Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yet another iPhone impact analysis

TheServerSide ran an article a couple of weeks ago on whether the iPhone was an opportunity for Java developers. It's quite fashionable to talk about the iPhone these days so I will bow to the trend and add my own opinion piece about it.

Apple announced this week that web applications will be the only way to extend the iPhone's capabilities. Sad news for mobile application developers, but perhaps excellent news for the Java community.

If web applications are the only way to go for iPhone applications in the short term, it is indeed a good opportunity for web application developers. I'd argue, however, for enterprise users, it is an even better opportunity for Portal developers. Portals are the perfect fit for enterprises wanting to provide access to their services to their mobile users. A Portal can aggregate multiple services in a single, consistent web interface that can be accessed from anywhere by a web browser. A well-designed Portal can replace numerous applications and provide a consistent user interface to enterprise services. Sure, this would require connectivity but even this issue could (at some point) be solved with Google Gears (or similar solution). Moreover, with the AJAX/Comet paradigms, web user interfaces are getting better and better. So time to tweak your Portals for the iPhone's user agent? :)

Jean-Jacques Dubray at InfoQ chimes in how the iPhone could boost SaaS

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Michael Neale said...

I think gears is critical to make these apps usable - that and 100% ajax GUIs (or at least ones that keep as much on the client and the server calls are as light and infrequent and async as possible). With the slowness and latency of EDGE - full screen refreshes will make a mobile app unusable instantly.

Christophe Laprun said...

I haven't used EDGE phones so I cannot tell how slow it would be, but in any case, the more responsive the GUI the better. Assuming that you could batch synchronize in the background when the network is available, you could just use Gears as a proxy for the server. AJAX would only be used to perform the sync in the background. State tracking and handling would obviously be key to solving the problem. Is Gears transactional yet? :)

Rem0teMeth0d said...

I might sound completely incongruent but why do you want an enterprise portal on your cell phone, if you might care to explain the need of that.

As far as i know a cell phone's primary feature is to provide a channel for communication without compromising with the mobility of the subscriber. How often would you feel the need of buying a book while you are stuck for 16 hours on an airport or buying a steel plant while you are vacationing in Bora Bora. And even if you do, would you really want to rely on cellular network to make such (hypothetically) critical transactions?

I am completely out of sync with people making such a hullabaloo about bringing web portals to mobile phones...All you may need on your hand held device is a map and the directory for emergency, hospitality or travel services. It's beyond me how creating full fledged mobile compliant web apps with Google Gears and AIR and what not, will provide any improvement in your lifestyle.

Using technology just for the sake of it pointless.

~Beyond WWW

Christophe Laprun said...

Technology for technology's sake is indeed pointless. However, in this case, there are numerous business travelers who travel for, wait for it... business and could certainly benefit from accessing their information from their company's portal instead of having to lug around their laptop. I know I would if I could. Several examples pop in mind: sales person needing to check out client's information wherever they might be, real estate agent wanting to check properties information, schedule while en route to meet a client, etc...

Sure, I don't care so much about my company's portal when I'm on vacation (access to email anywhere is nice, though it has its own set of problems ^_^). But I do think there is a valid case to be made for web portals on smart phones.