Is Ubuntu relevant for Enterprise Mobility ?

Is Ubuntu relevant for Enterprise Mobility ?

Ubuntu is backed by Canonical

Firstly what is Ubuntu? It is a Debian Linux-based operating  system and is the most popular Linux version for desktop OS devices. It is used by those wanting more control over their system and as alternative to Microsoft. But, is Ubuntu relevant for Enterprise Mobility ?

 

Now as founder Mark Shuttleworth promised it has a mobile version offering users a desktop experience running on a smartphone. The OS for mobile is actually the same as OS for Ubuntu desktop, so if running solely on the phone or via an external monitor the display will be the same apart from screen size. This is similar to something we have already seen on the Motorola Atrix, but since Ubuntu is running as a full OS it will provide full OS features and interaction.

Ubuntu Industry Proposition

Variants of Ubuntu are already available on Nexus 7 and Android high end devices with multi-core processors. When installed on Android the user will only access Ubuntu when docked with an external monitor. It turns your smartphone into a smartphone/PC.

What about apps? There are already thousands of applications written for Ubuntu many of which are free. Developers have the easy task of changing the screen layout to fit a smartphone screen.

What does this mean for Android and iOS ?

Competition and possibly lots of it. The Ubuntu phone OS is aimed at two communities.

  1. The Enterprise where companies are looking to combine phone thin client and desktop into one highly secure device. The attraction being that you end up with all the security of UNIX in your in pocket whilst using the same Ubuntu management tools from the desktop and server deployments.
  2. The Consumer where network providers want to bring lean beautiful smartphones to market that help to differentate their offerings from each other.

One major advantage of Ubuntu phone is the ability to upgrade the OS when a new release becomes available. If you have ever had an older Android phone and are stuck on V2.1 you’ll know frustrating it is when you’d like to upgrade. Thankfully this is not the case with Ubuntu phone.

Will Enterprise Mobility Device Users Flock to Ubuntu?

Is Ubuntu relevant for Enterprise Mobility ?. Unclear at present but it has potential and should be good for apps that primarily access the web.

It will be interesting to see how Ubuntu does in the battle for market share apart from being free, it certainly looks to tick all the boxes for corporate users.

  1. Close alliance with ARM. Will help convince the corporate community to invest in new non “WinTel” product.
  2. Makes further sense of building apps in HTML 5. No need to adopt another “native” environment for mobile application development good news for return on investment.
  3. High Degree of Security. Already a key element of enterprise mobility deployments.
  4. Desktop/Phone Compatibility. Could enable a whole new category of apps combining mobile and at desk elements.
  5. It may well add another dimension to the ongoing debate about BYOD – Bring Your Own Device.

Get in touch to book your free webinar or consultation visit and see how we can help you wade through the options for your Enterprise Mobility project.

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Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform – Support

Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform – Support

Motorola PDA with Mobile App
.NET devices still have a lot to offer

When comparing Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform .NET platform solutions, cost is usually the first starting point for businesses as a cloud solution means the applications can run on less expensive devices such as Android handhelds, which can be the starting point for thoughts about BOYD. But, how do you support a roll-out with mixed operating systems?

Devices have been covered in a previous blog so here I will focus on the software issues, both local and server. Yes Android, Blackberry, iPhone iPad devices can be considerably cheaper then Microsoft .NET devices but this also means you’ll need to support several platforms rather than one. What will that do to your total cost of ownership?

Updates for the multiple Smartphone platforms are never scheduled at the same time. This means on day one all the Android devices may update to the latest OS version, the next day all the Blackberry devices may update. There is no guarantee devices will still continue to work with the application after an update and finding a fix for each platform can be very different and therefore difficult.

When HTML 5 applications are being developed, they are developed for specific OS API’s, i.e. Android 3.0. When the Smartphone is updated to the latest version 4.1, a or a new device is purchased, the application will need to use the 4.1 API. In the best case scenario the application will have to be re-built, tested, and re-deployed. This is a major task in itself as cloud based solutions do not incorporate development and application & data synchronisation as standard. In the worst case scenario the application code will have to be edited. This is a very lengthy process in which the mobile application is out of action.

Using a thick client based mobile application development platform with Windows Mobile devices the applications are fully backwards compatible and any platform updates are issued by the administrator not the network provider. This provides a hassle free deployment with simple support as all devices are using the Microsoft .NET framework. It also means access to a wide variety of devices such as

The thick client has the ability to lockdown the unit so the user cannot access important system files, or spend hours playing games. The device is there for a purpose and can only perform the tasks the application allows. How do you lock down a personal Smartphone belonging to your employees? In short you can’t. You can provide the facility to access a web based application (if they have an internet connection) but you can’t guarantee they are not texting, playing games or surfing the internet.

