Implications of the rise of mobile devices

CIOs and IT leaders must address three key implications of the “post-PC” era, as workforces and consumers increasingly access IT applications and content through mobile devices, according to Gartner.

“The release of the iPhone five years ago marked a shift towards a mobile-dominated future,” said David Mitchell Smith, research vice president and Gartner Fellow. “With phones and tablets becoming a platform for the delivery of applications and information, and not simply a communications tool, the era of running applications solely on desktop and notebook PCs is rapidly being superseded by a fast-moving, diverse era of ecosystems that span consumer electronics, business computing, fixed-location clients and mobile clients.”

Gartner analysts identify three key implications of this shift and offer advice to help IT leaders and application development professionals prepare.

IT organizations must rapidly evolve mobile applications and interfaces to meet sharp increases in demand across B2B, B2E and B2C channels

“This shift in computing to mobile devices, and the ongoing trends of consumerization and ‘bring your own device’, mean that IT leaders and application development teams need to take a multichannel approach to applications across business-to-business [B2B], business-to-employee [B2E] and business-to-consumer [B2E] channels. Too many IT departments and end users still assume that only desktop applications are needed,” said Mr. Smith.

Gartner recommends:

  • Performing a mobile-only, mobile-first or legacy assessment during application development.
  • Identifying specific demand for mobile applications in B2E, B2C and B2B sectors during the next 18 months.
  • Implementing an architectural and tool framework for future context-aware apps.

Application developers need to retool as mobile-centric design replaces desktop-centric design for user interfaces

“The exploding interest in, and use of, mobile devices across consumer and business markets means that mobile interfaces are setting expectations for the usability, appearance and behavior of future systems and applications,” said Mr. Smith. “The leading edge of this change is the touch-and-gesture interface that is fundamental to mobile devices, but beyond this both audio and video channels are being used to expand this new user interface [UI]. Spoken commands drive searches and application actions, while the emerging video channel is leading to facial recognition and in-air gestures.”

Gartner recommends:

  • Tracking advances in new UI techniques (such as touch, audio, video, gestures, search, social and context) and creating a road map for short-term, medium-term and long-term potential.
  • Factoring in ensemble interactions where applications integrate the experience across multiple devices into application architectures.
  • Building applications with simple, focused capabilities and interactions, but also creating links across applications for coordinated operation.

Organizations need to reallocate resources as mobile advertising projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by four to one by 2015

“When building UIs for multiple screen sizes and operating systems, new tools are needed to make applications function correctly on different devices. There’s no automatic way to do this — it takes engineering skills to design the right outputs,” said Mr. Smith.

Gartner recommends:

  • Making tactical investments in mobile application development tools.
  • Enhancing (automated) testing and support plans.
  • Using HTML5 as the lowest common denominator cross-device and cross-vendor UI model, though you should not expect HTML to address all needs.
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