by September 27, 2012 0 comments



– Anil Chopra, Binesh Kutty, Hiren Mehta, and Prasanto K Roy

Today, a developer who wants to develop an end-user application from scratch thinks about targeting 3 screens, i. e. the PC (whether be it a desktop/laptop/netbook), the functionally-closed tablet and the portability-oriented smartphone. This consideration is a must, because users use each of these in varying capacities and none of these segments are going to vanish anytime in the near future. Alok Sinha, AVP, Huawei Enterprise India says that although 90% of his end-user needs are satisfied by his tablet, he doesn’t see devices with a keyboard (PCs) fading away soon since the keyboards serve a valid purpose for content creation. It is true that as of today voice cannot make up for traditional input methods in keyboard-less devices since most businesses have no compelling need to use voice input. At first thought, one might think that having each of these devices running on platforms offered by the same vendor would result in a lot less number of integration and compatibility headaches. However, does this always hold true ? Or does this approach end up being a jack of all trades and master of none? Replacing your infrastructure thoroughly with another vendor’s systems is a herculean task, especially for financial services organizations who would be dealing with a lot of sensitive data and may have many legacy applications essential to their functioning. Let’s explore the alternatives available.

Apple: Aspirational for Consumers, Expensive for Enterprises, & Highly Paying for Developers[image_library_tag 633/64633, border=”0″ align=”right” hspace=”4″ vspace=”4″ ,default]

On the desktop it has the formidable MacOS, which has opened up to the Intel architecture over the last few years. On the consumer front, owners of Apple devices tend to buy more of other Apple devices to complement their experience in a most hassle-free manner. From a developer’s perspective, iOS is big money. This may increase even further once the mini-iPad is launched. Apple currently wins hands down here on the consumer-focused applications for the tablet (iPad) and the smartphone (iPhone) owing to it’s sheer size of the marketplace. Things are not as good on the enterprise applications front though, where there is a lot more room for improvement. Prasanto Kumar Roy, Editorial Advisor, CyberMedia says that in India , Apple does not have enough of a foothold yet owing to the current pricing, which actually is what makes an Apple product aspirational.


Microsoft: Consistent Experience Across Devices Could Make it a Game-Changer


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On the PC as well as on the tablet, Windows 8 promises to offer a seamless and consistent experience. Given the current rumours about the pricing of the Surface tablets, this has the potential to be a game-changer. It is worth keeping in mind though that on the tablets front, you have the option of Windows RT as well, which although is based on the ARM architecture and offers exceptional battery life, will NOT be able to run native desktop applications which you have been using so far on the Wintel architecture. Windows Phone 8 appears to remove several of the pain points (such as support for expandable storage) that consumers complained about with Windows Phone 7(and even Mango for that matter).

Beyond any scope of doubt, in the enterprise, many legacy applications even today require Windows. Managing your entire ecosystem of devices is one aspect where Microsoft has both the cake as well as the icing. Microsoft also has another ace up it’s sleeve by offering a consistent Office(including SharePoint) experience across all 3 devices, so that users need no longer worry about compatibility issues in EDI. However, does it have the potential to stand the test of time? Sinha of Huawei Enterprise India says , “During the Microsoft era, there was a time when software dictated what hardware you need to have. Now, with BYOD, we are seeing a shift in this inclination”. Since neither Windows 8 (including it’s RT variant) nor Windows Phone 8 has reached the masses yet, time will be the best judge.


Google: Too Many Android Variants Increase Mgmt Complexity Across Devices


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There really isn’t a full-fledged mainstream PC offering from Google, irrespective of the fact that on your own desktop, you probably visit Google’s homepage more number of times than clicking on the Start button of your pre-Windows 8 PC. However, on August 7, 2012, the US PTO awarded a patent (number 8239662) to Google for what appears to be Chrome OS, since the abstract of the patent largely revolves around a cloud OS. It is interesting to note that as far as a cloud OS for client PCs is concerned, Google wasn’t the first to come up with a working concept in this area. In fact the Chrome OS itself was announced AFTER the application for the patent was filed and the OS is yet to take off among the masses inspite of a handful of devices from OEMs. There are even speculations that with the recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Google may be going for a first-party device. It is even possible to install and run Android natively (without emulation) on certain netbooks, especially the Asus Eee PC range. However, the popularity of Android is due to the penetration of tablets and smartphones at multiple price points. This also means that the extremely wide range of devices having different versions of the Android operating system ( as well as a different set of hardware specifications ) make the platform a nightmare for developers who want to target multiple versions of Android , since fragmentation is too high and OS updates reach different people in different regions at different times. And here not many cases are observed that someone buying an Android tablet would buy an Android phone as well (or vice versa).