The last point to touch on here is how the application can be updated. The application for the HTML 5 platform requires coding, a lot of testing for each OS, compiling, and then deployed to a central server location. The coding could take days or weeks depending on the update. In the thick client platform the update can be made in minutes to hours and deployed instantly. Yes the HTML 5 application has a slight advantage here as once deployed to the server location it is live. The thick client device must synchronise to download the latest application. This in itself is negligible since the application is downloaded in the background while the current application is in use, or when the device is back in the cradle charging for the night.

The key question is: As time and costs increase supporting Smartphone devices each time the business applications change, is the initial saving worthwhile as future development wipe-out any short term benefits?

Learn more about the options you have with Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform as part of the mobile application development phase of your enterprise mobility project contact us today.

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Key Benefits of a Enterprise Mobile App Development Environment

Key Benefits of a Enterprise Mobile App Development Environment

What are the Key Benefits of a Enterprise Mobile App Development Environment? InfoWorld picked 10 Heavy-Duty Tools for Mobile App Development to highlight the tools available for those seeking to build feature rich enterprise grade apps.

Key Benefits of a Enterprise Mobile App Development Environment 4

So why have these environments become so popular? In our case we have been using MobileFrame for some years to help users gain a competitive advantage by replacing inefficient and error-prone paper forms with automated mobile solutions that boost productivity and increase revenue. Our code-free enterprise mobility platform enables businesses to easily create deploy and administer sophisticated custom mobile applications. An intuitive point & click desktop eliminates time-consuming and expensive custom coding and includes all the testing and management tools necessary for a successful mobility project for your business on devices using:

  • Windows Mobile 5/6/6.5
  • Windows XP/Vista/7
  • HTML 5 browsers such as IE Chrome Safari and Firefox as well as for Android, BlackBerry and iOS products such as iPhone and iPad.

Get your App in the Field Faster and at Lower Cost

Our goal is to help you get ahead of your ROI return on investment and get your app created and in the field in less time with less effort and at lower cost than traditional methods. Our approach allows the creation of any number of custom process specific mobile apps that can all be tailored specifically to your business processes.

Learn more about the features and key benefits of a enterprise mobile app development environment. Get in touch to experience our apps.

Mobile Application Development Platform Vs Traditional Coding – Timescales

Mobile Application Development Platform Vs Traditional Coding – Timescales

Ever since Mobile Application Development Platforms were introduced software houses and traditional programmers using VB.NET, C# and similar have referred to them as somehow inferior. This couldn’t be further from the truth when using our own mobile application development platform – MobileFrame.

When it comes to mobile application development the enterprise mobility industry has come up with a variety of approaches and many software options.  Some approaches require full coding some go halfway reducing the amount required. MobileFrame is a full feature rich platform which requires NO coding. This makes it possible for an organisation undertaking a mobility project to manage the whole process of application design development deployment and management in house.

There is no limitation when creating applications when using MobileFrame. Granted you could create similar applications in C# or another tool but the timescales would be much longer which means increased costs for development and testing.

Mobile Application Development Platform Vs Traditional Coding - Timescales 5
Typical Proof of Delivery Development Times

Let’s compare MobileFrame against C# and other tools for a simple POD application. The app will integrate with a back-end customer system, pull across customer and parcel details and deploy data to a PDA user. The application will select the job, scan the parcels, ask for a signature and name, capture GPS location, print a receipt send the completed job to over 3G and update the back end customer DB. Using C# this could take 24 weeks or more to churn out using another mobile development platform tool it could take 8 weeks or more. Using MobileFrame we are confident this would take 1-2 weeks including all development testing and deployment.

And the above timescale estimates are only for one target device i.e. a tablet running Windows 7. What happens when the same application is required on a PDA running Windows Mobile? Or accessible via a web browser for remote workers without a dedicated device?

In short the answer for a software house is they would have to start over again minus a few parts as they are different technologies. This could triple the development timescales and blow away any Total Cost of Ownership TCO calculations.

Using our mobile application development platform the same application can have multiple target devices so it is just a case of moving around the layout to fit the screen size. If one application for a Windows 7 tablet PC takes 1-2 weeks, add 1-2 days and you could have the application running on a PDA and a web browser for iOS or Android.

