Musings of a gadget tyro
By Alys Woodward, IDC Insights Community
I have a confession: I am not a gadget person. As a software analyst who is not into gadgets, I'm probably in a minority of one -- but diversity is good, right?
Of course I have to use something device-wise at work, but I am fiercely loyal to my "retro" Nokia E51. When tweeting on it recently (out of desperation -- laptop issues) I was quite impressed at how usable the mobile internet is. I also recently acquired a 2-year-old Blackberry from a friend (to keep up with the 20-something mums at my daughter's school). That's as mobile as I get.
Consequently, the hype around iPhones and iPads has left me somewhat cold. Sure, I'm happy to use anything that work provides, but paying a significant amount for a gadget is not my priority. I also lack the motivation to learn how to work something new - and "thumb gestures" are very new. I'm still struggling with the ball on my veteran Blackberry. (Plus, I heard an awful story from a nice young man at IBM who had to have drastic surgery on both elbows, all because of too much Blackberry use.)
So, which is right with regard to iPad business intelligence (BI) -- my cynical perspective or the enthusiasm of the BI vendors? Most of the major vendors have an iPad version (note: the iPad version usually works on the iPhone too), however they have a broad range of approaches to demonstrating and marketing their iPad BI applications.
I have reviewed these approaches below:
Thus we see that the vendors' opinions vary between iPad BI as a nice tool with which to look at information, and a potential replacement for the laptop. Quite a broad range of opinion. So, I need to find a balance between the market hype and my own native cynicism. Could an iPad really take BI somewhere it has never been before? Well, there are three major reasons that this could actually happen.
Will these factors drive BI adoption and success? IDC's white paper on Pervasive BI identified 5 factors that organizations can affect to improve their use of information and the value they gain from it. The first factor is the degree of training, specifically the degree of user satisfaction with the training that users receive on both the tools and the data. The easier the tools are to use and the data is to understand, the more pervasive the BI is likely to be. An iPad can't help with the data, but it can certainly help with the tool.
However, the other four factors (see the IDC Pervasive BI white paper) are not particularly helped by iPads. One factor is the involvement of non-executive management, which is key to drive success from BI once the system is implemented. This is because such managers typically drive ongoing use of the BI system, making sure business changes are reflected in the system, and ensuring users move towards fact-based decision-making and thus advance towards an analytic culture. I don't particularly expect that non-executive management will be issued iPads in many companies (at least outside MicroStrategy) for a while. Thus, the iPad will help BI get started in the organization, rather than helping it improve pervasiveness on an ongoing basis.
I have yet to consider to what extent the iPad will be adopted for enterprise use, and will be consulting with IDC colleagues on the mobile side about that. Other vendors are entering the touch screen tablet market, and Apple's "cool gadget" branding may work against it in the current times of cost cutting and spending restrictions. Distribution of applications is also important -- accessing applications via the browser (TIBCO Spotfire's strategy) is typical for enterprise BI users, whereas iPad users expect to buy from the Apple store. Will the pull of the iPad be strong enough for enterprises to change how they buy software, as well as hardware?
I happened to be at a networking event with two young male tech journalists in September, and one of them said he felt "sorry" for Apple owners, thinking them victims of overhyping. (I then brandished my retro Nokia -- a retro Nokia being the polar opposite of an iPhone -- but it didn't impress them as I had hoped. You still need a cool phone to be cool, apparently.) In the meantime I will keep practicing on my old Blackberry (the ball doesn't move left) and wait for touch screen BI to take off.
What do you think? Will the iPad make a big difference? Is it likely to help BI get started? Within or beyond the exec team? Would a good iPad app affect your buying decisions? Do your users want to use cool devices, or do they lack the time to learn how to use them?
If I get over 50 comments, I'll go and buy a Blackberry Curve.
Alys Woodward is program manager for BI and analytics at IDC.
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