Research in Motion: The BlackBerry Still Dominates in Push Mail, but the Platform is Gradually Loosing Out to Competitors.


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No desktop offering here, so this cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution for your business. On the tablets front, the PlayBook, although well built and good-looking, was poor on bundled software until the 2.0 update. It was based on the OMAP architecture. However, what could have been a worthy competitor to the likes of Kindle seems to have taken a beating because of RIM’s deteriorating brand perception.

RIM’s claim to fame has been it’s first move to offer Push Mail with an always-on connection on a large scale. It is very difficult for seasoned BBM users to move to other IM applications such as WhatsApp.

However, recent debacles on this platform (such as server outages) have caused enterprises to look beyond BlackBerry for their communication needs. Kishore Bhargava, Technology Consultant says “If RIM were to deploy an Android device with their own customizations on top of it, they would revive the company and be back in business They would not be in the state which they are today… their strength of providing not just push mail but enterprise security, combined with the openness of Android’s platform, holds lot of value…..the next best thing for them would be to offer their solution as SaaS to become independent of the devices”.

However, Roy of CyberMedia feels that RIM should take action as soon as possible but he is not optimistic about it actually happening though.


Nokia: Dominant Phone Brand, but Weak Elsewhere


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Aside from the Maemo/Meego project, Nokia has no significant offering for the PC. It also has stopped releasing new versions of what it used to call it’s `Internet tablets` running on Maemo.

However, the combined might of Meego, Symbian and QT (which Nokia recently sold off), is very lucrative for mobile application developers. In terms of sheer numbers and current market share, Nokia still holds dominance in India (as well as the world) , thanks to it’s wide range of feature phones (many of which are legacy now although still used and their users are hesitant to migrate given Nokia’s proven reliability as far as the hardware is concerned).


Samsung:

No PC offering here too. And as far as the Galaxy tablets are concerned, they run on Android which is not Samsung’s own platform.

However, for phones, there is Samsung’s not-so-popular `Bada` platform, which , according to a recent Gartner report, has an equivalent amount of market share as compared to Windows Phone.


Drawing a rainbow:

Should you mix and match? Probably the choice of platform will not affect much after all, because software , except for specialised software such as CAD/CAM , in most of the cases, is moving to the cloud and in order for you to do your job, you just need good cloud support, which most of the listed platforms do have. For a consistent experience across your devices, you will need to ensure that the app. on one device is able to talk to the same app. on another of the 3 devices.

As far as developers are concerned, SMEs may be better off developing HTML5 applications that will help them deliver a consistent experience across all platforms and devices.

Large enterprises can choose to make their applications richer by using native code. However, Sinha of Huawei Enterprise India feels that the combination of Mac+iOS+Android can deliver you the highest value rather than an all-Microsoft infrastructure.


In conclusion:

Does it sound fair to put PCs into this comparison at all? Sinha says that it is not fair to compare desktops with the portable devices , given that a good desktop would cost at least INR 35000 today ; with tablets that are available for INR 15000. Rather, the tablets should be compared with thin clients, which are already seeing widespread deployment today and cost the same order of magnitude or even lesser.

Sinha says that while many CEOs buy Apple’s devices because of their aspirational value, the mobile workforce such as sales persons and delivery staff largely uses cheaply available Android devices and no longer needs to be tied down to feed everything into a full-blown PC at the end of the day. This , on the other hand, is of no concern to people (such as the helpdesk) who would be using locally installed immovable systems.

There is also a general consensus that there is no compelling reason in the near future for an organization which already has well-configured BlackBerry systems in place to switch to another platform atleast as far as the phone is concerned.

Do you see a dark horse here ? Which combinations can you think of that can deliver exceptional value? Write to us at pcquest@cybermedia.co.in

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