IBM and Apple mobile announcement: important links

Yesterday IBM and Apple made an important announcement about partnering to significantly growth the use of mobile via Apple devices in the enterprise. That is, the collaboration will significantly increase the functionality and value that mobile brings to people in their jobs.

Here are some of the most important links about this announcement.

APIs and SDKs for Wearables

Wearables are the hot new thing, though the market is still shaping up. Nike has already exited the hardware part of the business. Here are some public descriptions of APIs and SDKs for wearables that could be used for mobile apps or other applications. Some of the APIs may be for the phones/tablets, some might be for the wearables.

APIs and SDKs

IBM broadcast from Mobile World Congress 2013

Last year I had the pleasure of speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona about IBM‘s mobile strategy after we acquired Worklight. This year, IBM will broadcast a 30 minute show featuring news, discussions with industry analysts and customers, and more.

To register for the broadcast, visit “Live from Mobile World Congress:  Put your Business in Motion.”

Here’s a blurb from the registration page:

Mobile World Congress is the industry’s largest event and the best place to learn about the latest in mobile technologies, and how to build a true mobile strategy. If you’re not able to attend in person, IBM will bring the event to you on February 28 at 12:00pm EST with behind-the-scenes highlights from the show in a 30-minute broadcast featuring mobile experts with a look at some of the new mobile strategies and technologies available today.

Please join us for “Live from Mobile World Congress: Put your Business in Motion” to get insights from industry experts, and to explore lessons learned from business leaders who have built true mobile enterprises. The high-definition broadcast is available on PCs, tablets and smartphones, and will include a brief Q&A.

Mobile, smarts, an airport, and AI

How the constant presence of a smartphone along with some analytics could have improved one travel experience, albeit with caveats on privacy and centralized personal data storage.

Several months ago I was connecting through a large US midwest airport on my way home to New York from California. I had a three hour layover and dutifully went to my scheduled departure date and settled in. It was at the far end of the terminal.

After about an hour I realized that my gate had probably changed since I was surrounded by travelers speaking French. Indeed, when I looked up at the board over the desk it stated that the next flight was going to Montreal.

Via my iPhone, I looked up the new gate and discovered that it had changed, and that the new location was at the far end of another terminal. I could not have had to walk further to get to my plane.

I had several thoughts at this point. First, I should have registered for automatic updates from the airline so I could have been notified of the gate change. This should be a standing feature that I don’t have to enable on a trip-by-trip basis.

Second, I wondered why the airline/airport would have changed my flight to a gate so far away. Presumably they knew where I was, probably near the original gate. Now I know that they probably didn’t care about me, an individual passenger, but if they had known with accuracy via geolocation where a majority of the flight’s passengers were, they could have improved customer satisfaction by having the new gate closer to the old one, or one that at least minimized the distance connecting passengers needed to walk.

Let me say now, that in what I have said above and will say below, I’m assuming that appropriate permission has been given to all necessary parties to use my information for my benefit. Let’s imagine how analytics and transformational mobile apps could have made the experience better.

So I did need to take a walk. It was evening and I had landed after a 3+ hour ride in coach. The airline knew that, and they knew that they certainly had not fed me dinner. It’s possible they also could have known whether I had bought one of those expensive snacks on board. So I was hungry.

Therefore it was possible that I would like to grab some dinner on my 20+ minute trip to the next gate. Via personal preference stored on my phone or one time “in the cloud,” mobile software could have suggested where I would like to eat. This could have been combined further with analytics using airport data and passenger recommendations to suggest where the good places were and how long it would likely take to get me in and out of each restaurant.

Based on this, I could have a good meal and still make my flight. I would have accepted an automatic suggestion that I text a message to my wife saying that I had already eaten.

Some of this sounds like Apple‘s ads for Siri, and various of these things can be done by multiple apps. It needs to be seamless. My smartphone is there to be my helper. As I said in a recent blog entry, “a transformational mobile app is one that significantly improves the quality of your personal or business life, allowing you to do things you have never done before, and permitting you to be more effective and productive in an especially seamless way.”

So what I really need a personal assistant that lives on my smartphone or tablet, is kept current with what I am doing and where I am, is linked to the services I need, and makes suggestions when necessary. Today we cobble many features together among multiple apps. Via analytics, the cloud, and services accessed via APIs, tomorrow’s apps will be more all inclusive and offer greater value.

While some of this computation could be done on the phone, centralized services are continuing to advance in holding my information and deciding what to do with it. Hello Facebook and Google.

Personally, I would prefer a more federated approach where I have more fine tuned control over what data is stored and who has access to it. I wrote about this two years ago, but the idea does not seem to be catching on. Rather, the big social networks appear to be getting bigger, gobbling up any smaller players that add a bit of value.

Does this sound a bit like AI, artificial intelligence, per science fiction? It does, but I’m ok with that. But only if I have tight control over privacy and use.

Mobile: Build, Connect, Manage, Secure, Extend, Transform

In various IBM presentations about mobile starting at the Impact conference at the end of April, we’ve been using a slide that looks like this:

IBM Mobile Strategy

I’m going to give a quick introduction to some of the terms on the slide and what we mean by them.

Client Mobile Initiatives

From IBM’s perspective, what is the client trying to do with mobile and why might they want to talk to IBM about it? In an earlier draft of this we used the phrase “client mobile entry points.” This wasn’t always clear to people, but it did convey the idea that a customer is starting from one very specific aspect of mobile and wants to have a discussion about that. The three areas on the slide intersect all parts of the mobile lifecycle.

Now let’s start in the upper right corner and move clockwise.

Build and Connect

It is often the development or IT staff that begins here.

Where do mobile apps come from? What is necessary to construct the part of the app that lives on the device, smartphone or tablet, and the part that lives on the server on the backend? What tools are available for the developer for the full application lifecycle? How about testing for all the mobile operating systems and devices? For the device, what framework will allow you to have exactly the right balance of native code and HTML5 to give you the functionality, performance, and portability you need? How will you handle having apps for at least Apple iOS and Android? On the server side, can you use Java to create the code to support whatever you mobile app is supposed to do?

Regarding connectivity, this includes from the device to the backend and then also among the backend systems, applications, and databases to which you need to communicate. Having a system that can talk primarily to only one kind of backend system might seem expedient today but will possibly not support everything you want to do with future mobile apps. Having a mobile server that sits in the corner and has only weak integration with your services, messaging systems, and enterprise services busses is not really being enterprise-ready.

Manage and Secure

It is often the operational IT staff or CIO’s office that begins here.

It can be very hard at times to separate all the capabilities needed for security, application management, and device management. I think it is a very smart career move to become highly proficient in all the elements of mobile security.

Almost everything you can use for security for the web, you can use for mobile. You need to manage security at the device level, at the individual app level, over the network, and within the enterprise infrastructure. Since mobile devices will increasingly be used for portions of sophisticated attacks from many directions and sources, you’ll need security intelligence based on analytics that can correlate, detect, and shutdown such attacks.

The area of data separation is getting a lot of attention these days through techniques like partitioning, containerization, and virtualization. We’ve seen many ways of doing this, especially for Android, and I’m waiting to see what Apple might do in this area.

It’s best to catch security problems before your app goes out the door.

At Impact I heard an estimate that there were close to 100 Mobile Device Management vendors out there. Choose carefully for the long term, especially if this is your most important and earliest mobile project.

Extend and Transform

This is place where the business side usually starts. Geolocation from the mobile device is frequently necessary for these apps to differentiate themselves from laptop alternatives.

Many customers are extending existing applications or channels to mobile. Have an online retail website? Create, or have someone else create, a dedicated and branded mobile app that allows catalog browsing and purchases.

If you are a bank, similarly create a mobile app but decide what functionality should be in there. I might apply for a mortgage from within my laptop’s browser but I won’t be doing it from my smartphone.

So extend means to take what you’ve got and add a mobile dimension. This is increasingly becoming table stakes, or required, for B2C enterprises. Many companies are focusing on doing this and many people are getting paid to help them do it.

For me, “transform” is the really interesting one of these two, however essential “extend” is. This means combining multiple services to create significant added value. Put another way,

a transformational mobile app is one that significantly improves the quality of your personal or business life, allowing you to do things you have never done before, and permitting you to be more effective and productive in an especially seamless way.

Transformational apps often pull in social and commerce aspects, backed by analytics. They may involve partnering between players in difference industries such as financial services, hospitality, retail, healthcare, government, and travel and transportation.

What I learned about mobile at IBM Impact 2012

In this post I talk about IBM mobile products and what happened at a large IBM conference. As a result, it is more specific to IBM’s offerings than some of my other blog entries.

This week I’ve been in Las Vegas at the IBM Impact conference. The days have been a blur of meetings with partners, customers, and colleagues from around the world. We’ve talked about the new PureApplication System and updates across the software portfolio for connectivity, integration, business process and decision management, and application integration.

The Liberty Profile in the new WebSphere Application Server version 8.5 has been an especially hot topic. Conversations about that often go something like “It takes up less than 50Mb. Wow! It loads in 5 seconds. Show me! You can develop with it on your Mac. IBM did that?”

We’ve also had quite a few conversations about mobile and I’ve learned a lot.

