In a business today there is a sales team who are out on the road or in a customers cubicle giving the said sales pitch about their vNext software. The sales pitch is a normal one filled with roadmap breakdowns, price adjustments and depending on whether the company had a descent designer on staff - screenshots that make you either turn in disgust or clap excitedly at the new coat of green.
A question finally emerges from the customer, it centeres around the one area they are most likely dreading being asked - “What’s your web and/or mobility story going forward?”
Since Microsoft has pretty much announced a big slab of chaos for each and every development team world wide around their failure (WPF and Silverlight) this in turn has created a a bit of a churn across more and more .NET product teams.
They realise upfront WPF/Silverlight are dead and with mobility solutions like the iPad being more and more disruptive amongst staff within their customers customer, it’s back to the platform adoption drawing board for many large to small software vendors.
Native vs Web.
The sales team will eventually make their way back to the in-house software team and ask them to come up with an answer to “what’s our mobility story on the web?” which at first seems like a query around “web based mobility”.
That’s the error, as what’s being asked is a case of firstly how can you deliver a solution on the web and touch as many platforms without having to fork your code-base or design experience (reduce cost).
Secondly what Mobile platform do we target and why.
The development teams will now go off and explore a few options and somewhere along the lines they’ll stumble on Phonegap and maybe even KendoUI (if you’re in the .NET scene that is). You’ll avoid JQuery Mobile because someone at a UserGroup told you it’s a bad day ahead but overall you’ll shout Victory initially as you’ve found a solution that rules the day across all platform(s).
Some may even cheat by avoiding having to do any of the above and simply slap Citrix on to the iPad and VPN into a Silverlight/WPF experience you already made and make the user fumble their way through two layers of glass to achieve a native like experience.
Eventually though, Native becomes the forbidden fruit. You want to get a bit more performance or scale in a way that makes sense to the device and less to the fake-it until you make-it revolutions you seem to be spinning on.
Now comes the hard question, which device and why.
Platform Adoption - Use Case.
Garnter’s VP recently came out and stated that 80% of businesses by 2013 will be outfitting staff essentially with an iPad like device.
It’s a pretty bold stat and you have to remember that Gartner get paid to come up with research by companies that need the said research to abstract their sales pitch from bised to unbiased opinion - that being said - it’s not unreasonable to believe what he stated.
Picking up a mobile device like an iPad at first seems like it’s a toy, or unnessary for variety of industries as they will never replace a desktop device. An assumption like this will be short lived in most large companies that are weighing up their platform decision making.
Firstly concept of an iPad in the hands of an after hours worker is more valuable than a laptop. The main reason is they are carrying the device around with them and are more likely to whip it out during a dinner with friends than a laptop or slate (excuse me while I take out my laptop, no continue talking vs let me look at this device that almost to the untrained eye gives you the appearance i’m checking the bill for our dinner folder thingy).
The worker opens the device, performs some quick “at a glance” review of the data within their company, see’s no urgent issues and continues to go about their evening.
Having First response reactions are highly valuable and will be the likely first candidate for mobility in most verticals. It’s more to do with the psychology of the device than its possibilities that is to say you could shift a lot of your desktop solutions onto an iPad-like experience but it won't’ happen until organisations wrap their heads around Security and how they plan to break up their current desktop experience(s) into more finite pieces.
Security will be the biggest sticking point initially and UX Technology adoption aside, it comes back to the fear that if a user were to leave the said device at a dinner table then people can shut down a factory or steal intellectual property from a company faster than if they were on say a laptop (yes it's retarded but you know there’s a Security jackass in some IT Division scaring the kids with just that scenario and getting traction).
A company will in turn dip their toes in the water, they’ll use Frist Response workflow / process as a way to see if this whole Mobile thing has legs from an investment standpoint and technical adoption acid test.
Platform Adoption - Development Teams.
Assuming you jump over the pitfalls with choosing “why” you need mobility in your company next comes the how one will build solutions to backup the “why”. Like i said most companies will ignore the mountains of research that showed AJAX as a bad idea for LOB apps and instead be mesmerized by the new pretty Orange Shield logo known as HTML5.
However, I’d wager big dollars that before long the horns of retreat will blast form within the cubicles of software development teams world wide and they will in turn look for more native-like experience(s) to seek refuge.
Companies at this point have probably drowned a few developers for their late delivery and like a drug addict who’s won the lottery in vegas - spent a small fortune on a lot of good ideas at the time strategies.
At this point one has to decide how they will navigate the current Platform arena. On one hand you’re going to have to figure out a way to enable 1x Team of developers to write an App for all devices. That will come up with a very short list of possibilities if none at all.
Next comes the last desperate refuge whereby the said people will in turn reduce the friction and ask that the target platforms be scaled back, that is “let’s just write for an iPad” style thinking.
Problem here is companies that want to target all platforms will in turn likely have to invest in staffing up individual platform-specific teams that don’t x-platform develop. It’s a new day really when that happens as typically most companies traditionally like to place a bet on a single platform as the primary choice (aka .NET).
None the less people better start warming up to the idea of there being an iOS team, Android Team and lastly Modern UI ..(big f`k you to Microsoft for screwing up Metro branding) Team.
Platform Adoption - Windows 8 Hijack.
Having forked browser discussions or worse having forked staffing of development teams is about as interesting to a large company right now as letting users have free access to an iPad without a SOE lock down.
The reality is right now any adoption bet a company makes is likely to be repaved post Windows 8 sales begin as weird as that sounds?
If you look at Windows 8 today you’ll see the Google Chrome Logo color scheme spread out into a bunch of Boxes that are basically fluff for the consumer. A few people out there will get all excited about the Metro - err..Modern UI - style experience(s).
Companies who have a solid bet on .NET however will be keeping a very close eye on how you can hijack the consumer experiences to suit their agenda(s). Just like in the Original XBOX or Kinect release in which Microsoft had expected the market do X in turn users ended doing mods/hacks to use it for their own needs.
A company facing a mobility crisis as the one they are facing today will see past the mickey mouse Windows 8 UI layer and instead hijack it for their own needs. Giving users the ability to wet their appetite with .NET level code on Win8 devices will be enough to hold the door open in the potential “if we don’t build a mobile/web story our competitors and/or customers will kill us” door closing campaigns.
That in itself is an interesting thought to let fester, what if Windows 8 saves the Enterprise from having to decide on HTML5/Android/iOS? What if the .NET kids simply keep pumping out a WPF like solution but on a device.
Wait, I just looked around and it occurred to me. It’s already happening only downside is they need a way to kill off the Windows 8 AppStore experience and revert back to a “my app will be all you need for this new Surface hardware you have in front of you”.
Windows 8 will have a yearly upgrade path, there will be a subscription model that works like it did with OSX Lion and if you combine both Apple payment ideas with Silverlight’s deployment model you have a fairly good enoug Windows 8 story that will keep Business occupied long enough for the merging of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Enterprise Customer Client Thingy story.
I’d wager that if business does uptake on Windows 8 they will force Microsoft into a reactive situation where they’ll likely have to sacrifice features set for consumers only and instead opt for Enterprise (which is where they will make their unit sales through the most).