Challenges facing Smartphones as SaaS Clients

In a previous post SmartPhones: The Ultimate SaaS Clients I discussed why I am convinced that smartphones will be the ultimate SaaS clients. However, before they can assume the mantle of the ultimate SaaS clients, smartphone technology must overcome some serious hurdles. The PC platform is very rich in terms of user interface and has matured over many years to provide a robust set of capabilities for displaying and collecting information. The maturity of the user interface, which is optimized for how people work with desktops and laptops, is what has made the PC the dominant IT platform today. To displace the PC from this position smartphones will have to provide an equally robust user interface which is optimized for the ways people work with mobile devices.

There are five major challenges for smartphones in my opinion:

1. There are many different smartphones, each with its own size and user interfaces. This makes it difficult and expensive to deploy an application that covers a large number of smartphone while at the same time using the maximum capabilities offered by each type of smartphone.

2. Smartphones have small displays, making it more challenging to present rich information. It is even more difficult to provide rich electronic forms for data entry using smartphones, which is essential for many business and e-commerce applications.

3. Smartphone users work discontinuously. They are on the move and are easily and often interrupted. They work in short bursts. Applications for smartphones have to support this discontinuous work style.

4. Smartphone have lower data bandwidth. Despite much progress made by 3G/4G, Wi-Fi and the growth of WiMax, the bandwidth of smartphone lags PCs/laptops. This has implications on how much data can be downloaded and uploaded from these devices, which in turn has a negative impact on user interface design and user perceptions.

5. Smartphone users need the ability to choose between devices. They need the ability to use smartphones, but also want equal access to their desktops/laptops for the conveniences they offer. As I mentioned in another post (Smartphones in the IT Ecosystem) smartphones are a part of an IT ecosystem and not islands onto themselves. To be successful in the ecosystem they must coexist elegantly by supporting solutions that allow the user to use the device that is most convenient at any given moment of time.

In future blogs I will discuss each of these challenges in detail, and present ideas about how smartphone technology could or should address each of these as it evolves.

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