Now I’m one of the executive leaders for mobile at IBM and I discussed it (briefly) on the main stage on Tuesday, gave an hour+ talk on “Top 11 Trends for Mobile Enterprise,” did press interviews and a panel with journalists, and challenged and was challenged by industry analysts on the topic. So I had a lot to say about mobile. But more than whatever I said, I learned an incredible amount of what our customers and partners are doing with mobile today. We also discussed how IBM’s new mobile products, IBM Worklight 5.0 and the IBM Mobile Foundation, could be essential to them over the next few years.

Here’s a bit of what I learned.

System integrators are looking to pick the one or two best mobile platforms on which to focus their efforts. The hybrid mobile app development model in IBM Worklight is very appealing because of its open standards and technology approach, and because it allows the creation of everything from pure native apps to those that are mostly HTML5 content.

Security and app management are critically important. Both IBM Worklight and Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, included in the IBM Mobile Foundation, have capabilities that address this. In some organizations, the BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, movement is accelerating their concerns but also their need to react quickly. My suggestion is to consider security and device management as extensions of what you already do for your website, web applications, and hardware like laptops and servers. Don’t think of mobile as this odd new thing, consider it as adding on to what you do already.

Partners have started building mobile apps on Worklight, often without any initial guidance from IBM. This is wonderful. It reaffirms what we knew when we acquired the company earlier this year: Worklight is an elegant product that you can use to create mobile apps for multiple device types, connecting them securely to your backend infrastructure.

Mobile apps are not islands. That is, don’t think of a mobile app server as something that sits in the corner by itself while the rest of your infrastructure is elsewhere. We included IBM WebSphere Cast Iron in the IBM Mobile Foundation because we knew that customers and clients needed to have apps talk to enterprise applications like SAP but also services that run on clouds.

Infrastructure support for a mobile app could be very little or might need to be very large. IBM Worklight 5.0 will ship the Liberty Profile of WebSphere Application Server in the box. So you get small and fast. If you have an existing WebSphere Application Server ND deployment, you can put IBM Worklight right on top of that. This includes WebSphere running on System z mainframes using Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Mobile can extend your business. If you have a web presence for retail, mobile can extend that. If you are a bank and have ATMs, mobile can extend some of those functions to mobile devices. If you have automotive repair shops, mobile can increase customer trust and loyalty.

Mobile can transform your business. Your first mobile apps will enable some core functionality, but later apps and versions may bring in social, analytics, commerce, and industry-specific elements. Don’t think of just an air travel app, think of one that helps me use my time in airports productively and eat healthily.

So to sum it up: mobile is surging for good reasons, customers and partners are asking the right questions, IBM Worklight is appealing to them as platform on which to build multiple mobile apps, we think the IBM Mobile Foundation is a solid base on which construct your mobile enterprise, and I’m looking forward to showcasing the many, many mobile apps created by and for our customers and partners at Impact 2013.

The spectrum of hybrid mobile app development with Worklight

The hybrid approach to developing mobile apps offers advantages for those wishing to produce pure native apps or those that have HTML5 content.

Earlier in 2012, on January 31, IBM announced its planned acquisition of Worklight, a provider of a mobile application development platform. Several weeks later the deal closed. There’s a lot of discussion of Worklight and IBM’s Mobile Enterprise strategy here at the IBM Impact Conference in Las Vegas this week.

Worklight’s components include a Java-based server that can run on the WebSphere Application Server, developer tools that can integrate with app lifecycle products from IBM Rational, a runtime monitoring and application management console, and multi-device runtime support. For this last part, Worklight uses a hybrid approach based on PhoneGap (now incubating in the Apache Software Foundation as the Cordova project).

A hybrid approach like this is an elegant way of using open technologies and standards to span the full spectrum of mobile application development.

The mobile spectrum for hybrid

The advantages to using HTML5 is that the content (HTML), CSS (formatting and UI), and Javascript (coding logic and UI) are portable across browsers on many devices. Your HTML5 will look and operate the same on Apple iOS, Android, and other modern devices.

If you can build your app entirely using HTML5, do it. You can place it on the web or your intranet and your users can access it anytime they want. You can also update it when you wish. You can also skip the whole app store experience. This approach is based on open standards, the best way we have found to handle interoperability.

At the other end, we have Native. This uses the low level APIs and programming languages for specific devices. For example, for Apple iPhones and iPads you would usually code your app in Objective-C and link in any other libraries you need. The full power of the SDK and device is available to you.

It is also completely non-portable, albeit powerful. When you need to produce an Android version, be prepared to code the app all over again. Each version will look completely native to the device, and this is an advantage to multiplatform approaches that force apps to have a common but non-native look everywhere. (“Our app works the same and looks ugly everywhere.”)

For hybrid apps, you use only enough native code to establish the main processing loop for your app, use device capabilities like the camera, and link in any special binary libraries. You try to maximize your use of HTML5 so that as much of your app is portable. PhoneGap and hence Worklight can help make your use of native code easier to port across platforms. Throw in Worklight’s support for Javascript frameworks like Dojo, jQuery Mobile, and Sencha Touch, and you’ve got a powerful solution.

Here’s something important that a lot of people miss about the hybrid approach. If you use no HTML5 content whatsoever, you still get the app manageability, push notification framework, and security from Worklight. So you get a pure native app that is nevertheless in the same “family” as your mobile apps that do include HTML5.

At the other other extreme, even if you use no special native features and try to have your app being almost completely HTML5, you get to put your app in an app store, and you, once again, get the app manageability, push notification framework, and security from Worklight.

Worklight logoSo Worklight and its hybrid approach covers almost the entire range from pure HTML5 to pure Native.

What if you already have a source of HTML like an app server or portal and want to build a mobile app around it? You can use this content, CSS, and Javascript as the main core of a mobile app built with Worklight. So what you built in the past can be repurposed in your mobile apps.

This also means that your developers’ web programming skills are usable when building Worklight hybrid mobile apps. If you are a software developer, this is a very effective way to quickly add mobile app development to your portfolio of skills.

Some apps will use a lot of HTML5, some will use very little. With Worklight’s hybrid approach, your skills are applicable across many different kinds of mobile apps. This is important, trust me, because you won’t be building just one mobile app in the future.

Also see:

The Apple iPad meets the 1964 NY World’s Fair

1964 exhibitI was 6 years old during the 1964 World’s Fair and so a perfect age to be hugely impressed by all its attractions and views of the future. IBM Research, the arm of the IBM Corporation that does science in the service of all the technological directions of the company, has now published a free Apple iPad app called Minds of Modern Mathematics which focuses on the original exhibit developed by Charles and Ray Eames.

From the press release:

Users can click through more than 500 biographies, milestones and images of artifacts culled from the Mathematica exhibit as well as a high-resolution image of the original timeline poster.

The app also includes the “IBM Mathematics Peep Show,” a series of playful, two-minute animated films by Charles and Ray Eames that offer lessons on mathematical concepts, from exponents to the way ancient Greeks measured the earth.

I first became aware of the Eames’ and their relationship to IBM in the PBS American Masters documentary Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter. The iPad app, which is available in the Apple App Store, includes, I believe, a couple of the videos from the documentary. I thought they were wonderful in the film and am looking forward to seeing the rest of them. They explain several interesting mathematical problems and concepts in playful and whimsical ways not often seen elsewhere.

Exhibits like this led many people to consider careers in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Coupled with the race to land on the moon, there was a tremendous amount of public support and recognition in the 60s for technological knowledge and innovation. We need to return to this, and quickly. I hope this app helps inspire students around the world to think about mathematics in new ways and to consider learning more of it.

Here’s an example of someone not “getting” the importance of the subject. When I was working on my Ph.D. in mathematics someone remarked to me that I “must know some really large numbers.” Yes, there are numbers, but mathematics is about relationships and structured systems that work together in coherent ways.

I challenge you to take a look at this app and find three things you didn’t know. If you’re pleased and impressed, recommend the app to others.


Return to “Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space”

Before I had my current job involving the IBM mobile platform and product management for the WebSphere Application Server, I worked on Linux and open source. In March of 2011, I gave a talk at POSSCON called “Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space.” I gave a look at this again and thought a lot of it was still relevant.

You can see a video of the talk and get a link to the presentation here. What do you think still holds? What is out of date?

Photos: IBM mobile session at 2012 Mobile World Congress

Here are a couple of photos from the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from Wednesday, February 29, 2012. These were taken by IBM‘s Peter Leabo (thanks!) during my presentation in the afternoon session we hosted in Auditorium A in the Apps Planet exhibition hall.