The key question is: having identified a business process that is causing a problem how will your mobile application development options look a few years down the road? Choose a platform that gives you ultimate flexibility or continually use IT budget to make changes?

 

8 Cool Features Mobile Application Development

8 Cool Features Mobile Application Development

Mobile Application Development on MobileFrame version 5.1 has a number of groundbreaking features including:

8 Cool Features Mobile Application Development 6
Create Mobile Apps that Match Your Business Processes
  1. HTML 5 Application Development. Now our customers can not only create Smart Client Apps with no coding for .NET but also HTML 5 Web Apps that work on any iOS or Android device and any browser.
  2. Web Mobile Application Development.  Create sophisticated web portals with absolutely no coding. The Thin Client Server solves several common web app implementation issues including cross browser compatibility, security and authentication, and Active Directory support. These web applications can be utilized in any setting, including data collection, management dashboards reports viewing and customer portals.
  3. Swiping and Gesture Support. Device level software now includes built-in swiping and gesture support.
  4. Desktop Changes. The entire product has a new look and feel including improved navigation, clearer fonts and several other usability improvements.
  5. Mobile Device Management. In addition to a full complement of device and user management capabilities administrators now have the ability to cancel running applications remotely.
  6. The Grid. The grid functionality has been re-written to support function buttons, images, touch scrolling, per cell formatting, improved style editing and includes several performance enhancements.
  7. Built in Instant Messaging for snappy worker to worker communications. Unlike other vertical market solutions, our platform allows enterprises to create any custom mobile apps needed all tailored specifically to their unique business processes.
  8. Create Charts for Management Dashboards. Every management team needs the ability to analyze their business with live data to make critical decisions. Data can be displayed on a web dashboard and presented in any manner that suits your needs, including bar charts and pie charts etc. The ability to know how many work orders are on hold for parts sales were closed deliveries were made or inspections were completed that day can help management steer the company in the right direction in real-time. Charts can be displayed not only on the web but on the mobile worker’s device on printed receipts and embedded in PDF reports.

We have been crafting apps with the MobileFrame Mobile Application Development platform since 2007.  Customers enjoy a low total cost of ownership great flexibility in rapidly changing times and the outstanding return on investment when compared to other application development methods.

The platform has won many MobileVillage Star Awards over the last decade.

Get in touch to experience our apps.

Benefits of a Rugged Tablet PC in Agriculture

Key benefits of a Rugged Tablet PC in Agriculture

Benefits of a Rugged Tablet PC in Agriculture 7
Rugged Tablet PC in Agriculture

So what are the key benefits of a rugged tablet pc in agriculture ? Most importantly our products all utilise Windows 7 Professional so can operate your standard desktop apps and web browser sessions outside all day. This enables staff to access and record relevant information in the field eliminating the need for paper based capture of data which then has to be re-keyed into another system.

Our most popular product in the sector is the T7000. This unit is IP65 and built for the harsh environments of the agriculture industry. T7000 is designed for durability comes with an outdoor readable screen Bluetooth GPS Wi-Fi and 3G.  The unit will withstand the harshest environments including dust, water, rain extreme temperatures and repeated drops.

We also have the accessories to make your Rugged Tablet PC even more productive.

  • Snap on QWERTY keyboard.
  • Carry Case.
  • Desk and Vehicle Docks.
  • High Capacity Batteries.

In our experience there are a number of key agriculture operations where a device like this can help:

  • Track animals using RFID and bar code scanning – Watch the Video
  • Monitor veterinary care.
  • Control water irrigation flow.
  • Monitor Seed Trials.
  • Pin-point the application of fertilizer.
  • Manure management.
  • Track growing conditions.
  • GPS tracking of agriculture vehicles.

One dairy in the US was using RFID tags for cattle tracking but the devices were proving less than satisfactory. This is where MobileDemand came in and provided the farm with a unit that had superior power and flexibility. Read the Box Canyon Dairy case study

We can also build an agriculture application for you to go on your rugged tablet pc. Check out these sample thin client Apps that you can view on your web browser on a smart phone tablet or desktop.

Optimising labour and resources is as important as in any other industry. Key point here is that if the device is to be used literally in the field the unit must be optimised for that enviroment.

 

Back to Basics Part 4 Mobile Device Choices for Enterprise Mobility

What sort of Mobile Device Choices are there for an Enterprise Mobility Project?

In part due to a lack of real alternatives most enterprise mobility projects in the past have ended up on a rugged PDA using a Windows Mobile OS. Today the landscape is starting to change and the choices more complex so what are your options?

