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Mobile assistants as business apps

Tablets are ideal companions in professional life due to their ease of use and performance. This is just one of the reasons that 20 percent of employees are now receiving these devices from their employers and 40 percent are using their personal devices for their work. This is based on information provided by Ruth Lorenz, Head of New Events at Messe Frankfurt, who was responsible for organizing the international trade fair for mobile business “M-Days” in May.

The versatile multimedia and office functions are especially well suited for the tasks involved in sales and service calls. Using a tablet, consultants can present the latest products with film clips and interactive graphics, enter the desired product dimensions and characteristics, browse through accessories catalogues and configure the virtual 3D model. After entering all the data, the customer can simply sign the virtual sales contract on the touch screen and the order is sent to the office by email.

This all sounds simple, but many companies are still struggling to actually implement the application scenarios. The problems include slow or unreliable internet connections, mistrust of third-party applications and limited battery life.

Easy-to-install interfaces to the corporate network are essential. IT departments have to provide the appropriate mobile device and application management solutions to ensure this. Once these preconditions have been met, the search begins for convenient-to-use, fast apps that are suitable for the particular task at hand. Free tools like Evernote, iWork, cloud services and Google Apps are quite flexible and functional, but mostly require some improvisation to use them for specific applications. This aspect paired with security considerations could therefore make it advisable to develop one’s own apps.

In doing so, companies have the choice between native, browser-based or virtualized apps, as well as hybrid solutions that combine different variants. The advantage of native apps is that they can take advantage of all the features of each device and are perfectly aligned with the gesture and touch operations of the individual device. Mobile device management also works more smoothly than with other solutions. However, a separate app must be programmed for each device type and operating system, which could be a huge cost factor. Browser-based apps, on the other hand, boast system-wide flexibility across different devices. From smartphones and tablets from different manufacturers to desktop computers, the browser is the common denominator. Thus existing web-based desktop applications can be converted into browser-based apps. These applications take less advantage of each device’s hardware, but are usually entirely sufficient for general processes such as purchase orders, travel planning or time recording.

The same applies to virtualized apps, which are practically installed like containers across the different devices, but keep the same software “inside”. They are a cost-effective solution especially in terms of covering a wide variety of different devices and operating systems, but require a permanent online connection and are often constrained by slow data transmission and small input fields.

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