Bob Sutor speaking at MWC 2012 in Barcelona

Bob Sutor speaking at MWC 2012 in Barcelona

Also see: “IBM Mobile Strategy – Mobile World Congress 2012 presentation”

Daily links for 03/08/2012 – Apple (new) iPad (3) Edition

The new iPad

  • “This was surprising because our expectations were set for a new name. But it really shouldn’t be all that surprising. My iMac is not the “iMac 11″. My MacBook Air is not the “MacBook Air 4″. The iPod line changes, but the name remains the same. This will undoubtedly happen to the iPhone line as well. Just as the spec is dying (more than partially ushered to the grave by Apple), the ascending number naming race is dying too. It’s about simplicity.”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “The new tablet, called simply the new iPad with no numbers or letters following the name, is an effort to keep growth chugging along in a two-year-old business that has turned into a major technology franchise for the company. Apple’s $9.15 billion in iPad sales over the holiday quarter were almost double the amount of revenue Microsoft brought in from its Windows software and not far from Google’s total revenue as a company during the same period.”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “With the help of Ars’s Macintosh Achaia to refine the points for this article, here are ten annoyances that will remain with us as part of iOS—at least until the next iOS release rolls around.”

    tags: apple ios

  • “Apple announced both a new iPad and a new Apple TV during its media event on Wednesday, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at them. Ars spent some hands-on time with both devices in the briefing room after the event was over and managed to get a few answers to some of our questions, but as usual, Apple remained mum on some others.”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “The dust has finally settled, the rumors have been replaced by facts, and now we know what the new iPad is all about. So what’s missing? Or what fell a little short of expectations?”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “Why’s that? Because when you’re buying an iPad, you’re buying into the Apple ecosystem. The iPad isn’t dominant just because it’s a cool device, but because it stands alongside other immensely popular devices in the iPhone, iPod, and MacBook. Throw Apple TV and iCloud into the mix, and you have a set of devices that touch virtually everything you do. If you have one Apple device, it’s really hard not to consider getting the others.”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “Given all of the hype surrounding new Apple products, there are inevitably high sales expectations for the newest iPad. A recent survey from independent mobile advertising network InMobi found that nearly one-third of mobile users will buy the new iPad.”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “Bottom line, this hardware refresh is more than enough to keep the iPad ahead of the Android competition for the foreseeable future.”

    tags: apple ipad

  • “Unsurprisingly, Apple has managed to produce something that’s truly beautiful to look at, and while we’ve yet to see the full potential of having this many pixels on a 9.7-inch slate, we’re guessing a cadre of game developers are already hard at work in order to remedy that. Beyond being dazzling from a density standpoint, colors are sharp and accurate, and viewing angles are predictably ridiculous; even taking a peek from an extreme side angle gives way to a fairly solid image with next to no washout.”

    tags: apple ipad

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The mobile lifecycle

I’ve been giving many talks lately to customers and partners about IBM‘s mobile strategy and recent moves in our product portfolios. See, for example, the news of the Worklight acquisition and the presentation I gave at Mobile World Congress 2012. Here are some more detail on one of the slides, the mobile lifecycle.

Mobile lifecycle issues

Let’s go through the bullets one by one.

Strong demand by LoB

Mobile is personal: people have and use smartphones and tablets in their everyday lives. It makes it much easier for business people to imagine how mobile apps can affect and improve their effectiveness, customer loyalty, and revenue. This then drives the CIO, CTO, and the IT staff to decide how to create and distribute the apps. Their decisions include choosing a platform on which they can can consistently build the 5, 10 or more apps they will create in the next 3 to 5 years.

Higher expectations of user experience with mobile apps

Since people have so much experience with personal use of mobile apps, even games, they  expect very high quality user experiences from apps provided by enterprises such as banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers, and governments. They have similar high expectations for any apps they use to get their jobs done, such as business analytics, workflow, supply chain, commerce, and social business.

Lack of best practices guidance on how to deliver mobile applications

There’s been a lot of mobile app building experimentation by businesses in the last two years. Many of the apps were outsourced and, while they may look good, came in much more expensively than expected. Some of the apps were native, some were HTML5, and some were done in “interesting” ways. Businesses need to control the costs in building and maintaining the apps, while getting maximal reuse of current staff technical knowledge. This means you take what you know and apply it to creating your first mobile app, but also use the same information and technologies to build many mobile apps after that.

More direct involvement from users/stakeholders in design

It’s not up to the IT team to figure out all the technology to build, run, connect, manage, and secure mobile apps as well as to define the user experience. People who will be using the apps want to influence the interface design, and in many cases insist upon it.

Native programming models are not portable across devices

You can create amazing beautiful and functional apps using pure native methods with the Apple iOS and Android SDKs. Whichever one you pick, you can then do it all over again for the other one. This may be what you have to do, but recognize the difficulty and the expense. While some companies offer on-device environments to try to make apps work and look the same across devices, I think a much better approach is to maximize the use of open standards like HTML5. You also need to balance optimizing for a particular device, maximizing cross-platform code, and not having your app behave in a “least common denominator” manner.

Highly fragmented set of mobile devices and platforms

Raise your hand if you think we won’t see any more mobile operating systems in the next five years. Anybody? Nobody? Apple is different from Android which is different from BlackBerry which is different from Windows Phone. Android? Which version of Android? You need a mobile development and management platform that can handle mobile devices that exist today and will be introduced in the next few years.

Very large number of configurations of devices, platforms, carriers, etc. to test

Not only do we have many mobile operating systems, we have many handset providers and they may tweak the operating system and the applications available on it. The same goes for telcos. So you need a testing strategy that helps you cover the range of platforms you want to support. By the way, it is ok to say that you won’t cover all possible combinations. Pick the ones you absolutely must support and choose a mobile development and management platform that can handle those and the ones on your immediate roadmap.

Mobile landscape evolves at a much faster pace

New handsets come out every year, as well as major versions of mobile operating systems. Point releases of the operating systems come out every few months. For smartphones and tablets, many parts of the world are shifting from 3G to 4G. If you take too long to develop your mobile application or solution, you will be a generation or two behind by the time it gets to market.

More frequent releases and updates for apps with more urgent time-to-market demands

Not only do you have to get your app to market to match the hardware and software used by your consumers, you have to update and distribute your app as frequently as necessary to address bug and security fixes and competitive feature additions. Backward compatibility is important, but you need to evolve your app as fast as necessary to deliver what your users need to be productive and to stay your users.

IBM Mobile Strategy – Mobile World Congress 2012 presentation

My presentation given at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Spain, on February 29, 2012, is now available on SlideShare and for download here as a PDF.

The title of the talk was “IBM Mobile Strategy”.

Also see: “Photos: IBM mobile session at 2012 Mobile World Congress”

My Smarter Planet blog entry on Mobile

The Building a Smarter Planet site just posted a blog entry I wrote to coincide with IBM‘s activities at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. The piece is called “For a Business, Mobile Apps Must be Enterprise Class.” I talk about the recent Worklight acquisition and why I would travel all the way from wintery upstate New York in the US to a Spanish city on the Mediterranean in late February.

Interview with me on mobile

The February issue of the IBM Smart SOA & BPM Newsletter has an interview with me titled “Delivering value with mobile enterprise technologies.” From the introduction:

We asked the Vice President of IBM Mobile and member of the IBM Academy of Technology to discuss the trends in mobile computing and the advantages of these trends to businesses today. Sutor talks about the biggest challenges that organizations face when building a mobile enterprise, and how they can get started on the right path, including using security controls and standards, to achieve business value from mobile enterprise technologies.

I answered the questions:

  • What trends do you see in regard to mobile technologies and use of these technologies?
  • What advantages do these trends bring to organizations?
  • What are the biggest challenges organizations are facing in integrating mobile technology into their businesses?
  • What can businesses to do maintain security controls?
  • What role do standards play in building a mobile enterprise?
  • How can a business get started with mobile technologies?

Podcast now available: Enterprise Mobile Management and Security

Yesterday my IBM colleagues Caleb Barlow, Vijay Dheap, Naveed Makhani and I recorded a podcast called “Enterprise Mobile Management and Security.” In it we discussed BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), mobile management, mobile security, why mobile is posing new opportunities and challenges for IT departments, what’s new about mobile, and IBM’s announced acquisition plans around Worklight.

You can listen to it several ways:

Upcoming podcast about Enterprise Mobile Management and Security

On Monday, February 6, at 4 pm et, I’ll join my IBM colleagues Caleb Barlow, Vijay Dheap and Naveed Makhani to discuss “Enterprise Mobile Management and Security”. As you might expect, I’ll also talk about IBM’s planned acquisition of mobile application vendor Worklight.

Visit the podcast website for more information about listening in. Here’s the excerpt for the session:

Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the end-point that drives business results. With the increasing trends in “bring your own device” and mobile threats doubling in 2011 how do you responsibly embrace mobile while protecting your security and IT infrastructure? In this podcast Caleb is joined by Bob Sutor, Vijay Dheap and Naveed Makhani to discuss the trends in mobile along with IBM’s intention to acquire Worklight.

IBM: Going Mobile with two big announcements

Today IBM announced some important enhancements to its Mobile strategy for supporting customers looking to grow and transform their businesses, whether they are B2C, B2B, or B2E.

IBM Advances Mobile Capabilities with Acquisition of Worklight

From the press release:

In a move that will help expand the enterprise mobile capabilities it offers to clients, IBM today announced a definitive agreement to acquire Worklight, a privately held Israeli-based provider of mobile software for smartphones and tablets. Financial terms were not disclosed.

With this acquisition, IBM’s mobile offerings will span mobile application development, integration, security and management. Worklight will become an important piece of IBM’s mobility strategy, offering clients an open platform that helps speed the delivery of existing and new mobile applications to multiple devices. It also helps enable secure connections between smartphone and tablet applications with enterprise IT systems.

