I have found that in some industries and markets, mobile applications for smartphones or rugged handheld computers just won't cut it, at least on their own. In heavy construction, utilities, environmental services, disaster relief, inspection and assessment and on blueprint and map intensive jobs, handheld mobile devices simply have screens that are too small to be effective. In these work environments Panasonic Toughbooks and other ruggedized laptops and Tablet PCs seem to be the better fit due to their bigger displays. However, there are also cases where companies want both mobile applications for handheld devices and laptop applications that work together. This category of applications is called "mobile companion" applications.
Mobile companion apps are smaller versions of the laptop or Tablet PC application that are specifically designed for use on a handheld mobile device. In many cases an engineer has a mounted Toughbook in the cab of the truck, but when he/she leaves the truck they want the ability to interact with the data, collect data, receive alerts, query a database, and fill out forms all on the smartphone using a version of the application designed for smaller screens.
When the engineer returns to the truck, any edits or additions to the data captured on the mobile handheld device is already updated on the laptop. The bigger displays on the laptops and Tablet PCs can show maps, blueprints, CAD drawings, etc., and the integrated data from the "companion" application.
SAP's co-Innovation Partner, Syclo has coined the phrase "mobile companion" application to describe the coupling of laptops and handheld devices that work together, but have different screen sizes and application designs.
Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
Phone +1 208-991-4410
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.