Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mobile Micro-Applications vs Thick Mobile Clients

As I have shared before, my background was in the MEAP (mobile enterprise application platform) world.  We used different acronyms, some not repeatable in this family friendly blog, but it was the same thing as today's MEAPs.  I have managed development projects where the mobile applications we delivered could be considered a full ERP in many places.  It was painful and expensive, but it worked.  Our customers had hundreds of route sales, service technicians, and delivery folks walking around carrying full functional ERPs on their ruggedized mobile handheld computers.

The application I am referring to above consisted of the following:
  • Mobile sales force automation application
  • Mobile order entry application
  • Mobile invoicing
  • Mobile proof-of-delivery application
  • Mobile work order management application
  • Mobile inventory management system
  • Mobile price and promotion management application
  • Mobile enterprise asset management application
  • Mobile CRM to access customer service and support issues
MEAPs and thick client mobile applications certainly have their place, but there was so much customization that this finished mobile application was probably out-dated by the time we delivered it.  If any part of our mobile application needed changed, the entire mobile application had to be updated and re-tested.  With a mobile application that big and complex, the opportunities for bugs were endless.  We had to charge a fortune to deliver it.

Our customer wanted a thick mobile client application that could work in a connected and disconnected mode so that their employees could work whether there was connectivity with the internet or not.  Three years ago there were not a lot of options.  As a result there were a lot of thick mobile clients delivered.

With this particulary mobile application, the training requirements were huge.  The mobile workforce needed to understand every aspect of their mobile ERP before it could be effectively used.  You can image the level of IT support for the first six months.

It will be interesting to see how thick clients and MEAPs evolve.  There are some very active debates on the SAP Enterprise Mobility group on LinkedIn on this subject.

Where do MEAPs stop and mobile micro-applications start?  If I were to develop that same mobile application today, would I use nine mobile micro-applications rather than try to build all of the features and functionality into one giant mobile application?  Good question! 

SAP's partners are on both sides of this question. SAP partners like Vivido Labs and Leapfactor focus mostly on mobile micro-applications.  Sybase and Syclo focus mostly on thick mobile clients, while Sky Technologies seems to be hedging their bets with both thick mobile clients and mobile micro-apps.

It will be an interesting evolution to watch!

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Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict  
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.
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