IBM Announces New Software to Manage and Secure the Influx of Mobile Devices to the Workplace

From the press release:

IBM today introduced new software to help organizations better manage and secure the explosion of smartphones and tablets in the workplace, while also managing laptops, desktops and servers.

IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices helps organizations support and protect the growing mobile workforce. Through this software, firms can use a single solution to secure and manage smartphones and tablets, as well as laptops, desktop PCs, and servers. It manages Apple iOS, Google Android, Nokia Symbian, and Microsoft Windows Mobile and Windows Phone devices.

The software extends security intelligence to deal with the growing threats from mainstream adoption of the BYOD trend. Organizations can install the IBM software in hours, remotely set policies, identify potential data compromises and wipe data off the devices if they are lost or stolen. The software helps configure and enforce passcode policies, encryption and virtual private network settings.

Why I think this is important

After spending the last several months speaking with customers, I’ve concluded that 2012 will be a very significant year for Mobile in the enterprise. I think this is the year when customers will decide on the mobile platforms and tools that will carry them into the middle of the decade, and begin to discard earlier experiments.

The old category of MAP or MEAP (Mobile Application Platform or Mobile Enterprise Application Platform) is not sufficient anymore. Customers need everything to build, run, connect, manage, and secure mobile applications. Remember that we’re not just talking about the apps on the devices (and there are many devices), but also the backend server infrastructure necessary, and this needs to be enterprise-ready. By this I mean that it needs to scale and you must be able to integrate it with the services, applications, processes and data that are essential to your organization.

Therefore the modern Mobile platform needs device-side and server-side application development and lifecycle tools; support for multiple devices and mobile operating systems; mobile application an device management; security capabilities from the devices all the way to the back-end; and scalable, transaction-capable connections to the IT systems on which your organization depends for its business. This is what IBM is demonstrating today in these strategic announcements in addition to its existing products and solutions.

Join me today in Tweetchats

I’ll be using Twiiter today for 2 one hour sessions to discuss these announcements with Scott Hebner, VP of Marketing and Channel Management for IBM Tivoli.
The first session is planned for 10:30 to 11:30 AM ET and the second for 1:00 to 2:00 PM ET.

Both sessions will use the hashtag #ibmmobile. My Twitter name is @bob_sutor and Scott’s is @SLHebner.

You can follow us via your usual Twitter client or else use the Tweetchat tool at

Also see these blog entries

IBM mobile infographic

Thoughts on mobile management

What does it mean to manage a mobile device, say a smartphone like an Apple iPhone or one with Google‘s Android operating system?

At the lowest level, the device level, you might want to

  • establish a policy for length and structure of passwords
  • set or reset a password
  • detect whether the phone had been jail-broken or rooted
  • configure device-wide VPN
  • set power management policies
  • manage the low level security of the filesystem or other local storage
  • wipe the device entirely or reset it to factory settings

Above that, at the application level, you might want to

  • inventory the device for installed applications
  • install or update applications
  • set security policies for use of the applications, their data, and their network connections
  • selectively remove an application or its data
  • configure application-specific VPN
  • manage anti-virus and other security tools for browsers and other applications that access the web
  • manage installation and use of an enterprise application store behind a firewall, private hosted outside, or via external sites like the Apple iTunes Store or the Android Marketplace

The first list of items, with additional functions, is part of Mobile Device Management, or MDM. Note that people do sometimes confuse “MDM” in this context with “Master Data Management.”

The second collection is part of Mobile Application Management, sometimes shortened to MAM.

The first thing to notice is that what I deemed “management” often has a lot to do with security, especially when the phone is used to access enterprise data and systems.

Second, in practice, those who provide MDM functionality often provide some MAM functionality, and vice-versa. That is, a vendor might say “I can give you an enterprise app store but can also wipe devices.”

BYOD, or “bring your own device” complicates things because I probably do not want the organization for which I work to impose overbearing policies that affect my personal use of my phone. I certainly don’t want them to wipe my entire device if I leave the organization juto remove all traces of enterprise data or network access.

So the line is blurry between MDM and MAM, and I think we should get rid of the distinction altogether. That is, let’s just talk about Mobile Management and combine the two categories above. It will simplify things, remove the imprecision of the definitions, and bring better clarity to what vendors do and do not offer.

So if we can agree that Mobile Management consists of 27 common capabilities (for example), a vendor that offers 5 of them can be more fairly compared with one that offers 25.

No doubt that vendor proving minimum capability will embellish the description by adding “but we do it from the cloud!” (grin)

Mobile BYOD is not unbounded

BYOD, or “bring your own device,” is an important topic in today’s discussion of mobile in the enterprise. Employees buy their own smartphones or tablets, love them, then bring them to work and want to use them to access company data, systems, and applications.

For the CIO, this represents an opportunity to save money by not having to pay for and provide devices, but opens up many questions about how to allow secure access and management of the enterprise portions of those devices. I’m here at the Lotusphere conference in Orlando, so it shouldn’t surprise you when I say that many of IBM‘s customers are looking at Lotus Traveler for secure access to email, calendar, and contacts on mobile devices, for example.

BYOD does not mean that any employee can bring any device to the office and demand that it be allowed access to the company’s digital infrastructure. That said, if the CEO brings in his or her sexy new smartphone, the CIO may feel more inclined to make that work.

In practice, CIOs will say that certain devices running specific mobile operating system versions, augmented by security and management software and policies will be allowed access to the company’s network. That is, “bring your own device” really means “bring your own device as long as it is one of the following.”

Many enterprises already support Blackberrys, so that will be relatively easy. There’s not too much variation among Apple iPhones and iPads beyond the major version numbers. So while a 3g phone might work, I think many enterprises will insist on a 4 or 4s phone, probably running the latest version of iOS.

Android is more problematic because there are many handset providers and many versions of the operating system. Expect individual handset vendors to negotiate directly with CIOs to allow use of their devices in the CIOs’ companies, even if those devices are bought by the employees.

The wildcard here will be Windows Phone and the devices that support it. While Apple iOS and Android are very different, both technically and culturally, Windows Phone is different yet. While Mango is quite nice looking, as I saw from the Nokia team at Lotusphere, will individual purchasers and CIOs wait until Windows Phone 8? Will the rate of adoption allow it to be accepted into the enterprise any time in 2012 or might it even be 2014 before the demand is sufficient for supporting it inside companies?

My advice to CIOs is this: if you support Blackberrys, you will need to support them for the foreseeable future. The newer iPhone and iPads will need to be given enterprise access because of their marketshare and the demands of senior management. For Android, pick a couple of handset vendors, perhaps based on a survey of your current employee users, and settle on the level of the operating system you will support. Educate yourself about Windows Phone, but the above combinations are probably of more immediate and higher priority.

Also see: “10 predictions for enterprise mobile for 2012″

IBM Mobile Team at Lotusphere 2012

It’s an artifact of today’s spread out worldwide working culture that many people in large companies never get to meet each other if they work in different locations. I’m down at IBM‘s Lotusphere conference this week talking about Mobile for the Enterprise, meeting with partners, doing press interviews, and having discussions with learned industry analysts. There are also several members of the extended IBM Mobile Team here as well, so I’m going to try to photographically document their presence.

In this first installment, from left to right we have Dirk Nicol and  Christian Hunt from my mobile team and Yakura Coffee from my WebSphere Foundation team. They’re manning peds in the Solution Showcase and, if you are at the show, I encourage you to stop by and pay them a visit. This is the first time I’ve met Yakura and Christian though we’ve worked together for over half a year.

members of the IBM team

Note the snazzy shirts. I’m not sure if they glow in the dark, but, by rights, they should.

IBM Mobile Technology Preview v3, now with iOS support

IBM just released the third drop of the IBM Mobile Technology preview at, with details of the update on the tech preview blog.

This release includes updates to the mobile application manager with social feedback, SMS support, tools, and, perhaps most important, support for Apple‘s iOS mobile operating system. The first two releases supported Android only.

This drop also includes the latest version of the Liberty Profile for the WebSphere Application Server. It’s a great example of how we think customers will use the Liberty Profile and OSGI in action.

The Mobile Tech Preview is our way of giving you a glimpse of what is going on in the IBM labs around the area of mobile application development, tooling, security, and management.

Mobility and Endpoint Management at Pulse 2012

Pulse banner

From March 4 through 7, IBM will be holding its Pulse 2012 conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. One of the main streams of the event will be the Mobility and Endpoint Management track, and I’ll be a member of the keynote panel kicking off the discussions.

With the ever-increasing number of endpoints organizations must manage – physical and virtual servers, desktops, laptops, point of sale and mobile devices – it is imperative to gain visibility, control and automation. These devices simultaneously represent security risks, employee productivity, and new business opportunities. Join us at Pulse 2012 to hear from your peers and IBM experts on how to minimize risks, increase productivity, and increase innovation.

