Wednesday, July 11, 2012

iPad, Windows 8, Android – a curse and blessing for developers!

The pace of travel will pick up for many of us as we head towards the serious end of the year. But being mobile does create challenges and opportunities but this time, comForte is well prepared to serve a NonStop community in motion …
It’s the start of the business year for some while for others it’s just the beginning of their last quarter. And for many, it’s merely the second half of the year. For those residents of the northern hemisphere it’s also the start of summer vacations and a time to put to one side much that would otherwise occupy our time as we kick back and try to rejuvenate! But it also happens to be a time when those putting on user events timed for the end of the year begin marketing in earnest that will see many of us on the move once again.

I am already looking forward to the Connect Germany and GTUG IT Symposium 2012 that will take place in Dresden, September 25th to 27th, 2012. And I sure hope that I will be able to catch up with the many friends I have across Europe and yes, I have saved a selection of the Fools for NonStop T Shirts that I will bring for the occasion. It seems that of late, the enthusiasm of the NonStop community to participate in events, to network with HP and their partners and to hear what others are doing with NonStop, is experiencing a kind of renaissance. Looking at where I will likely be as the last half of the year unfolds only reinforces how much we have come to depend on being able to work from anywhere and just how important a role our mobile devices play as we stay connected with our customers and clients.

Apple has done a masterful job in creating a new market segment with the iPad and as the industry tries to position the iPad as yet another tablet (it seems of late that tablets have come to define all that isn’t an iPad) Apple forges ahead regardless. Ever since I bought an iPad it means that I can continue to stay engaged in business even as I travel and that there is nothing stopping me from working almost anywhere I go. But can we anticipate widespread support of these mobile devices directly from NonStop servers?

If Apple continues to remain a powerhouse within this market segment it still will not dissuade other vendors from rolling-out other product offerings, there is little likelihood that these competing offerings will be compatible with Apple and businesses may struggle to support them all. Should customers elect to connect tablets, including Apple’s iPad, to NonStop servers, how will it be done and what will be the middleware of choice? Will standards appear that will facilitate connectivity, information sharing, and even transaction processing? Will it come down to whether NonStop provides an “app for that”? Will it all be through a browser?

Businesses today are leaning towards allowing any number of tablets and smartphones access to business applications, including those running on NonStop. Likely a fall-out from these businesses CEO’s demanding support of their own personal choice of device, the move to support essentially everything under the general banner of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and, as one vendor suggested on its web site “one of the more dramatic results of the consumerization of IT, in which consumer preference, not corporate initiative, drives the adoption of technologies in the enterprise.” Will this too make support of mobile devices even more complex, fueling the need for us to not only consider providing an “app for that” on NonStop – but multiple app’s?

“An ‘App’ is something which runs (only) on a specific device; that device could be an iPad, an Android tablet, a Symbian phone (first smartphone on the market), a Windows 8 tablet (coming out soon), a Windows 8 phone (coming out soon), an iPhone,” suggested comForte CTO Thomas Burg this week “and this has led to us discussing App’s for iPads, App’s for Androids, etc. Apple has had zero interest to base their ‘Apps’ on any standard, such as Java.” Furthermore, adds Burg, “for a long time there were standards how to make stuff interactive across multiple platforms (Flash, Java) or to fit stuff on small devices using low bandwidth (WAP) yet Apple effectively shot these down. So what we will get will be at least THREE competing and incompatible eco systems: iOS (iPad and iPhone), Windows 8, Android.”

Standards have always played an important role as we push into new frontiers – a standard connectivity model, a standard way to present data and even a standard navigation mechanism – has always been important and for vendors, such as comForte, the presence of standards has encouraged early engagement. Without a basic set of standards in place helping to kick-start adoption, business users would be loath to commit. “Enter HTML5: yet a new standard,” Burg then explains “but it is supported by ALL major platforms (iOS - iPad and iPhone, Windows 8, and Android) and that’s why we chose to exploit HTML5 the way we have. Our very latest cloud-ready terminal emulation, J6530 touch, is exploiting HTML5 rather than creating ‘Apps’.”

I first made reference to HTML5 in the post of April 30, 2012 “6530on your iPad; with control, I can work at my speed!” where I had again quoted Burg “the beauty of HTML5 is that it is a real standard approved by all major vendors.” NonStop systems have been handling protocols such as HTML and XML for some time and so the emergence of HTML5 shouldn’t be a problem for NonStop servers. For many, stepping up and supporting populations of mobile devices presents no different a challenge than stepping up to support ATMs, POSs, Kiosks, etc. as has been done for decades. In time, I sense that these new generations of mobile devices will be accessing banking, retail, healthcare and a variety of other services just as easily as we have for so many years from the many types of Self Service Terminals (SSTs) already connected to NonStop.

I am often asked where will the next wave of growth for NonStop come from – and the more mobile I have become, the more I am compelled to work from wherever I happen to be, then the more positive I have become that perhaps, with just the right mix of vendor support, we are stepping across the threshold of the next golden era of NonStop! 

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