Mobile Computing

The simple fact is that more and more people are using the Smart Phone rather than PCs or even tablets. The challenges of these devices is that they have a portrait format rather than the more conventional landscape design. One of the most recent advances has been the Phablet or large format phone, which now provides a really usable amount of screen 'real estate' and enhanced graphics that makes this content really clear. This has put pressure on all other types of device including tablet, which is probably why their sales have significantly dropped. In emerging economies such as China almost 33% of websites were visited by mobile devices and this is likely to be an increasing trend. This means website need to be able to deal with this.

In the past this mobile provision has been dealt with providing content through the use of Apps which are proprietary to the device manufacturer e.g. Android or IoS based devices. This is a very expensive model to maintain and requires installation of the App itself on the customers phone which then needs to be periodically updated. Naturally there is some resistance to this other than for 'must have' apps such as maps, weather, banking etc. An alternative has been to provide browser based access that simply shows a website despite the presentational impacts and navigational difficulty.

The new approach is to provide via a web page but by using responsive content which will reformat depending on the device size. Generally this entails intelligently wrapping sections into a vertical portrait format. in some cases the actual content is simplified and provided by some form of drill down option. In addition the navigation is typically altered to suit the mobile format and to make it easy to interact with.

So much more is now possible with the advent of HTML 5* which now handles page content, video and graphics in a way that was previously handled by plug ins or scripting, which were or still are inoperable in many mobile browsers. Note that special care need to be taken when designing such adaptable web content to ensure that all common browsers are supported across all devices. By sticking to HTML 5 this is less of a problem but still needs thorough testing.

Content can also be linked to existing applications already installed on the device - and example is YouTube.

Microsoft CRM is an example of such a technology. It has both a fully mobile app and the ability to present 'responsive' web based content in a browser. Most cloud based software providers offer products with this capability and all the worry of how information will be presented has already been handled by them. See also Mobile CRM

The Advantages of Mobile Computing are obvious...

  • Always on - a connection is almost always available - coverage and speed is no longer a problem with 3G and 4g connectivity.
  • Easy to operate - familiar and are most peoples every day tool
  • Instantly available - lightweight and always on ones person
  • BYOD - Supports bring your own device (BYOD) ways of working

But there are other considerations...

  • Security - strongly encrypted but maybe undermined by security services push for security back-doors to be provided
  • Short battery life - dependency on power supply but battery technology improving
  • Data expensive - likely to reduce in price over time
  • Small screen size -  limits how much data can be viewed at a time - redesign of websites to accommodate the format

*HTML5 Key Features

Specified much more with web applications in mind than the old flat web page approach, making it much easier to do sexy things like drag and drop and have thsi work across all compliant browsers, which of course is all of the main ones.

  • Offline storage - ability to store much more one-time data and persistent data to make interaction far more responsive
  • Canvas drawing - allows graphics to be drawn directly to the page without having to rely on plug ins like Flash to this and allows interaction with these graphics
  • Video and audio streaming - again performed without a plug in and with advanced features such as timed playback.
  • Geolocation - is location aware and can use this to filete content, of course mobile devices such as phones already have GPS built in
  • Drag and Drop - the ability to drag and drop objects within the browser window
  • Improvedpage controls - better native controls and validation than previously