Mobile devices in particular have a very large impact throughout the organization today. Their rapid adoption over the last several years has significantly increased the “consumerization of IT” and forced IT departments to adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. At IBM we understand this goes well beyond the devices themselves though – it impacts network traffic, internal software development and custom applications, employee collaboration and use of social media, and much more. We are enabling businesses to build mobile applications, run and connect them to backend systems, manage their devices and applications, and secure their businesses on mobile – all to help our customers create new business opportunities and extend existing business capabilities.

You can register today for the conference and don’t forget to mention Mobile as one of your main interests in attending.

My talk at Lotusphere 2012

Next week is IBM’s Lotusphere conference in sunny and, I hope, warm Orlando, Florida. For those of you attending, I’ll be giving a talk called “Harnessing the Power of Enterprise Mobility” on Monday, January 16, from 11 to 12 AM. The session number is 1582A and the room is Swan – SW 7 – 8. The abstract is

It’s hard not to talk to an enterprise customer these days without getting into a discussion about Mobile. By 2012, the shipment of smartphones and tablets is expected to exceed that of traditional personal computers, including laptops. Enterprise CIOs want to use these personal mobile devices to give better access to their internal data and processes for employees, as well as enabling better purchasing and support services for their customers. Complicating this is the variety of devices used, employees who wish to use their own devices at work, application level and device management, cost controls, and security concerns. In this session, Bob Sutor will discuss his views on the foundational needs of enterprises for a mobile application platform, mobile device management, and security along with comments on how IBM can help you become a social business that leverages experts wherever they are working.

I’ll also be hanging out at the Enterprise Mobile booth from time to time, talking about the IBM Mobile Technology Preview. Stop by and say hello!

10 predictions for enterprise mobile for 2012

Yes, it’s that time of year of for predictions for what we might see in the next twelve months. Being in the IT business and in a company like IBM, I’m somewhat hamstrung in what I can say regarding the future because of confidentiality, but here’s my attempt at some prognostications that won’t be giving away anything secret.

These are my personal predictions and not those of IBM.

  1. There will be a huge rush to fill the developing void being left by RIM and Blackberry, and smart enterprise CIOs will focus on security and management issues first.
  2. Although there seem to be 1 or 2 new entrants in the mobile device management area every week, potential customers will learn that it takes more than being able to call an API to wipe a device to give you enterprise credibility.
  3. The differences between mobile application management and mobile device management will become clear.
  4. Companies that develop multiple applications will understand that some will be web/HTML5 based, some will be native, and some will be hybrid. You don’t need to support just one kind and your application platform vendors shouldn’t force you to do so.
  5. CIOs will realize that the connection between mobile and cloud is overhyped. CIOs will realize that the connection between mobile and cloud is underhyped. That is, your use of cloud for mobile applications may not be in the way you expect today.
  6. Traditional networks that support web applications will need to be reconfigured and re-optimized to support an increasing amount of traffic from mobile devices. The number of interactions will dramatically increase, their length will be shorter, and significantly more asynchronous notifications from the server side will all drive a lot of R&D.
  7. While Android fans continue to claim world domination and Apple keeps selling more and more iPhones and iPads, look for Microsoft‘s relative marketshare to start inching up.
  8. WebOS is done, but look for a new smartphone/tablet operating system to arise by late 2012 that will start to challenge RIM and Microsoft for the number 3 and 4 market positions.
  9. Amazon will have a serious tablet in the market by mid-2012 that will start to get some enterprise interest. The connection between that and the Amazon cloud will become clearer. The device may not be running Android.
  10. Apple will make changes to iOS to make it easier to support both personal and enterprise secure personalities on the same device. Yes, I know you can do this on Android today, but we weren’t talking about Android, were we?

Bonus: I will give up my Blackberry and get an Android smartphone for the first time (to complement my personal iPhone and iPad).

Getting started with mobile in the enterprise: The IBM Mobile Technology Preview

Over the last 15 years of my career, I’ve seen several ideas or technology trends capture a significant amount of customer, press, and analyst attention. There was Java, XML, web services, SOA, and cloud. In and around all those were standards and open source. To me, the unquestionably hot technology today is mobile.

To be clear, I’m not talking about what happens in cell phone towers or the so called machine-to-machine communication. I mean smartphones and tablets. Those other areas are important as well, but devices are so front of mind because so many people have them.

Apple is obviously playing a big role with its iPhone and iPad, not to mention the half million apps in their App Store. Google and the Android ecosystem have produced even more smartphones and a whole lot of apps as well. Then there’s been the drama around HP and webOS, plus RIM and the PlayBook and outages. So we’ve got competition, winners and losers, closed ecosystems, and sometimes open ones. What’s not to love about mobile?

It can get confusing, especially for people trying to figure out their enterprise mobile strategy. They are looking for strong statements, for “points of view,” that will help them take advantage of mobile quickly but also aid them in avoiding the biggest risks. This is made even more interesting by employees bringing their own devices to work, the “BYOD” movement.

Not every employee is issued an official company smartphone and the devices they buy themselves are often better than what the company might provide. So they are saying “I’ll pay for my phone and my contract, let me have access to work systems so I can do my job better.” The recent ComputerWorld article “IBM opens up smartphone, tablet support for its workers” discusses some of what’s happening in this space at IBM, my employer.

Next there is the whole web vs. hybrid vs. native discussion regarding how to build apps on the device itself. Should you write it to the core SDK on the device (native), stick to developing standards for continuity and interoperability reasons (web), or something in between (hybrid)? Which is faster and for what kinds of apps? Does the app cause a lot of network traffic or does it require great graphics? Are you willing to bet that HTML5 will get better and better? I’ve started discussing this in a series of blog entries called “Mobile app development: Native vs. hybrid vs. HTML5″ (part 1 and part 2). Your choice will involve tradeoffs among expense, time to market, reuse of web skills, portability, and maintainability.

What about management? If I bring my own device to work, how do the company’s apps get onto it in the first place and then get updated? Is there an enterprise app store? If I leave the company, do they zap my whole phone or just the apps they put on it? There are differences between Mobile Application Management (MAM?) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) that you need to understand.

Let’s not forget security, as if we could. A colleague of mine, Nataraj Nagaratnam, CTO of IBM Security Systems, told me the way to start thinking about that for mobile is that “a secure device is a managed device.” That doesn’t mean that all security falls under management, but rather you need to have device management to have a complete mobile security strategy. You also need to be handle identity management, authorization and authentication, single sign-on across apps, data loss protection, and all the things you need to worry about with the web today such as phishing, viruses, worms, social networking, VPN, etc. Security must be there but it also needs to be unobtrusive. Most mobile users will not know what a certificate is nor whether they should accept it.

Fundamental to managing and securing mobile devices compared to laptops is that people tend to lose their phones a lot more often than they lose their laptops. That’s a good starting point for thinking about the differences.

With that as prolog, let me introduce you to the IBM Mobile Technology Preview on IBM developerWorks at

The Mobile Technology Preview encapsulates several technologies we’ve been working on in the labs. We’re making it available for you to experiment with it, comment on it, share your requirements for your mobile platform, discuss the pros and cons of different approaches to mobile app development on both the device and server side, and join the community to make it better.

We plan to update the Technology Preview as we add or change the feature set, ideally because of your stated requirements. In this release we’ve included

  • an application server runtime that uses the WebSphere Liberty Profile of the WebSphere Application Server 8.5 Alpha (runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows)
  • a notification framework
  • a hybrid app development model using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • basic management functions
  • location-based security
  • several samples featuring notifications, Dojo, PhoneGap, and a starter insurance app for handling car accidents.

The Mobile Technology Preview is available for Android devices.

I plan to use the tech preview from time to time to illustrate some of my discussions of mobile in my blog. I encourage you to try it out, track its progress, and influence its roadmap.

Employee mobile device + work = potential security problem

Employee: “I lost my iPad.”

Corporate security: “Why are you telling me?”

“I had company documents on it.”

“But you had the mobile security package installed, right?”

“Err, no.”

“I would have thought the company president would have known better …”

With the BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device to work, movement rapidly picking up steam, more and more employees are taking their smartphones and tablets to the office. This can be a boon to the CIO’s office if it no longer needs to foot the bill for those fancy new devices, but opens up all sorts of security problems.

The great thing about the current generation of phones and tablets is that they are so usable. Even forgetting apps, having mobile browser access wherever you are gives you access to information and processes that can help you do your work more efficiently and in a more time sensitive way.

Of course, being so convenient and light, it is also easy to lose them. This is why you can’t just tell your people to use their phones for work. You need to manage the access and resources they have, and be able to shut it down or delete them if the case arises. This could because because of a lost or stolen phone, but also because the employee should no longer be able to get to company data. There are levels of security access and people who are former employees should have no access at all.

All of this is on top of the security problems we already recognize and handle on laptops, such as phishing, viruses, and data loss protection.

