The Desktop is the New Mobile…or at Least it Should be

Brad Shimmin

Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• The ideal of a mobile-driven enterprise again dominated the conversation at this week’s Salesforce.com user conference with native iOS apps leading the charge.

• But wait – isn’t the good ol’ desktop browser in truth our most mobile, most consistent development mobile platform?

The ideal of a mobile-driven enterprise again dominated keynote and hallway conversations at this week’s Salesforce.com user conference, with iOS leading the charge. The goal of course is to build an engaging user experience using the low-level power that can only come from a fully native client application, written for each of the two dominant mobile platforms – i.e., Google Android and Apple iOS. The trouble of course is which rendition of those dominant platforms are we talking about? With iOS, we have a handful, thanks to its closed nature. In contrast, Android’s open nature has spawned more than 18,000 distinct Android devices currently running one or another of the many versions of Android itself (according to a recent Open Signal research report).

That’s an awful lot of screen shapes and resolutions as well as processor architectures and speeds to account for. Perhaps that’s a driving reason users of Salesforce.com’s soon-to-be-released analytics platform, Wave, will have to wait until sometime in 2015 before getting their hands on a native Android user experience to accompany iOS. But what of the desktop? Salesforce.com Wave uses a fully HTML5-based UI that is at present more feature rich than its iOS counterpart. So what of the grand ol’ web browser? Shouldn’t it truly serve as the dominant, de facto standard for today’s incredibly fragmented device market?

As it turns out, the Web is already that de facto standard for most of the native apps out there. Some of those products, such as Wave, just don’t know it yet. The trick isn’t HTML (version 5 and beyond) or any of its associated technologies such as CSS and WebRTC. It’s in how those Web standards are packaged up for developers (and even non-developers) within something called a component framework. Excellent examples include Google Polymer, Facebook React, Twitter Flight, and Mozilla Brick. By the way, you can now add Salesforce.com Lightning to that mix. These component frameworks all serve their own platforms, but each promises to let developers write once and deploy nearly anywhere using Web standards and to do so rapidly and without having to worry about how individual application elements (components) interact with one another.

ISVs employing such component frameworks should be able to build out a multiplatform mobile client application more effectively and quickly. And most importantly, that client should allow others to extend that client, to add functionality without having to rewrite the client code itself. That’s the promise of Salesforce1, Salesforce.com’s cross-product mobile client (which uses Lightning, of course). Perhaps then, we’ll see Salesforce.com Wave running within Salesforce1 before too long, perhaps well before a pure Android rendition finally finds its way to market.

About Brad Shimmin
As Principal Analyst for Collaboration and Conferencing at Current Analysis, Brad analyzes the rapidly expanding use of collaboration software and services as a means of improving business agility, fostering employee optimization and driving business opportunities.

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