Mobile Computing for the IBM i

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Mobile is irreversibly and irrefutably here to stay.


Editor's note: This article introduces the white paper "Mobile Computing and the IBM i" available free at the MC White Paper Center.


Mobile computing is rapidly maturing into a solid platform for delivering enterprise applications. This ASNA white paper takes a look at mobile computing for the IBM i. It discusses the different ways mobile applications may be used within the enterprise and how ASNA products solve the challenges mobile presents.


It’s no secret that mobile computing is hot, hot, hot. But, for you non-believers, consider these numbers:



Figure 1a. Smartphones outsell PCs in 2011 for the first time. Source.



Figure 1b. It’s predicted that by 2014 there will be 2 billion Android devices in use.

It’s also predicted that by 2014 there will be 2 billion PCs in use; that means that Android devices did in six years what it took PCs 32 years to do! Source 1. Source 2.



Figure 1c. Apple sold 145m iPhones in four years; it took 28 years to sell 122m Macs. Source1. Source2.


As these numbers indicate, mobile is irreversibly and irrefutably here to stay. Many years ago, pundits told us that Unix/Linux would replace the desktop, but it never did. At least until we could put it in our pocket. With mobile clearly here to stay, let’s also be realistic about the future of the desktop, especially in the business world. Mobile devices (especially tablets) may indeed replace a substantial percentage of consumer desktop computers, but in the enterprise there's a still a lot of work we need PCs to do. Despite the recognition that desktop PCs won’t be disappearing off of enterprise desks anytime soon, it's important for IBM i businesses to acknowledge and consider the growing importance of mobile devices in the enterprise.


Getting Off of the Dime

It’s no secret that decisions in the IBM i midrange enterprise move slowly. In fact, I know of a few IBM i decision-makers who drive to work in cars adorned with “They can have my 5250 Model 11 when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers” bumper stickers.


Despite a general reluctance to embrace new things, from my recent conversations with hundreds of customers (literally), mobile computing is indeed hot in the IBM i arena. And not only is it hot, but the demand for it is becoming more focused. At the last two ASNA developer conferences (in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012), attendees all agreed that they needed mobile apps, but they couldn’t articulate exactly what the business case was for mobile yet—they only knew they were being asked about mobile computing—and the need was coming from the top tier of the organizational chart.


Fast forward to late this summer and this fall where I’ve been on the road doing Web and mobile development workshops for customers and prospects. I’ve noticed a substantial sharpness when attendees address their need for mobile computing.  Example applications and use cases roll off the tips of their tongues without much thought. There have clearly been many mobile discussions in the last six months in these customers’ and prospects’ meeting rooms.


If you’re dragging your feet on mobile, give the Google Mobile Playbook a look. Using plain language, it compellingly explains what mobile computing can do for business (the cynical side of me thinks that for Google to tell us that is like your dentist insisting that cotton candy is good for your teeth!).