And now a word from my sponsor …

IBM is today announcing the Hosted Mobile Device Security Management service. Capabilities in the new mobile security service include:

  • Configuring employee devices to comply with security policies and actively monitoring to help ensure compliance over time
  • Securing data in the event that a device is lost or stolen
  • Helping to find a lost or stolen device – wherever it is
  • Protecting against spyware and viruses
  • Detecting and removing malicious and unapproved applications
  • Monitoring and tracking user activity
  • Enabling more secure connectivity

And now back to me …

Seriously, this is a big but I believe containable problem if you take the necessary steps to understand the security exposures of employee devices in the enterprise and take steps now to provide the necessary security. Many people are familiar with the security and management capabilities of RIM and Blackberries, and they are now asking for the same level of comfort for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

If you don’t have a security policy in place for mobile devices in your company, you should start putting one together and implementing it now. Think about how many devices will need to be supported, what kinds, to what they will need access in terms of processes and data, and what you need to do when something goes wrong.

An employee need to understand that if he or she wants to use that cool new tablet for company work then he or she will need to live by the rules and policies set down to protect the organization’s assets. There’s a spectrum of possibilities between “you can’t use your own to device” to “you can do whatever you want.”

As an industry we’re trying to help companies move from the first situation to something in the balanced middle that provides the right level of security while maintaining the convenience, usability, and power of the devices.

Also see:

So the gas meter said to the thermostat, ‘We should talk’

In the last few weeks I’ve published several blog entries about mobile, but all of them have had to do with smartphones and tablets. There’s more to mobile than just that.

For a recent strategy presentation, my colleagues and I initially thought about how to segment the mobile marketspace and we came up with four categories:

  • Consumer: The apps and the infrastructure that support them
  • Enterprise: Again, the apps and the infrastructure that suport them, this time for companies to interact with their employees, suppliers, partners, and sometimes clients (when they are not viewed as consumers)
  • Network: What happens to support mobile in cell towers and on back
  • Wireless: The so-called Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communication

It didn’t take us long to decide that that Consumer and Enterprise should be merged since many of the features offered, problems to be solved, and technology used were the same. What you are seeing around the whole Bring Your Own Device to work movement further strengthens the idea that they should be considered together.

I’m going to discuss the last area around mobile that is listed above: wireless. Amazingly, this corresponds to an announcement made today that IBM and Eurotech have teamed up to donate software to and start a working group in around MQTT, the Message Queueing Telemetry Transport protocol.

Admittedly, Message Queueing Telemetry Transport is a mouthful, and it’s no surprise that the acronym MQTT is used more frequently. Whether you like the short form or long form, I and many others think it will be very significant.

If you look around your house or apartment, you see a lot of devices that are very useful but pretty dumb. My thermostat has a modicum of intelligence in that it can learn how long it takes the house to reach a certain temperature and then plan ahead, but there is no way for me to access that over the web: I can’t remotely (Greek: tele) find out what temperature it is measuring (Greek: metron).

Even worse, I can’t remotely measure the gas or electricity use and compare that to the temperature to understand the efficiency of the furnace, optimize my energy use, or alert anyone if a significant problem is detected.

For example, in a seasonal house I might combine this information to respond before the pipes freeze on a particularly cold night.

Now there ways of doing this, especially in the last example. The problem is, when devices like thermostats, fire alarms, carbon monoxide level alarms, flood monitors, clothes dryers, and even refrigerators can convey information about their state, they do it in completely different languages and formats. As they become Things on the Internet, they need to communicate effectively with each other as well as systems that can take in all the varied information and make decisions.

The web works so well because we have the HTTP, the Hypertext Transport Protocol, to move data back and forth between servers and browsers. The hope is that MQTT will do the same for machine to machine communication.

In the example above, we may have smarter houses than 10 years ago, but MQTT could help turn them into actual Smart Houses.

Another example comes from the press release:

For instance, today’s smarter cities allow existing systems to alert operators of a broken water main and report the extent of flooding in streets and subways. However they are often closed systems. An open messaging protocol can be used to openly publish these events, enabling public and private transit systems to share and monitor these critical alerts. As a result, agencies would be able to adjust traffic signals, change routes, and notify commuters of alternative routes, transportation, lodging and meals on their mobile devices.

For more information about today’s announcement see:

P.S.: A very happy 10th birthday to From a $40M software donation by IBM, the organization has grown to encompass “273 open source projects at; 1057 committers located around the world, more than half in Europe; 50+ million lines of code across all Eclipse projects; 174 member companies of the Eclipse Foundation.”

Eclipse is one of the most important open source organizations and has radically changed the nature and economics of the software development world. May their second decade be as productive the first.

A browser to resolve mobile app development confusion?

I read with interest the recent announcement by AppMobi that they are producing a browser for Apple iOS and eventually Android that will go beyond the basic HTML5 capabilities.

Typically, browser-based apps cannot access all the native capabilities of the device such as the camera and the address book. HTML5 does provide geolocation, local storage, and some other features, but that doesn’t come close to what a pure native app can give you. This has caused the growth of so called hybrid applications that use a library to provide JavaScript APIs and hence access to the native capabilities.

Hybrid apps are not pure native and not pure web, but bridge the gap in between. There are several ways of doing hybrid. PhoneGap is a popular open source technology for building hybrid apps, but there are others as well. You get to have all the display capabilities of a browser with the functionality of the underlying device.

Hybrid apps are not for every application design, but can do very well if there is a lot of network interaction, not too much necessary graphic performance, and whatever UI design you can handle in a browser with widgets coming from Dojo, jQuery, Sencha, or similar technologies.

The idea of this new browser is to include the PhoneGap and other APIs so you can write enhanced HTML5 apps with more access to the underlying features.

Is this interesting? Yes.

Does it cause people to think through the implications of native vs. hybrid vs. web? Yes.

Will people rethink app stores and how you can collect and manage apps that run in a browser? Yes.

Will it speed up development of HTML5 and mainline browser support for additional device features? Maybe.

Will this be the browser we are all using in 2 years? I really doubt it.

The web became successful because browsers became standardized. In the early days we had different browser functionality as Microsoft Internet Explorer tried to set de facto standards and Netscape tried to use real ones. Eventually Firefox, Chrome, and Safari all supported web standards, more or less, and competed on speed and quality of rendering. IE eventually caught up though it is losing share as we speak.

So I applaud AppMobi’s attempt to push the envelope here on what can be done in a mobile browser, but I think the mainline mobile browsers will eventually set the standard for how HTML5 and agreed upon extensions work.

We don’t need certain apps to require particular browsers to work. Check out this story from 2005 where the US Federal Emergency Response Agency required people to use IE to apply for aid after Hurricane Katrina.

Also see: Ars Technica – “The end of an era: Internet Explorer drops below 50% of Web usage”

Mobile app development: Native vs. hybrid vs. HTML5 (part 2)

I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about how people build applications for mobile devices. While there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps out there for Apple, Android, Blackberry and other smartphones, I can’t help but think the majority of these are one-off efforts. In this series in the blog, I’m going to tackle some of the issues with developing mobile apps, especially for enterprise use, and along the way propose some ideas for making the process easier and more repeatable.

mobile client technologiesIn the last entry I spoke about the attraction of writing pure Native applications for mobile devices. They’re fast, have full access to all the device features, and can be made as beautiful and functional as your software development skill allows. They’re also non-portable and can take more people, time, and money to develop.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to develop applications using open industry standards that run in many different environments? You know, applications that allow text content, great formatting, images, video, forms, and interaction with backend systems?

Sounds like the web, no? The language for expressing the format of web pages is HTML, CSS is used for specifying formatting, and JavaScript provides a programming language and environment for dynamically altering pages and responding to events. Somewhat confusingly, the term “HTML5″ can just mean the latest version of HTML under development at the W3C or it can mean HTML + CSS + JavaScript.

HTML5 logoWhile there have been many motivations for developing HTML5 given the experience of people creating billions of web pages, I think it’s safe to say that creating a standards-based cross-platform environment for mobile devices was an important reason. That is, don’t think of a web page as just something you read, but rather consider it an application with which you are interacting.

I won’t go into all the features of HTML5 but there are several good references on the web in addition to the spec to which I linked above. In particular:

Generally, HTML5 allows much better and more consistent ways of embedding multimedia in web pages. It also adds new elements to help you structure the document. The Document Object Model, something I worked on in ancient history, is now considered core to the specification and the programming model.

These are nice things for web pages, but does HTML5 give you anything new that makes its especially attractive for mobile devices? One of these is the geolocation application programming interface. In short, this allows you to programmatically determine your location, and then do something with it. That “something” might be to pinpoint your location on a map, provide a starting point for map directions, determine what weather forecast to show you, or display ads for local businesses, for example.

You can also store information locally on your device, though that opens up the question of security if you happen to lose it or you somehow get hacked.

What about access to other core features on your device? Using pure HTML5, can you snap a picture? How about use the compass or receive a notification? You can’t, but remember that you can still do all the interactions that you’ve been doing for years in your browser. You can read all sorts of information, do searches, buy things, access FaceBook, and so forth.

So HTML5 provides a richer interactive environment than we’ve had before and is starting to allow programmatic access to some device features.

If HTML5 does everything you need for your planned application, then use it.

HTML5 is still under development and you are seeing support for it from the big industry names that supply browsers or content, companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and FaceBook. IBM, of course, has been and continues to be a huge supporter of open Internet and Web standards.

You do need to understand which HTML5 features are considered solid and which are experimental. You should also experiment with formatting on multiple devices to make sure that your app looks right (not too skinny, not too wide, just right) on the smartphones or tablets that are important to you.

