Going mobile with cloud apps

MWC2011 in Barcelona is shining the spotlight on mobile this week, and I'm sure a lot of cloud vendors are going to be thinking about their strategies for going mobile. I'll be discussing the topic with Salesforce.com, Workday and Sabre at a London event on Wednesday
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

Mobile seems to be a big theme at the moment, what with today's speculation about Apple's plans for a mini-me iPhone, Nokia throwing its lot in with Microsoft (for a price) and HP's new 'Everybody On' ad campaign following last week's Touchpad launch. This all has a lot to do, of course, with the opening today in Barcelona of the GSM Mobile World Congress, when the global industry comes together to show off its freshest wares and newest promises.

All of this reinforces the message I posted here at the beginning of the year, In 2011, mainstream means mobile. I'm sure a lot of cloud application vendors right now are thinking hard about their strategies for taking their apps mobile. On Wednesday this week, I'll be with a cross-section of vendors in London to discuss exactly that topic. Speakers from Salesforce.com, Workday and Sabre Technologies will be at this month's EuroCloud UK member meeting, which will be webcast live from 4:00pm UK time, including attendee interviews [disclosure: I serve as chair of EuroCloud UK].

The main focus of the discussion at the EuroCloud UK meeting will be the commercial and operational impact of going mobile, rather than delving into the technical detail. The business aspect is often overlooked but it's equally important — questions such as, should the mobile client be free or a paid add-on, what functionality works best on mobile, and will the mobile option affect how your customers operate and use your app? Mobile is fundamentally changing work patterns and that's an important dimension to take into account.

Coincidentally, I noticed a blog write-up a couple of days ago by Craig Walker, CTO of online accounting vendor Xero, talking about the trade-offs his company has had to look at when developing its mobile version, called Xero Touch. It's a very informative account and gives a strong flavor of some of the factors to bear in mind:

"Building a mobile application is very different to building a desktop application. I would suggest reading Josh Clark's excellent book Tapworthy to get an idea of the decisions you need to make to build a successful mobile application. You need to design for mobile — mobile forces you to focus on only the most important data and interactions. The end result should be an experience that's heavily optimized towards key tasks and consumption. It sounds constraining — but it's actually a liberating experience."

Walker talks about the open source technologies and app frameworks Xero has chosen, giving a useful insight into the thinking behind those choices. It's a practical demonstration that making the move to mobile requires some careful preparation and forethought.

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