Mobile Impressions Are Casting Deep Shadows



I was impressed and moved by two mobile events over the weekend of September 20, 2013; and, these events are worth discussing.

 First Impressive Event

 Many stock market and industry analysts predicted that the new Apple iPhone 5s and 5c models would lose ground and market share to Android phones in its first weekend of sales. Many of these analysts predicted maybe 5-6 million units could be sold, as based upon incomplete data from iPhone component suppliers, conjecture based upon a skewed perceptions of financial reality, and, perhaps by some, on a bit of wishful thinking, hoping that Apple will go away.

 What these so-called experts neglected to do in their research analysis was to ask Apple advocates and consumers what they thought about the matter. So what happened this first weekend of sales? Were these paid experts right on the mark?  Did their opinions stand on their own merits?

 It wasn’t even close. Their projections were incredibly off the mark. Instead of 5 million units, fanatical consumers came out in droves, and Apple sold over 9 million units in three days shattering all estimates. Even more staggering was the Apple announcement that over 200 million existing iPhone users downloaded the new iOS 7 software platform. As a point of reference, the entire population of the US is only 317 million. These are simply staggering numbers!

 Think about what this means financially. Apple revenue is projected for Q4 2013 to be close to $37 billion. As a point of perspective, this is more revenues than the 2010 tax revenues collected by three states: South Dakota ($2.58 B), Tennessee ($18.2 B), and Louisiana ($16.1 B). So, essentially a single product (iPhone) will earn more than the cumulative tax revenues in three states. That is impressive by anyone’s measure.

 In my opinion, stock market and industry analysts fall into the same category as TV weather forecasters. These may be the only two vocations where one can be wrong 50% or more of the time, and still be paid handsomely. And, more incredibly, people will actively seek out their expert opinions – knowing full well, these experts are prone to be wrong half the time. I wonder if it is too late for me to change careers.

 Second Impressive Event

 A few years ago, I was responsible for industrial mobility software sales in EMEA countries. When I first started traveling through Europe, international telephone charges, and, later, Internet connectivity fees were often the most expensive line items on hotel bills – more than the actual cost of the room in some cases.

 How fast and how far things have progressed was brought home personally by my daughter. She and her husband, and her in-laws, are vacationing in Greece, while we are babysitting her two small children in Kansas City.

 From her Athens hotel room, my daughter was able to use her iPhone to launch a free FaceTime session. She was able to see and talk to her children before they went to bed as if she were across town instead of halfway around the world. The kids were thrilled to see their parents and vice versa! The conversation they held was priceless.

 Her children will never know a world where FaceTime and video telephone calls were not normal everyday events. They will take this type of technology for granted; but, I will not.

 Business Slant

What does this means to business? Once again, Apple has strengthened its position as a world-wide desired smartphone product in a category they defined.

From an IT perspective, Apple’s strength helps solidifies BYOD strategies for at least the next 18 months, which is an IT eternity. Apple is not going away, and it is foolhardy to think otherwise.

Video telephone technology that was once the topic of comic strips like Dick Tracy, from a human perspective, is becoming common place. How can this technology be utilized in your everyday business activities? I’m betting you are surprised daily.

The future is not written yet; and, I think we’ve only witnessed the tip of the smartphone technology iceberg.

But, what we’ve already seen is really impressive!

Time Barriers Broken


(L-R Top Row: Pocket Watch, Samsung Galaxy Gear – Side View, Samsung Galaxy Gear – Front View, Dick Tracy, Second Row: Rolex, Sony SmartWatch 2)

We live in a fast-paced mobile society that scarcely resembles the society in which our parents imagined or lived – or does it? You might be surprised. Here’s a retrospective review of wrist-worn technology.


Spring-powered pocket watches first date back to the 1500’s –crude by today’s standards and prone to be inaccurate. Chronographs, watches with unique add-on functions like stop watch, calendar date, moon phases, and more, have been around since 1816, generally very accurate, and are often very expensive. Priced a Rolex lately?

In 1893, with the adoption of the General Railroad Timepiece Standards, developed for pocket watches worn by railroad conductors and engineers, uniform technology standards to synchronize time measurements along long travel distances was first introduced. This standards adoption revolutionized personal time devices – only 120 years ago!

By the 1920’s, wrist-worn watches outpaced pocket watch sales. Until the 1970’s all wrist watches were analog, spring-powered devices. With the introduction of microchip technology, many watches have now incorporated elements of digital technology including LCD displays and battery-powered operations.