Stick with a Windows Mobile .NET PDA

ES400
Motorola ES400 Enterprise Digital Assistant

Well known mobile phone device companies do not seem too interested in designing rugged hand held terminals. So the manufacturers specific to the enterprise mobility sector have adopted many of the features of consumer devices and rolled them into their own products. The ones that sell in volume are now called “Enterprise Digital Assistants” like the Motorola ES400 which looks more like a chunky smart phone than something specific to a unique market. Users are still finding this a good option especially for refresh situations or where the application process is well understood.

A series of industry mergers has reduced the number of large active manufacturers specific to this segment although every year another ODM appears from the far East so it appears there are actually more vendors than ever. All of the top tier enterprise mobility device vendors actively use two tier distribution to get their product to market so price competition at reseller level is intense.

Use a desktop OS in the field

T7000
MobileDemand Windows 7 Rugged Tablet PC

Organisations have been using versions of Microsoft desktop OS in field based enterprise mobility projects for many years. Where keyboard input a larger screen computing power and remote data storage are important many users have opted for units such as rugged laptops.

Intel’s Atom chipset has helped manufacturers come up with rugged tablet pc products that have more powerful computing power larger than PDA size screen and use Windows 7.  For many the attraction is an OS that they are already familiar with in an attractive package that they may already have apps optimised for.

Try something new

The plethora of smart phones using Android and iOS has given many users the opportunity to use a new class of less expensive feature rich portables. It has also led to many questioning the whole paradigm of total lifetime cost Vs the perception of how rugged a device needs to be in the hands of a mobile worker. These units are eating up traditional phone market share and are already challenging the enterprise mobility notion that Microsoft on a rugged PDA is always best.

The increasing popularity of mobile application development using HTML 5 is making available more business process orientated apps. Old school manufacturers are also likely to adopt Android and bring new products to market. This month Honeywell a manufacturer in the enterprise mobility sector launched an Android version of one of their traditional products.

We have touched on a few of the many factors to consider. The key point is not to let the choice of hardware dictate what is best for your project. Always start with a thorough understanding of what your business problem is first consult widely and only then start to consider which device will be the best investment long term.

Back to Basics Part 3 A Brief History of Devices for Enterprise Mobility

A Brief History of Devices for Enterprise Mobility.

The advent of the smartphone in the last few years has been the thing that has led to rapid adoption of apps for enterprise mobility right, er wrong !

In fact this stuff has been around since the 90’s when niche companies started to build devices to enable mobile workers to collect data and transmit it back to MRP and decision management systems.

Early adopters could be found in vertical markets such as warehousing retail parcel delivery and automating route accounting paper trails. Adoption paralleled business drivers to shrink at desk headcount improve efficiency and make operations more mobile at the sharp end.  Devices boasted proprietary text based OS’s and small line based display screens with limited graphic capability. Comms consisted of returning a unit to a dock for batch upload and to re-charge NICAD batteries.

Janus 2020
Janus 2020 @1997

Units that were revolutionary at the time sported a 386 compatible chip a version of DOS  multi line LCD display and built in bar code scanner. Products like Intermec’s Janus 2020 and Telxon’s 960 also included Spread Spectrum radio – if you remember the frequency hopping Vs direct sequence wars of the mid 90’s take a bow now.

In parallel other vendors concentrated on Terminal Emulation based systems using narrow band radios which proved very popular in warehousing.

Since then key device characteristics in this area have been the longevity of specific model ranges long term serviceability ruggedness and accessories not seen early on in phones such as docking cradles, bar code scanning, cameras GPS and Bluetooth. All these attributes genuinely help the management of  large enterprise mobility deployments especially in organisations spread out over multiple sites and borders. Not surprisingly manufacturers have maintained that a rugged device has a demonstrably better TCO over a ‘consumer’ device during a 3-5 year working life.

Microsoft has enjoyed great vertical integration in this field. Supplying the technology that underpins both the back end systems the customer is using and also versions of Windows Mobile and CE which became the most widely used handheld device OS. Pre-eminence was further helped by a plentiful supply of Microsoft trained programmers and a lot of software shops with an interest in keeping customers on the platform.

Key point here is that there are many experienced industry veterans still involved in the industry. Seek them out in manufacturers and resellers you may be surprised at the valuable advice and insight they can contribute to your project.

Next time – arguably picking a device for a project has never been more difficult so what are your options?

Yes, We Are Open !

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