The App development blog of Simon Monk, CTO of Meme IDE the cross platform development tool for Android, WM and IOS apps. free download from

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Is Android a Good Platform for 'Grimy' Business Solutions?

Business solutions can be divided into two on the basis of the type of user.

There are 'shiny' business solutions for sales people and managers. These are essentially extensions to an organisation's CRM system. These solutions will generally also include email facilities and may be delivered on a Blackberry or an iPhone or smart Android device, in other-words a consumer-style smartphone.

A quite different type of solution, but one that is generally higher value in per-user revenue is the 'grimy' business solution. This will usually be delivered on a rugged brick of a phone. The end users may be involved in field service activities (fixing things) or delivery activities.

The devices and app will be heavily locked down and the workflow will dictate the activities of the engineer or delivery worker.

The vast majority of 'grimy' apps are written in Windows Mobile. In fact, we can be more specific than that, because the rugged equipment manufacturers have stated that they will be sticking with WM6.5 for the foreseeable future and not migrating to Microsoft's latest mobile operating system. Windows Mobile (and even more aggressively WP7) has long been negatively viewed by reviewers and blogs such as this one from Greg Kumparak @techcrunch but still it is used and heavily relied upon in business.

So, back to the original question. Where does Android sit in all this?

My answer is that Android is well suited to this kind of app for the following reasons:

* Hardware compatibility. The hardware currently used by manufacturers of rugged WM devices is in most cases perfectly capable of taking Android, without modification.

* The long screen. Screen designs for WM6.5 business apps tend to get very tightly packed. Scrolling the whole screen does not work well, when you have an app out in the field and you are trying hit the 10 pixel wide scroll area on a badly calibrated touch screen. In Android, it is far more natural to have a 'long' widely-spaced screen that the user can wiz up and down with using swipes of the finger.

* End-user familiarity. WM6.5 has its roots in consumer phone technology. But this is a fast moving technology and people are used to the iPhone / Android style of doing things. It is becoming more and more familiar to end users.

* No stylus. Businesses buy styluses by the box full. They get lost and broken with great regularity.

* Tablet-tability. The increasing abilities of android tablets and especially rugged versions are making them a more appealing option for businesses. Some good and more viable examples were highlighted by Matt Burns over at Techcrunch back in April.

When will we see 'grimy' Android apps?

Well, they are starting to emerge, but it will probably be at least two years before they are on a par with WM6.5 solutions - at least in the 'grimy' market.

It will be interesting to see if this is hastened by Google's purchase of Motorola's phone division.


Find me on twitter @theappmonk

No comments:

Post a Comment