Tablet sales are expected to triple in 2011, reaching about 55 million units and then catapulting to 208 million units shipped in 2014-displacing 10 percent of PC sales, according to recent reports from the Gartner Group.
The projected demand for tablet devices, which includes Apple's iPad, a range of Google Android-based devices, the forthcoming BlackBerry PlayBook and other tablets coming to the market, presents an opportunity for enterprises looking to extend their mobile footprint beyond smartphones to customers with sophisticated and engaging tablet applications.
Yet, how can companies effectively create and manage apps for these disparate operating systems and devices?
Here are six practical tips for enterprise mobile app developers facing this challenge:
- Use a single code base as the basis for the application using Web technologies that can then be implemented across multiple operating systems and devices. Cross-portability of applications is key to a successful mobile application strategy for multiple devices. By using a single code base for the core of the application, companies are able to reproduce the basic functionality across devices, whether it's the iPad or Android tablets in their many iterations. This can save up to 80 percent of the development cost compared to individual initiatives per device. Yet, it is important to also be able to deliver an optimized experience for each type of tablet as highlighted in the next point.
- Optimize each application per device by tweaking code to accommodate different form factors and incorporate native capabilities that enhance the look and feel for different devices. It is not enough to simply deliver basic functionality across devices in a lowest-common-denominator application approach. A hard look at the reviews of the iTunes application clearly illustrates that consumers are quick to realize when an application has not truly delivered the tablet user experience that is expected. By optimizing apps per device, developers are able to deliver a better fit for different form factors, screen sizes, device-specific navigation idiosyncrasies and more. This is really the best of both worlds-leveraging standard Web and native technologies to optimize apps per device.
- Deliver data and functionality by integrating to backend systems using a reusable connectivity layer with access to enterprise services, databases and systems for multiple applications. The functionality of your application often needs to be connected with multiple enterprise systems. Having the ability to leverage ready-made integration, security and authentication adapters for multiple apps and across multiple tablets ensures efficient development and will also be much appreciated by your CIO.
- Work with IT managers in the organization to set up a centralized console that allows top-level management of application versions, performance issues and user notifications. As an application is made available to users 'in the wild,' it is important to manage and control its usage as much as possible. For example, if a security risk is identified and patched, administrators can notify users and prompt to install the latest app version through this type of management console.
- Connect with business intelligence systems that can analyze user adoption and behavior to help define business requirements and further improve application user experience for each type of device. Tracking both adoption and usage helps to define mobile business strategy, inform decision makers and ensure line-of-business executives provide their target audiences with the best possible tablet application they expect.
Using this approach, developers can be better prepared for a fragmented tablet landscape and continue to deliver engaging applications for consumers to interact with enterprises in order to shop, book orders, manage finances and perform other interactions currently done via the online or mobile portals.
Following these guidelines will enable developers to deliver rich application functionality with no limits, maintain code portability across devices, avoid locking into one device-type or specific technology and leverage existing IT and development resources even for future applications as new devices are introduced to the market.