you a sense of how cleanly it is laid out. tiggzi has a free version for a single app – definitely worth checking out.

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appMobi For the Enterprise MWC12

I had a great conversation with Joe Monastiero,  VP of Business Development at appMobi. Many of you may already be familiar with appMobi – the cloud platform for app development. Their platform delivers an integrated development, deployment, and payment solution to all the major app markets and devices. One thing you probably don’t know is that this platform can be leveraged for your enterprise app needs as well. appMobi is beginning to provide a model for larger enterprises to white label their solution to a separate private cloud environment. Hosted on Amazon Web Services appMobi will keep these one-off deployments up to the latest version as well. Regardless if you negotiate a enterprise license or not you can always use their public version for you app dev needs.

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Mobile Application Management – Enabling the Enterprise

Cimarron BuserThis is the second half of my interview with Cimarron Buser, VP of Business Development at Apperian. In the first post we looked at how Buser views the user experience as central to Apperian’s approach to BYOD. Today we’ll focus on how Buser and Apperian are turning that user-centric focus into a whole new level of enterprise engagement.

To understand how Buser views client engagements you must first understand Apperian’s history as a company. Apperian was founded in 2009 by Chuck Goldman, who was at the time an executive working at Apple. Goldman was part of the in-house group that built apps for iOS. With the blessing of Apple, Goldman initially started Apperian as a professional services company that took their app building experience and leveraged it to create business to consumer apps. This B2C mobile development experience lead to building in-house apps for companies as well. This close proximity to internal processes provided Apperian key insights into the challenges companies were experiencing managing the app life-cycle. In an effort to solve this problem Apperian created EASE, their platform that allows businesses to create, deploy, and manage mobile apps. All that time in the trenches of in-house app development created not only an app management platform for Apperian but a holistic model for Mobile Application Management (MAM).

I asked Buser if he views Apperian as a MAM vendor. “Yes, we are in the Mobile Application Management space, but we really like to think of it as Enterprise Application Enablement.” For Buser, apps aren’t just an end-product to be managed, but rather a value proposition that needs to be understood from start to finish.  Buser relayed that Enterprise Application Enablement includes “how you enable companies to build and produce apps easily”. This focus on enabling enterprise coupled with the user-centric perspective (discussed in the first post) allows Apperian to deliver long-term value for their clients

MAM Insight – Enabling users and enterprises is a winning combo.

So what does Enterprise Application Enablement look like in practice? For Buser this means working with companies to answer key questions such as “how do companies decide what apps to build and who is going to need access?” Apperian’s practical experience lends itself very nicely to this sort of discovery. “We are able to offer assistance and guidance on app development as well as share pain points,” Buser noted.

MAM Insight – Besides key functionality, can your partners offer strategic guidance?

We ended our conversation discussing Buser’s thoughts on how companies should evaluate and distinguish between MAM platforms. Buser stated “you have to just try the product out.”  He explained how easy to use their platform is. “Everyone says their platform is easy to use, but easy to use is more than a checkbox.”  Buser wisely pointed out that app feature checklists have some real shortcomings in product evaluations. “It isn’t what you can do, it is the way you can do it,” he exclaimed, “our platform is known for its ease of use.” Apperian’s history and perspective certainly give them the foundation required to deliver upon that claim.

MAM Insight – Look beyond the feature checklist – ask yourself, how easy is it to use this platform?

 

ApperianApperian is a mobile application management (MAM) company. The Apperian EASE platform delivers enterprise mobility services that today enable many of the world’s largest corporations to securely deploy and manage mobile apps for iOS and Android. Apperian is empowering the liberated enterprise to support the BYOD revolution.To learn more visit http://www.apperian.com/   

Benjamin Robbins is one of the founders of AdminBridge – providing IT Administration from mobile devices. For more information visit http://adminbridge.com

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