Note that an HTML5 app is really just a web page, so you don’t need anyone’s permission to put it into an app store. For many people, that is more than enough reason to try really hard to make HTML5 work.

Also, even if you are developing some native applications, you might decide to do some HTML5 ones as well. The more experience you get in creating apps with different capabilities, the better you will get at economically providing apps faster to your consumers, customers, or employees.

So Native gives you everything, but is non-portable. HTML5 is portable and standards-based, though it is still under development and does not give you full access to the device. What do you do if you want the best of both worlds?

Next time I’ll talk about the Hybrid approach where you provide Native-like access to more device features via APIs that can be accessed from JavaScript and thus HTML5.

Hybrid is this weird middle ground between Native and HTML5. Over time, this gap between them will get smaller. There are several approaches for both development and runtime of Hybrid apps, and I’ll discuss them next.

Also see: “The spectrum of hybrid mobile app development with Worklight”

Mobile app development: Native vs. hybrid vs. HTML5 (part 1)

I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about how people build applications for mobile devices. While there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps out there for Apple, Android, Blackberry and other smartphones, I can’t help but think the majority of these are one-off efforts. In this series in the blog, I’m going to tackle some of the issues with developing mobile apps, especially for enterprise use, and along the way propose some ideas for making the process easier and more repeatable.

mobile client technologiesI’m going to start this series by discussing the basic concepts of how you might develop an application for a smartphone or a tablet. I’m scoping it at this high functionality level and not looking at feature phones, at least not right now. I’ll use Apple as my primary example, but things are similar for other devices and mobile operating environments.

If you have an Apple iPad or an iPhone, many of the apps use the native software development kit, or SDK. It is available from Apple’s developer website and contains almost everything you need to start creating apps. Like any software you plan to use, make sure you read all the legal terms and conditions before you agree to them. If you work for a company, make sure your manager and local attorney also agree that you can use the SDK. This goes not only for Apple, but for Google, Blackberry, Microsoft, Samsung or any other SDK provider.

Most native apps on Apple devices are written in Objective-C, an object-oriented language. If you’ve developed software using C++, C#, or Java, Objective-C might take some getting used to. If you are comfortable with SmallTalk, however, it should seem much more familiar.

An Objective-C application is developed using the traditional write-compile-link-run-debug iteration, though the Apple XCode environment is quite powerful and makes this loop straighforward. Nevertheless, it is not a whole lot different from what programmers did 10 or 15 years ago. Objective-C is not a scripting language, is not interpreted, and on mobile devices you need to do your own memory management.

That said, when you create an app with a native SDK, you can use the very best and most powerful features on the device. You can optimize your app as much as you want and you have maximum control. This is very important for many software engineers. The app will be as functional, as beautiful, as secure, as bug-free, and as fast as you and your team can make it. It may also take you much longer to develop the app because you need to do all these things yourself.

Yes, the SDK makes your life easier, but it is still the case that when you go the native route you need to do more of the basic development yourself.

Here’s another important issue: if you write an app using a native SDK directly, you will essentially need to completely rewrite it when you use native SDKs for other devices. I say essentially because you may be able to write some of your apps non-UI program logic in C++ and re-use that for Apple, Android, and some other environments. There are some additional but similar tricks available.

To be on the safe side planning-wise, if you decide that you need to support multiple devices and you are using the native SDKs, assume that you or someone else will rewrite the app as many times as necessary to get the broad support you need. It is not uncommon to develop the first app for the iPhone and then outsource the creation of versions for other devices based on the original reference implementation. This can be expensive and time-consuming because you need a lot of people to get this done.

For some apps you will need to go the native SDK route for the reasons I stated above. If you do not have extreme requirements for look-and-feel, device functionality, or performance there are some other choices.

In future entries I’ll look are extending the native approach with libraries, something I call, oddly enough, “Extended Native.” I’ll also discuss the pure HTML5 web approach, and poke at the strange middle ground between Native and HTML5 called “Hybrid.” Tools that target multiple devices such as cross-compilers can also work, and I’ll get to them as well.

Next up: HTML5

Also see: “The spectrum of hybrid mobile app development with Worklight”

More on “Land mines for open source in mobile”

Last week I put up a blog post called “Land mines for open source in mobile” ahead of my POSSCON talk next week. I listed 5 issues that might slow down the adoption of open source in the mobile device space. They were:

  1. No GPL code allowed in apps for the Apple App Store.
  2. Sloppy open source license compliance.
  3. The right code is available under the wrong license.
  4. There’s not enough money in it.
  5. Getting heard among the noise of thousands of other app developers.

I didn’t get too many comments here or on Twitter, but let me share what I did get and add some other remarks.

One reader noted that numbers 1 – 3 were spot on, but 4 and 5 had little to do with open source in particular.

I think that criticism on number 4 is right on, though the discussion still applies to open source developers. Moreover, had I been smarter at the time, I would have also added that if you are giving your open source app away for free, there may be very little opportunity to earn revenue via service and support. A mobile app can be relatively simple, and unless it is just a front end for some sort of for-fee service or content, we’re talking about zero money. Again, true for open and closed source, but if you can’t charge at all for your app, you very likely won’t be making any money whatsoever. That might be fine, but note it.

For number 5, I was trying to make the point that in an open source mobile app, you might not be making enough money to feed yourself, much less employees. Again true for closed source, but my positive suggestion is that if you are providing an open source app then work to find a team of people who will also provide “in an open source way” the other content that you need, as well as marketing assistance. That is, don’t stop with the coding when considering what other bits of the business can be done in an open, sharing manner.

Finally, a Twitter responder noted that source sharing is more difficult for mobile apps. I’m not quite sure why this would be the case.

  • Certainly you could post part or all (if required) of your source code on Google Code or SourceForge or another site.
  • If people can’t use GPL, are they not doing the sharing because they don’t have to?
  • Generally, are people more inclined to keep the code to themselves for mobile apps that are for open source in general?

Land mines for open source in mobile

In a couple of weeks I’ll be giving a talk at POSSCON with a title similar to that of this blog entry. It won’t be a long talk, only twenty five minutes, but I’ll try to touch on several factors that could seriously screw up the use and success of open source in the mobile space.

For this talk I’ll be primarily focusing on application development for devices, and not whatever open source might be used on the telecommunications carrier side of things. Indeed, there is open source used there, frequently Linux, but for this audience I want to concentrate on apps for devices and the role of open source in creating them.

It’s one thing to point out such land mines but I think I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t say something about how to avoid them. That will be the topic of another blog entry.

So without further ado, here are some potential problems for the increased adoption of open source in creating mobile applications. I welcome your discussion in the comments.

  1. No GPL code allowed in apps for the Apple App Store. I know there is some debate on whether this prohibition comes from Apple or the FSF, but that makes no difference. If you use GPL code in your app and it gets discovered, I think there is a good chance your app will be pulled. Other app stores or marketplaces may have similar or different rules, and you must know what they are.
  2. Sloppy open source license compliance. I don’t care whether you are a one person app developer or a half-billion person company, you need to follow the rules around using code under a given license and, especially, mixing code under different licenses. Writing for mobile does not change that. If you are creating apps for Android, read everything you can about the Apache license and what it says you must do.
  3. The right code is available under the wrong license. This might relate back in practice to the GPL situation above for the Apple App Store, but you may really have to reinvent the wheel if you need a body of code for your app and that great stuff you found on the web or in Koders has a license that prevents your using it. By the way, if you read the code and then rewrite it, you are contaminated. Don’t expect your “originality” to hold up in court. Also don’t think that you can change a few variable names and no one will notice you reused code from elsewhere. Scanning programs are getting smarter all the time.
  4. There’s not enough money in it. Ok, let’s for a moment get past the idea that open source involves sharing and freedom and all that. Assuming you did want to get paid something for your efforts, a $0 app price won’t give you much revenue, though it may give you the love and admiration of a few hundred people and a lot of personal satisfaction. If we believe that the trend is to charge $ .99 for an app, and the app store owner takes a cut of that, how many will you need to sell to make it worth it to you? If you net $ .70 before taxes and get 1000 downloads, that is $700. Nontrivial, but is it a day job? If you get 10,000 or 100,000 downloads, that becomes a different story.
  5. Getting heard among the noise of thousands of other app developers. I think a lot of people believe that mobile creates a great new opportunity for one or two people to create a successful app and get it to the masses with very little overhead and middlemen. That’s probably true, but somehow you’re going to have to get the word out about your app. To be blunt, you’ll need to do some marketing and that might go against what you think an open source developer should be doing (you don’t have to be doing open source to believe this). You also may need help to make your app more beautiful and usable. Remember that open source, volunteering, and sharing doesn’t just relate to code, but can also include design and documentation.

Also see: More on “Land mines for open source in mobile”

So you’re thinking of buying an iPad 2

With Apple‘s announcement yesterday of the availability of the new iPad 2 in the US on March 11, a lot of people are probably wondering if they should buy an iPad for the first time or get a new one.

