Thursday, June 11, 2009

Part I: Next-Generation Web Applications Require Ubiquitous Access

If you think Google created Android because it wants to compete in the mobile phone market, think again.

Delivering rich, interactive content to you, consistently, whether you’re using a desktop computer or wireless mobile phone is Google’s agenda. With great influence on the mobile device’s operating environment (รก la Android), Google can more specifically control the information served to those devices. Ideally for Google, there would be precious few moments of your waking life when you’re not interacting with some Google service.

Fundamentally, anyone building a new web application should understand that constant and consistent access to the same systems and data, from every computing device, is a top design goal. More distributed workforces combined with more time working remotely and traveling, and the ever-expanding workday requires that knowledge workers today not only be in touch, but be online. If your application and data access experience is compromised because of the computing device, the application service wasn’t designed properly, period.

As example, I’ll use the web application I know best – JasperServer, which (shown below) is delivering access to an executive dashboard through two leading smart phones.

It doesn’t matter that the display device is a smart phone or PDA, because the executive dashboard looks and behaves similarly to its desktop counterpart. Why? Because the application relies on open standard, server-side technologies that operate uniformly within a full-featured web browser. And, it shouldn’t matter where that browser is running because even mobile web browsers are supporting advanced web technologies, like AJAX and Flash. So, designing and delivering for ubiquitous access should be the new norm. Fortunately, open standards (and open source) are largely driving this technological convergence. Good thing as these handhelds now pack the processing power of a full personal computer and users will expect their applications to work properly regardless of the device at the end of the bitstream.

Delivering ubiquitous application and data access for enterprise workers is just the first of four technical requirements of next-generation web applications. Next post, I’ll explore the second topic in my four-part series: “Elegant Presentation”.

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