Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

What HTML5 Means for Mobile BI


What changes you as a customer can anticipate over the next 12 months

You may have heard of HTML5 by now, the fifth version of the language used to present content on the web. But what's the big deal? Let's  take a look at how HTML5 is changing the mobile BI landscape and what benefits you're going to reap if you’re part of the 22% of organizations that are planning to deploy mobile BI in the near future.

HTML5 is a big push forward from our current version, especially with regard to how it handles media (audio, video) as well as cross-device portability. Both are key areas pertinent to BI software providers who are working in the mobile space – especially those like arcplan that are delivering "web apps" to customers – applications that run through mobile browsers on smartphones and tablet PCs, eliminating the need to create separate apps for different devices. The debate about web apps vs. native apps has been raging over the past year. Here's my take.

Today native apps or even HTML4-based web apps require application or infrastructure customizations for every different device type or technology, which makes them cumbersome to maintain over time – cumbersome for the vendors of such software solutions, but even more so for the customers deploying applications to their field staff. Not every organization can standardize on one device, so maintenance costs for mobile BI can be high – or at least higher than expected.

But this will change with HTML5. As it matures, the authors plan to allow future HTML5 browsers to (securely) access sensor and touch information, simply eradicating most of the arguments in favor of native app development. The new functions of HTML5 will help BI vendors provide cost-efficient mobile BI options to customers so they can reuse existing desktop applications on mobile devices.

Definitely one of the strongest benefits of HTML5 is that browsers are starting to be able to integrate additional content like multimedia, mail, and RIA (rich internet applications) with enhanced rendering capabilities. Past browsers have been dependent on other technologies and vendors such as Flash, Silverlight or Java, and we've seen that this isn’t always good for consumers – for example, how Flash is not supported on iPhones or iPads.

With HTML5, nearly every piece of internet content we can envision today will be able to be coded in HTML, Javascript and CSS, and therefore automatically portable to all environments and browsers supporting HTML5.

This approach is essential for BI vendors who aim to provide business critical information anywhere, anytime and on any device. As HTML5 begins to support gestures (pinching, double tap, turning, etc.), mobile BI web apps will develop into attractive, multi-functional user interfaces that require very little design and deployment effort. And more importantly, you would only need to develop these apps once for all devices.

So when is HTML5 going to be fully available? The good news is that its development is progressing quickly, with strong supporters such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google. But different browser vendors are currently cherry picking the HTML5 features that fit best their current roadmap. The degree of HTML5 support varies within some browsers and an official release date when we’ll see browsers with a broad implementation is hard to predict.

What's Ahead
Mobile BI is just like any other emerging technology – it's here in its first iteration, but as time goes on, you'll see it become more and more robust. As more HTML5 functions become available, BI vendors will integrate them into their mobile frameworks and customers will start to reap the benefits of the latest and greatest mobile BI technology. At arcplan, we have our eyes on offline analytical web apps that access secure data storage within the browser. We're also interested in extending arcplan Engage's BI Wall – where users "pin" their favorite dashboard components to their desktop – to mobile devices so users will have real-time access to their most essential information 24/7.

Additional Resources

Tiemo Winterkamp

About Tiemo Winterkamp

I'm the Senior VP of Global Marketing at arcplan and work out of our Langenfeld, Germany office. I've worked in Business Intelligence and data warehousing since 1994. You can connect with me on LinkedIn.
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