Is the iPad the new normal for data visualization?

Is the iPad the new normal for data visualization?

Summary: Gartner publishes its report on Mobile BI and the winning vendor finds mobile is the driving factor in more and more of its pipeline.


Last weekmonth, Gartner released its "Critical Capabilities for Mobile BI" report and the results were interesting indeed.  The vendor that came in with the highest overall product rating, was not a data visualization start-up, a self-service BI specialist vendor, or one of the "mega-vendors." instead, it was the longtime BI pure play MicroStrategy (who will happily share a copy of the Gartner report with you at

For me, the timing of all of this is quite striking, as I had interviewed Jeff Bedell, MicroStrategy's CTO, and Brian Brinkmann, its Senior Director, Product Marketing, only a bit more than a week priortwo weeks later, having not yet seen the report, and mobile dominated the conversation.  There were a couple of reasons for this.

It all starts with a good app First off, the company's MicroStrategy Mobile for iPad app looks excellent.  It's a fully native iOS app, rather than a simple container created to host HTML 5 content.  And in this same spirit of building a data visualization delivery experience tailored for the iPad, it also allows users to design content specifically for the iPad, rather than simply re-purpose their desktop dashboards.

Yes, the tablet experience can be a bit hard to share, but MicroStrategy's iPad app is also Apple AirPlay-compatible, allowing visualizations to be displayed on a big-screen TV or projector, as long as an Apple TV device is connected.  In fact, my interviewees told me they hardly ever do "wired" presentations in their office anymore.  In other words, running dashboards off a laptop connected to a projector over a VGA or HDMI cable is a thing of the past at MicroStrategy.

Little screen, Big Data And lest you think that, as a BI company, MicroStrategy produces products that can only work against medium data loads, rest assured that circumstances are quite to the contrary. Case in point: MicroStrategy has had a long standing partnership with Cloudera and can connect to Hadoop via Hive.  MicroStrategy also has a partnership with Teradata, and the two companies have a great many customers in common.

Mobile no longer optional So if MicroStrategy does Big Data, why does it also do small screens?  Because that very combination is becoming prevalent.  Only recently, BI companies were able to use a mobile app as a unique competitive advantage.  Then the plot thickened and mobile apps became a requirement as customers did their vendor selection.

That requirement arose because high-level executives really wanted their dashboards on their tablets.  As such, a significant requirement was being driven by a small percentage of users.

But now even that has progressed.  MicroStrategy told me that for many business users (as opposed to IT professionals), the tablet has become the primary device for doing data visualization and exploration.  And MicroStrategy finds that their Mobile app isn't just a sweetener that helps close new business, but is instead the factor driving several of its recent deals.

Analysts, start your iPads That's huge.  Or should I say "Big?"  Big Data on small devices is looking more and more like the new reality for data visualization.  And it turns out the Gartner report is following something substantive, significant and which is becoming increasingly mainstream.

Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO, Data Centers, iPad, Mobility, Software

Andrew Brust

About Andrew Brust

Andrew J. Brust has worked in the software industry for 25 years as a developer, consultant, entrepreneur and CTO, specializing in application development, databases and business intelligence technology.

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  • Was there and old normal? if so what was it?

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • There was an old normal

      The desktop browser and software.
      • By those standards

        No, it is not... 7 PCs in my house compared to two Tablets. In work, all data is still delivered either by an App with a larger screen or a browser on that same larger screen.
      • Were there other options?

        Before the iPad, were there really other tablet options with such functionality?
        Such as, but not limited to, high resolution color display, Internet connectivity via WiFi and/or Cellular, capacitive touch screen, an extensive Apps ecosystem?

        Today, data is presented on many platforms:
        The desktop, tablet and other mobile devices, including phones and specialized displays, ranting from small server or even disk attached displays, to large high resolution displays, sometimes covering a wall. It all depends on whom you ask and what data you are presenting.

        But the tablet is already one of the established options, thanks to the iPad.
  • Wait for us!

