At MicroStrategy World in Cannes, France, MicroStrategy announced today the general availability of MicroStrategy Mobile for the Apple iPhone and iPad. This release adds another means of getting business information and metrics to a broad audience of mobile workers through their preferred technology. Supported by our benchmark research and in my recent blog I noted the growing demand by business for simpler access to mobile business intelligence.
This announcement builds on the sneak peek MicroStrategy provided of what it would do to support the Apple platform back in January at its U.S. version of MicroStrategy World. In case you are not paying attention to technology sales and usage statistics, the iPhone is now the vehicle for more than 65 percent of mobile Internet access, and as of this May about 93 million iPhone units had been sold.
The recent launch of the iPhone 4 introduces new advancements in collaboration and sophistication but the iOS 4 is available for iPhone 3 versions. In less than 60 days since entering the market, the iPad mobile tablet has sold more than 2 million units. The Apple platform has the largest ecosystem of mobile applications and has inspired not just consumers but businesses about what is possible.
Hundreds of organizations are putting together new applications and tool portfolios that will support a new style of business computing that will help make their businesses not just more efficient operations but cool places to work. I have seen this reflected in our recent benchmark research on information applications, in which the iPhone was indicated to be a priority platform in 37 percent of organizations, and in our business intelligence (BI) and performance management benchmark research, which found that 30 percent of organizations are in the process of deploying or planning to deploy applications to the iPhone and another 27 percent hope to deploy them in the near future.
I know that many IT departments are lukewarm on supporting mobile BI, but the business side is tired of waiting for it and has been evaluating and even deploying mobility with little if any IT involvement. I believe that getting IT and business working together in this regard will make a huge difference in fully leveraging the data assets in the enterprise.
I decided to try out MicroStrategy Mobile on my iPhone; anyone with an iPhone or iPad can get free access to evaluate it. I started with the tutorial to see a sample Wireless Bill and analysis and dashboards, which were simple to use and interact with, then moved on to a demo on Restaurant Trends, which provided more realistic BI applications and analytics. It included capabilities for quick rotation of metrics and trends for examining changes in the market and can rapidly sort, filter and rank information. The Check Stats app provides a nice look-and-feel that lets you drill into key performance indicators and examine the underlying metrics that generate them. Autorotation of a chart representing the data helps you examine detailed information easily. The last sample BI application was Casino Analysis, a more graphical application that shows what you can build while looking at key metrics, charts and quick navigation of graphics on one view of the iPhone. This app also provided drilling down and navigation across detail data along with rotating through metrics. Any of these applications can also take input from auxiliary input methods such as cameras or scanners that might be needed by an organization’s field force.
MicroStrategy has not just adapted the output of its BI technology but also expanded its platform to support the assembly and deployment of applications for the Apple platform. This support enables an organization to avoid learning the native language of Apple iOS called Objective C+ that operates the iPhone and iPad and instead use the MicroStrategy environment, which shields it from the complexity of coding. MicroStrategy has bet that support of the Apple platform natively will be the path to success; from what I have seen so far, the user experience and interactions are superior to what you get operating within the Safari browser. MicroStrategy designed its Mobile product to support a range of capabilities for guided, context-aware and sensory support of the platform while ensuring that it operates on a secure and scalable platform. Enabling millisecond response times is part of the value of a native application that allows for swiping, drilling and tapping around to get to the information needed. MicroStrategy also provides links and prompts to ease the connectivity to other applications and interactions with them.
To convey the Apple experience requires using charting and location awareness that adapt to the form factor, which MicroStrategy has done. For example, using the location awareness of the Apple platform and the individual user’s role, you can provide rapid context for the information being used in the BI application. I have commonly referred to this as location intelligence which we have also benchmarked as the demand by business for these types of capabilities has been steadily increasing. Common native aspects of the device like shake to refresh or pinch to zoom work easily within MicroStrategy Mobile. For extensibility, MicroStrategy has provided templates and the ability to brand them so that you can rapidly integrate metrics and information from its platform where you might already have defined the BI content for other dashboards and reports. In addition MicroStrategy has made integration into other vendors’ applications easy to support.
MicroStrategy Mobile is built on a powerful BI platform that in its latest version 9 release 2 exceeds the performance and scalability needs of most organizations and can handle the large number of simultaneous users that come across the Internet. This enables an organization to use its platform and administrative tools available today to support mobile BI on the back end. In addition MicroStrategy also supports online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes and enterprise applications such as SAP, which I have written about (See: “MicroStrategy Has a Bounty of BI for Organizations Using SAP”). In addition MicroStrategy has multiple points of security not just from the device and the telecommunications carrier but encryption of data and transmission along with user authentication and authorization across the network and the Internet to the enterprise where MicroStrategy is operating.
MicroStrategy Mobile joins in dedicated support of the native Apple platform with other BI providers Actuate, SAP BusinessObjects and QlikView. The question is whether other providers, particularly IBM Cognos and Oracle, will provide dedicated support for the native platform or settle for support of HTML 5 through Safari; Information Builders for one is just supporting the platform through Safari today, which does not provide as robust functionality or the same user experience. And Microsoft, well they still have to work on having BI operate on Windows Mobile and is doubtful that they will support Apple. An issue for many BI providers is that they developed much of their Web browser support using Adobe Flash, which Apple probably will never allow due to their dispute on the future of mobile and even Web-based computing using that technology.
In the evaluation version MicroStrategy has a range of additional examples to show organizations what is possible with its new platform in retail merchandising and sales, consumer-centric shopper programs or account information or auto repair and maintenance applications. These all fill a need today and should arouse interest in applications for other enterprise and customer-centric needs of organizations. It also adds a new opportunity for MicroStrategy to address a larger market for what I call Information Applications that make information and analytics more readily available to anyone who needs them. MicroStrategy already helps organizations answer challenges in the length of time to it takes to deploy applications and the lack of flexibility in doing so.
As an inducement to get started, MicroStrategy offers 25 perpetual named user licenses for free with the Mobile Suite on its Web site. MicroStrategy was a pioneer in support for the RIM BlackBerry, and that continues with RIM’s new smart phones. I expect MicroStrategy to develop support for Google’s Android, which is also growing at a rapid rate. The robust support for Apple by MicroStrategy is a smart step forward. I have long said it needs to expand beyond the BlackBerry, and embracing the Apple platform should bring greater adoption by business users who are pushing the demand for mobile BI.
Mark also blogs at VentanaResearch.com/blogs.