Imagination and Science Fiction

October 4, 1931, the newspaper comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, was among the first to imagine science fiction wrist worn devices. Gould introduced a novel two-way wrist radio in 1948, which allowed Detective Tracy to communication with his police headquarters. This device evolved into a two-way wrist TV by 1964, which brought miniaturized video camera and a video screen. Then by 1987, the wrist-worn device had evolved into being a two-way wrist computer. One has to wonder how this comic strip inspired wearable device engineers.


These are interesting times for wrist-worn devices. It is inevitable that smart phone technology will migrate to these devices.

By October 2, 2013 – nearly 82 years to the day when Gould introduced the two-way wrist radio in a comic strip, T-Mobile will offer the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartphone. It will compete immediately with the new Sony SmartWatch 2.

Lurking in the weeds are rumors of Apple, Android, and Google watches, too.

Of course, these wrist-worn devices will interactively interface with your smartphone, essentially giving the user a second smart monitor. With Internet connectivity – in one form or another – Gould’s dream becomes reality.

The question is not “if” you will buy one of these devices. The question becomes: “when” will you buy one of these devices? Will you be an early adopter?

What can mobile app development teams learn from a spinning top?


The left image was found in the Tomb of Tutankhamun, who died about 1323 BC. The two images on the right are contemporary, which means these tops were manufactured about 3300 years apart.

For many, it is hard to imagine a world when simpler, non-electronic, toys were the primary options for fun. How quickly we seem to forget!

IT and C-Level executives might be surprised to discover there are three business lessons that can still be learned from a simple toy like a spinning top.

Here are three for consideration:

Simplicity Can Increase Durability

Sometimes, the simplest concept can stand the test of time. Archeologists have found spinning tops that date back over five thousand years. And, here’s the most amazing stat: they still function today exactly as they did then. What about your mobile app? How will it stand the test of time? Is anyone taking bets that a cell phone, or any of its apps, will still be working five thousand years from now? How about one year from now?

Tipping Points

Without going into the physics of how a spinning top works, suffice it say that once a top is correctly spinning on a smooth surface, it will continue to do for as long as its’ spinning inertia can maintain a balance. Once inertia begins to slow, balance will falter, and the spinning top will revert back into being just an inert object. Eerily this description fits mobility software programs, too. Finding the right balance in software features and functions, without making it overloaded, may make the critical difference in the lifespan of the product. There are tipping points when all software programs stop being useful. And, an unused software app is another definition of an inert object. Have you identified your tipping points?

User Interfaces

A complex concept implies complex user interfaces. Plus, a complex concept has more points of failure than a simpler concept. A spinning top is an intuitive product. The very design of a top invites the user to give it a spin with a flick of the wrist. When users look at your mobile app, what is appealing and inviting about it? Is it intuitive or intimidating? Are users ready to give it a flick or a swipe to get started?

Final Thoughts

What are your best case hopes and aspirations for the life of your mobile app? A year? More than two years? More than five years?? Perhaps emulating the lessons learned from a spinning top will help produce positive influences on your mobile application projects. Aim high!

How Long Will Your Mobile App Be State-of-the-Art?


The images are small, so here is some historical context beginning on the top ROW: [from left} (1) Early DOS – all text based information – circa 1981. (2) Green screen DOS with pseudo boxes – which were often designed by outlining areas using font characters instead of real boxes – circa mid-1980. (3) Early Macintosh GUI screen – 1983. (4) Early Windows GUI Screen – 1985. Second ROW: (5) Windows Blue Screen of Death – if you don’t remember, ask someone older why it was dreaded – lurking about since 1985. (6) Windows XP GUI – circa 2001. (7) Mac GUI – circa 2008. (8) Mobile Apps Menu – now.

Aside from obviously being a montage of historical computer screen shots, what do these images of software have in common? For their day, they represent the state-of-the-art software technology.

Would your company go back to one of these state-of-the-art software platforms? Not likely.

Enterprise software and technology have a known destiny

Everyone in IT knows that all Enterprise software and hardware technology, over time, is inevitably destined to become obsolete.

One can install new operating systems; upgrade existing Enterprise applications; apply a variety of Band-Aids to help heal new tech problems; or, simply limp along with the status quo; but, eventually, software and/or technology will no longer efficiently support your business model needs, and, their time in the sun will end.

Studies report that most companies re-invest in new ERP systems and platforms every 5-8 years. What’s your policy for this and how will you incorporate this policy with your mobile app development?

What is the destiny for your mobile apps?