    Just think: there are people at Microsoft who believe that the executive suite will wait for Windows 8 because what top management really wants is Word and Excel. In the meantime, leading BI vendors are writing native iOS apps because that's what leading customers are buying. I don't see how sending Munchkins to propagandize -- or down-rate comments --on ZDNet is going to change this.
    Robert Hahn
    • Nice Dream

      Unfortunately, big business is never going to buy Windows 8 because they have already standardized on Windows 7. Windows 7 is going to be Windows XP all over again.
      • It's odd

        Yeah, that is one of several anomalous messes that crop up when trying to make sense of Microsoft's mobile computing strategy. Every so often a Munchkin will come in here to tell us that the Metro interface on tablets will succeed because 'billions and billions' of people will become familiar with it from using it on desktop computers. But hardly anyone believes that Windows 8, let alone Metro, is going to be a big hit in corporate computing for just the reason you've stated. No company that spent millions moving to Win 7 is going to do it again for Win 8. We saw it with NT 4 and we saw it again with XP: big companies skip every other revision. In fact I'll bet that Microsoft ends up bolting the Metro GUI onto some service pack for Win 7, just to get it into the IT departments.

        Another mess stems from the Munchkins who tell us that Windows 8 will rule the tablet world because of all the legacy Windows apps. Then we find out that not only have they forked Win 8 and created a version (RT) that doesn't run Windows legacy apps, they've entered into deals with some hardware vendors to produce tablets that run Windows Phone. That isn't a strategy; it's throwing mud at a wall to see what sticks. That, and letting the sales force run the company.
        Robert Hahn
      • Robert Hahn: You seem to be having a lot of fun,

        making predictions and hoping that, Windows 8 and Microsoft do fail. But, the product isn't even out yet, and the CIOs still haven't had a chance to evaluate the new OS or the UI in real world applications and real world usage.

        Hoping for something to happen is not necessarily going to make it happen, and you need to examine the history of new technology in order to give a fair assessment of any product. The same kind of predictions were being made about the iPad before it came on the scene, and now, it's part of an accepted ecosystem which includes iPhone and iCloud and Macs.

        So, why not hold off on your "negative enthusiasm", and come back with your "predictions" and "hopes for failure", one year after the Windows 8 lineup has been released?

        Your kind of predictions were also being made about the XBox, and, what happened with that system?
      • adornoe: Nothing of this is predictions

        Some people have this ability to tell you outright "this is not going to be, no matter what" or "this is going to be the next thing". And still not be wrong in the end.

        Windows 8 is one of these things. It is not going to happen.

        Now, you need to understand what is not going to happen, or go back to "but Microsoft won't fail" mantra.

        What is not going to happen is for Windows 8 to be successful. The reason for this is very, very simple: Microsoft are not brave enough.

        Microsoft is not brave enough to do the right thing. And the right thing in this case is to create an entirely new platform, based on WinRT, avoid any bloat from Win32 and move forward. Their current platform customers will be happy with Windows 7. Windows 8 could have been just an incremental improvement from Windows 7, based more or less on the same code base.
        In just few years, WinRT would have provided Microsoft with an modern, more secure and more performant platform -- free from the junk they have accumulated over the years.

        Microsoft goofed already one time with Windows NT, by "integrating" it into Win32, instead of doing the right thing and integrate Win32 into Windows NT. But, while at that time Microsoft succeeded because of the huge "PC" push they had from IBM and then joined forces with Intel on "let's create an duopoly" --- now things are different. Everyone other has had time to prepare their act and are now executing. Except Microsoft, and as it seems, Intel.

        PS: What is the profit to Microsoft from the Xbox? Wonder, when the lawsuit for cross-subsiding the games console business from the monopoly desktop/server money will happen. :)
    • Wait for the Bright Future

      People with money (read: non-failing enterprises) will always buy what works and makes them earn more money. They won't care for brands and could care less if Microsoft disappears one day, because they didn't pay their early contribution to them.
      • Your opinion may be worth something when you get to year 8

        Until then, we'll allow you the delusion that you think you can change the world!
  • iPad is the New Normal

    Desktops may remain the workhorses for corporate operations, but for data analytics - what this article is discussing - tablets are definitely the new normal.

    My customers perceive tablet-driven data access as a requirement rather than a competitive differentiator, and that's happened in a relatively short period of time. Many companies are now struggling with the BYOD challenge to secure and segregate corporate from personal data - but that's not enough to stop the sea change.