Applications Have Gone Mobile

“Elvis has left the building.”

It was a popular phrase to disperse crowds after Elvis Presley concerts and has found its way into colloquial American speech.

Fact was Elvis had moved on to the next big gig while some of his followers just didn’t want to accept that what they had experienced was over and sat there.

The same holds true for those reluctant to accept that business applications are no longer bound to the inner sanctum of the data center and the on-premise enterprise.  Applications are now accessible via downloadable software on users’ mobile devices.

Let’s take a look at the phenomenon of the mobile app in business use:

How did this happen? What is possible today? Where is it all going? And, what does this mean for IT professionals?

How It Happened

There’s been some form of mobility for some time since laptops became standard-issue equipment in the business world. But, there’s been a shift in use with the growing adoption of smart devices and the introduction of the Apple iPhone.

Applications are no longer primarily an extension of enterprise systems pushed to and accessible via laptops; there’s also now the pull effect with users downloading personally-selected apps or widgets to their smart devices.

While the iPhone started out as a consumer gadget, it’s made its way into the workplace; just look around you. Similarly, other hand-held mobile smart phones and tablets like the iPad are all-around us too.

And, I’ve got to tell you that was the plan all along—well, almost. I worked on the market segmentation for the iPhone in 2004 and the planned adoption path was roughly iPod users to iPhone users and then iPhone for consumers to iPhone for the business community. And, now iPhone users are moving on to the iPad as a naturally progression.

And, it wasn’t just one vendor’s vision.

Look back at Cisco’s unified communications strategy around the same time frame. You’ll see a shared vision for a convergence of voice and data on a single device—primarily for business consumption.

Delivery at the time was envisioned a bit differently—handheld dual-mode devices spanning internal private networks and external public networks. But, it has the same look and feel to it as the smart phones or other smart devices we can’t seem to live without today.

Interestingly, the expected arrival of these new capabilities roughly corresponds to where we are today. Increasingly, we see a rapid movement of data-based business applications to mobile devices and in the case of smart phones, devices that have evolved from cellular or mobile telephones.

All of this should not come as a surprise especially since the realm of business and personal space has blurred.

What’s Possible Today

If you’re reading this post, you most likely have a smart phone or tablet or know somebody that does—it’s a tech thing. Applications or apps are plentiful and are either free or available for a nominal charge.

Many devices come pre-loaded with common mobile apps for popular sites like eBay, Google, iTunes, and the Weather Channel. More apps are available for entertainment like gaming, reading, and viewing movies. There are even apps for really focused specialty interests like a room frequency analyzer for those musically inclined folks like me.

Now, for all of us familiar with PCs and laptops, downloading freebie software or low-cost apps is nothing new. Heck, we’ve been flipping through shareware sites for years looking for the latest movie viewer with the best codec.

But, in recent times, something new has happened. Now, you can go to the Apple Store or iTunes and download a major company’s application!

Want to know the latest about EMC? Go to iTunes and download EMC Folio!

Better yet. Want to extend your EMC business productivity tools to your handheld? Go to iTunes and download EMC Documentum Mobile app for instant access to business-critical information.

You can run your business—and your life—from your mobile device!

Where It’s All Going

With round-the-clock jobs and a singular mentality to work and life, many professionals increasingly look to mobile devices as a key interface for monitoring—and managing—business applications especially in those off hours spent with family and friends but with one foot set in the work place.

New applications and some legacy applications are being architected with common user interfaces for desktop and laptop devices as well as post-PC devices such as hand-held mobile tablets and smart phones. Delivering applications to mobile devices has also gotten easier—and more secure—with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) development platforms for end-user computing like VMware View.

Architected for delivering enterprise apps on end-user compute devices, the current release of VMware View extends coverage to Android-based mobile devices. (Apple protocols were already supported.)

Now, you can take your desktop with you using the VMware View thin client for iPad and Android. Leverage the high-performance VMware View for tablets across LAN, WAN, and 3G networks.  Additionally, integration with the VMware View Security Server ensures secure access for end-users.

This approach harkens back to the push from enterprise to laptop. But, it had to go this way.

It only makes sense that users’ self-provisioned hand-held is going to have a mix of standard applications for doing and sharing business and some more personal tools tailored to the individual.

Standard enterprise applications are going to have a more centralized and secured development and distribution platform, than less critical tools and personal apps.

I cited the VMware View development platform, as well as a couple of apps already available today for presenting common business information to mobile devices. Look for similar widgets for more back-office type of applications for managing compute, networks, and storage at the infrastructure-level in the not-too-distant future, as well.

What It Means

For vendors and data center managers, the increasing popularity of mobile devices means that vendor product plans and business-application deployments need to now include mobile computing.

In a few short years, we’ve gone from data center application strategies where moving some apps to service providers was the extent of the off-premise plan for hosting and delivering remote services—to public, private, and hybrid clouds and business-critical apps on the same device you use to order pizza, play your music, or watch the latest blockbuster movie (which always seems to be available as video-on-demand before I can get around to seeing it in the theater).

In the future, look for more plentiful and more powerful mobile apps in your hand wherever you go–and more posts about the subject here.

In the meantime…what will be your next mobile app?

About the Author: Mark Prahl