Is the iPad the new normal for data visualization?

Gartner publishes its report on Mobile BI and the winning vendor finds mobile is the driving factor in more and more of its pipeline.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

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 http://www.microstrategy.com/mobile/analyst-reviews).

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.

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