How long is your company expecting your newly deployed mobile app to be business or consumer relevant? Are you using the latest programming tools or technology to insure a quality user experience? Is your mobile app positioned to have a long-shelf life or was it delivered already bordering on being obsolete?

Lessons learned from others

As discussed in previous blog postings, audiences matter. Consumer-facing apps become brand extensions for your company. The same marketing effort used to promote your brand should be employed for your app. If one refreshes a brand image frequently, then, so should one refresh the consumer app. There are many excellent consumer-based app examples to reference that are frequently changing with market conditions, including Amazon, Lowes, Barnes & Noble, and Bank of America.

If your app is business-to- business or for only internal usage, then the user experience may be a driving force. Certainly, BYOD initiatives have had an impact on user experiences as each new mobile device strives to outdo their competition with new features. But, rather than IT departments trying to support each new OS system or new device immediately, one might simply have a scheduled refresh policy for your app of once a year or once every 18-months. A real challenge for BYOD is backwards compatible to support the newest desired user experience features while still supporting older technology.

Migration of mobile apps

Should your company be planning an Enterprise upgrade or replacement, remember to allow time to update or replace your mobile app, too. Your mobile application changes may turn out to be more back-end than front-end; but, the data integration will need to be completed and available in conjunction with your larger Enterprise project – especially if business users have grown accustomed to their functions and convenience.

Mobile Takeaway

The primary takeaway should be that your mobile apps are not completed, even though they may be deployed.  Keeping a mobile app in a state-of-the-art status is a never-ending IT process that requires resource planning and a refresh schedule to remain relevant.

What to Include in a Mobility Software Style Guide

Several weeks ago, I wrote on this blog that mobile software development should be guided by the use of a style guide for consistency. Since then, I’ve received numerous inquiries asking for more details about the type of style elements that might be included in a guide document.

Here is a snapshot from my Table of Contents page:

ImageI am happy to provide my views; however, adding a complete style guide example here is impracticable due to space considerations. So, I’ve done the next best thing by posting a sample mobility software style guide document on my Linkedin Profile page, which can be downloaded for free for review:

My example style guide document provides the basic elements that many companies might find to be practicable for setting standards for their mobile software development; however, your mobility software style guide might be completely different. And, that’s okay with me.

The important consideration is that one applies a consistent look and feel. As I noted on an earlier blog, companies with large, or, perhaps global, mobile development organizations face distance and communication challenges to provide custom software consistency.

A style guide is a simple tool to help bridge one’s gaps.

Enterprise Mobile Apps: Location and Accessibility

Pick your favorite mobile carrier and check their coverage map. While over time cellular coverage provided by Verizon, Sprint, ATT, and others, has improved, there are still significant gaps where cellular or WiFi coverage is spotty or non-existent. Why should this concern you or your IT department’s mobile Enterprise strategy?

The answer is simple: accessibility.

As discussed in previous entries, the audience and their location for your app’s usage may dictate how to prioritize software development. Perhaps more importantly though, is how accessible does your app need to be to function properly?

Generally, there are two common approaches for mobile business apps: real-time and store-and-forward.


As the name implies, this type of mobile app is fully interactive and demands a “live” connection either directly to an Enterprise environment or to an Internet connection that, in-turn, links to an Enterprise environment. Apps that feature look-ups or inquiries require live accessibility all the time.


As the name suggests, store-and-forward mobile app are generally self-contained to capture unique information on-demand and/or to interact with a downloaded data file for “real-enough” validation. Perhaps the best illustration for this type of environment would be mobile route accounting sales apps that may have downloaded customer files or vehicle inventory files that allows the user to perform sales transaction tasks with a number of remote clients throughout the day. Then, at the end of the day, all captured information is uploaded into an Enterprise environment for final processing of all financial transactions and to update and/or relieve Enterprise inventory quantities on-hand.

Accessibility Matters

So, how and why does accessibility really matter to your mobile Enterprise application development strategy?

Suppose your IT department decides that your company’s mobile apps should all be created on only one common development platform. And, suppose your IT department determines that a cloud-based real-time development strategy offers the best development flexibility.

If your company discovers that a mobile app might conceivably be used in geographic areas lacking in robust cellular connectivity – which will interfere with the app being able to function properly in real-time, then your entire app development strategy may be flawed from the start. And, the last thing your IT department will want to do is support two different mobile development platform strategies.

Examine where your mobile audience works and lives, and then factor-in the role of accessibility in your Enterprise mobility development strategy. In this case, the old real estate axiom applies: location, location, location matters.

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