There are many articles out there that cover the news of the new device and purchase considerations. For example:

Here are some things to think about if you already own one:

  • What are you going to do with the old one? Can you give your older model to a family member or friend and have them think you are truly generous rather than just trying to justify a purchase? They will probably be able to live with it either way. Consider giving it to someone with children or to a school.
  • Have you had the old one long enough? I got my iPad 1 at the end of April, 2010, so it would be less than a year if I got a new one. That’s pretty soon as far as devices go. Of course, my birthday is in May …
  • Do you use your old iPad a lot? If not, what is so wonderful about the new one that will cause you to use it enough to justify the purchase? Check out the new apps like GarageBand that Apple will introduce on March 11 and see if they tilt the scale toward a purchase.

If you do not have an iPad, here are some considerations:

  • They really are very cool devices and with 65,000 apps there is a lot you can do with them.  As Scoble talks about in the article above and I discussed in the blog entry “Tablet wars: Those with the most and best apps win,” do not underestimate the health of the app developer ecosystem and the size of the app marketplace.
  • Check out the competition, particularly the Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom. Look at the features,  compare the hardware, the number of apps, and the costs. Don’t be overly impressed with a device having an SD card if you don’t know what an SD card is. I think Android 3.0 will be quite cool, but you might want to let the dust settle a bit and wait a few months to get a device that supports it and has many apps. By this I do not mean multiple editions of Angry Birds.
  • Windows tablets? Seriously, get real. That ship sailed and sunk, twice, and in my opinion will do it again, repeatedly. Move on.

And some final words for anyone considering getting an iPad 2:

  • Really consider getting a 3G model, though it will add monthly charges and increase the purchase price. I love that I can grab my iPad and have Internet and Web access almost anywhere.
  • Buy a model with more storage than you need today. Many of the hottest new apps will operate on multimedia files like photos, audio, and video. Those get big, very big. If your budget allows it, get the 64Gb model.
  • Verizon or AT&T? Verizon has better coverage in upstate New York where I live, so I would probably go with that. AT&T has worked pretty well for me, I must say, but I would probably bite the bullet and switch.

Tablet wars: Those with the most and best apps win

I just linked to an article over on called “Top Tablet Comparison: iPad vs. Xoom vs. TouchPad vs. PlayBook” that compares the in-the-market iPad with 3 possible contenders that have yet to be sold. The article very correctly discusses which of the tablets are likely to get the most applications (“apps”) built for them.

Personally, I think the market will end up supporting two top contenders: the iPad and the best tablet that runs Android 3+. Then there will be a strong #3, but with far less marketshare than the top two. Though it is really too early to make a fact-based prediction, I would not be surprised if that #3 eventually was a WebOS tablet from HP.

Samsung may be #4, but after that all other contenders will have share lost in the error term. That is, something, but so small that the top contenders’ share and revenue will dwarf it. Put yet another way, share so small that executives at the companies will ask themselves why exactly they are in the market at all. I think Microsoft will not be a significant player here.

I also believe that the dominant tablets will end up being in the 10 inch form factor and not the smaller 7 inch one. I’m not looking for a bigger smartphone, I want something that has decent real estate with which to work and read.

Aside from the variations in hardware, the quantity and quality of the apps will differentiate the contenders. I think some of the vendors are now saying “Well Apple has 15,000 apps [or whatever] but we have 15 REALLY GOOD ONES.” Pretty dumb.

Recommendations and ratings help separate the wheat from the chaff when deciding which one of the one hundred similar apps for a given activity is really the best, but I really think recommenders should be required to state how closely they are related to the app developer. (I’m joking, but some of the 5-star recommendations are really content free.)

It is not easy to write apps for these devices, so the quality of the developer programs will also help determine which hardware gets the most and best apps. This does not obviate the need for developers to support the most popular devices in order to support themselves. However, a bad developer program creates a lot of frustration and bad will. Apple has a very good one and Google appears to have a decent one, but less warm and fuzzy for people starting out.

An important factor is how much code can be shared across implementations on the different devices. For example, if you stick with Objective-C from Apple, it won’t help you with Android. Conversely, Java for Android won’t give you Objective-C. Cross platform kits like Appcelerator Titanium may help you, but I have no personal experience with it.

My philosophy would be to factor the app into a UI front end written in the main language for the device, then have most of the core logic in an engine written in C++. The advantage to this is that you may be able to put a simplified front end on the backend that is then used to drive a test suite on a desktop or server where it is easier to automate such things.

Devices that make it too hard to get high quality cross-platform apps written for them will die off unless they already have massive marketshare or can get it because of successful linkage to other very strong products. Developers will follow the money as well as the platforms with elegant and productive development tools and programs.

2011 SIIA Information Industry Summit

I’ll be speaking on a panel hosted by John Patrick at the 2011 SIIA Information Industry Summit on Wednesday, January 26 in New York City.

conference logo

The panel is

Top Mobile Technology Trends – A Moving Target

Mobile devices—iphones and ipads—look to be the dominant information devices of the future. Will they radically reshape the market, Darwin style? Can one “predict the future by inventing it” as computer pioneer Alan Kay said? A panel of tech leaders will focus on the four sectors that drive the next generation of innovation.

Joining John and me will be Bill Godfrey, Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Head of Global Electronic Product Development, Elsevier; Oke Okaro, General Manager and Global Head of Mobile, Multimedia, Bloomberg L.P.; and John Paris, Sr. Director, Mobile Strategy, Time, Inc..

A day with iOS 4

Yesterday around 1 PM ET, Apple released their latest operating system for the iPhone, iOS 4. Though I was about to head out to the Red Hat Summit, I decided to go ahead and install the new operating system, thinking that if it blew up I would at least have my work BlackBerry for communications.

Ars technica has a very good comprehensive review of iOS 4, but I want to share my impressions of the new operating system. I installed it on my iPhone 3GS; it will not be available for the iPad until later this year.

First off, I’m glad that folders are finally available for apps. I was up to 8 or 9 screens of apps and I seemed to spend too much time sorting applications so I could find them easily. Folders are limited to 12 apps, which is a little small. For example, I have many travel apps. My solution was to create two folders, both called Travel, and one call Navigation. The latter has Maps, gps, guides for various subway systems, and so on. Note that more than one folder can have the same name.

By using folders I’ve been able to reduce clutter and get down to two screens. The second screen is just folders, and I have mostly single apps on the first screen. On that first screen I do have folders for news and social networking. Undoubtably, I’ll be tweaking these more. Having folders means that I’ll probably install more apps, so that’s good for app developers if others do as I do.

UI-wise, it’s nice to separately set the background image for the home and the lock screens. You can get some free beautiful backgrounds suitable for Apple devices at InterfaceLIFT.

Having a 5x digital zoom with the camera is nice, though I usually crop photos before I publish them. Remember that digital zoom does not give you sharper photos as you move in on a subject. You just can frame the image better though at a lower resolution.

I’ve not had much of a chance to take advantage of the limited multitasking. It was a deficiency that Apple did not provide true multitasking at the beginning and while I understand the argument about saving battery life, I don’t really buy it. Anything less than full, real multitasking is just a bug to me.

I’ll have more to say as I get a chance to play with it but I can see that iOS 4 is good enough that the iPad now seems a little old fashioned software-wise.

A month with an iPad

I’ve now had my Apple iPad for a bit more than a month, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on what I think of it and how my perception of it has changed during that time. I’ve written before about my experience after almost two weeks, but now I’ve had more time to kick the tires.

  • I’m glad I opted for 3G. While I do use the iPad at home quite a bit, bringing it along with me when I travel or even run around town is extra convenient because I have Internet access. While coverage is not 100%, I usually don’t have to think about whether I can get onto the Web.
  • I’m glad I opted for 64Gb. While this did push the price up, I already have more than 32Gb of material on the device, and it’s been nice not to have to edit down my music collection.
  • When I first got the iPad, it brought in all the apps I had installed on my iPhone. I then deleted most of the apps that weren’t necessary, but I’ve gotten much more aggressive lately about either deleting the iPhone apps or looking for bigger, or “HD,” versions. I typically have my iPhone with me when I have the iPad, so there’s no need to be redundant other than convenience.
  • One annoyance is that similar iPad apps are usually more expensive than their iPhone counterparts. I also suspect some of the iPhone app developers have gone away because some iPhone apps that would have reasonable iPad editions have still not materialized.
  • I’ve managed to keep to one screen of apps that are especially good when I travel, though the mix has changed.
  • Similarly, I have a screen’s worth of games, though I delete them if 1) I don’t play them and 2) I didn’t pay for them. I am willing to keep around games that my son plays. Scrabble and, of course, Solitaire are excellent time killers.
  • My most recent new screen of apps is devoted to music especially, for some reason, guitar tuners. The coolest new one I’ve found is PolyTune. This allows you to tune all six guitar strings at one time.
  • I’ve become much more comfortable with using the iPad as an ebook reader. I have several nonfiction books and I’m reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I recommend that a good way to get adjusted to reading a book on a device is to get a book you really want to read, a real page-turner. This may seem obvious, but otherwise you’ll just collect ebooks that you want to have versus want to read.
  • I simply don’t miss Adobe Flash on the device. Sure, I’ve run into a few websites that use it, but I’ve always been able to find alternatives to getting the information I wanted. This is not a comment on the Apple/Adobe debate, just an observation.