When an upgrade really isn’t an upgrade

I recently updated my Mac Book to the latest and (allegedly) greatest OS, Mavericks. I have to say that my Mac Book is about two years old and I don’t believe I have ever upgraded the OS since day one. My philosophy is simple; it works so leave it alone. This philosophy is not shared by most OS providers and Apple seems to have decided that massive change is always good, even when it’s not.

The update to grab is not so fab...

With this new OS upgrade items that were old and familiar have now taken on a new and frustrating sensation. Something as simple as Safari no longer closes the Bookmarks tab when you launch a web page from it is at best frustrating but also very darn annoying. This is but one example of how time-in-motion has not been considered at all in the redesign of the OS or many of the programs running on the machine. A better example has to be the Apple program Grab.

For those of you not familiar with Grab, it allows you to quickly capture a window, screen or portion of a screen and then save the “grab” as an image for later use. I have used this app extensively for capturing screenshots of applications for training materials and presentations. The “new and improved” Grab automatically closes itself once you change focus to any other program. And no, it’s not going into the background, it’s closing, requiring you to reopen it each time a new screen shot is required. Annoying isn’t the word I was using this morning but most of those words I can’t write on this page without a visit from HR.

How does all this relate to mobility you may be asking? This kind of approach to upgrades is not limited to OS providers. If you use a similar approach to your mobile applications, whether they are customer or employee facing, the reaction will be swift, loud, and painful.

Here’s the advice I give to all customers: the only people who know how your application is being used are the ACTUAL users. You went through the effort to solicit user input for the initial app design and that typically leads to strong user adoption. Why would you then turn to internal people, outside influences, non-customers, etc. for guidance on the next phase? As an example, a customer added a new “mandatory feature” to an existing mobile app that caused revolt among the user population. When I asked what users had actually asked for the “feature” and what the written requirement was, the response was classic (and scary); “I saw a presentation at a trade show and some other company did this so I wanted it in our app…” Forget the fact that the other company was in a totally different industry and doing sales and not service, but that’s a minor detail.

The moral of the story is that no matter how smart your development team, product management, engineers, executives, and any other set of employees are, if they don’t ask the user community what they need they will get something they don’t want and worse, can’t use effectively. In that case nobody wins. Are you listening Apple?

When Apple Loses to Samsung – Why I Jumped Off the iPhone Ship

I got an iPhone pretty soon after they hit the market in the mid-2000′s and was always pretty impressed with the sleek look, the functionality, apps, etc. But earlier this year I found myself sitting on subway trains with acute smartphone jealously.  Every time I saw someone with an Android device whose screen looked like it was nearly twice the size of mine, I couldn’t help but glare at my own seemingly tiny phone in anger. Admittedly, I didn’t have the largest iPhone, I was on the iPhone 4, but I have friends and relatives who got the 5 and I never felt like there was a significant difference. Functionally I was noticing a lot of lag with the phone – apps were taking forever to load, would randomly shut down, and I felt like I was constantly updating things and it wasn’t doing anything.

So when the Samsung Galaxy S4 came out this past spring, I decided to take the gamble and jump off iOS for the first time in five years and gamble on the Android OS and the S4. And I was going to do this blog post right then, but I figured I should give it some time and see how it actually turned out. I was the type of child who liked to move my bedroom furniture around a lot, so I know I can get bored easily, and my actual feelings about the device might change after a little hands-on time.

So what’s the verdict?

So far, I’ve been really happy with the device and the OS. But there are some drawbacks, as I’m sure you can imagine.

A few of the positives:

  • The screen was as amazing as I thought it was going to be, although running it at full capacity tends to drain the battery a little bit.
  • Running on LTE I’ve found the device to be really fast, and really like the Play Market, for apps at least – I downloaded all the core apps I had and used everyday on the iPhone to my S4 the first day I had it (about 35 apps) and it only took 2 minutes for all of them.  FAST.
  • In general some of the functionality of the Android OS is better in my opinion. The app manager is a cool feature and I like being able to see how much battery each app is using, and kill things quickly. (There’s a way in iOS but I feel like I only know that because a super smart analyst at Gartner showed me once!)
  • Inherent device programs (like the S Health) and Android functions (like Google Now) are pretty cool, and in my opinion more where mobile is headed as the one-stop function of people’s life-streams.  I love it that Chrome remembers stuff I’ve searched for across my devices because when I’m trying desperately to find a recipe while I’m in the grocery store, it’s one tap away instead of a “Did I search for spinach or artichoke when I was looking that up before” brain-wracking session.

Some of the let downs:

  • The battery dies pretty quickly.  Even when my iPhone used to wonk out on me (I think that’s a technical term, right?) I could still get through a whole day without needing to refuel, and I find that’s not always the case if I’m listening to music, or playing a game while I’m on the subway.  It’s a little frustrating.
  • The music/music store is not entirely cohesive.  I transferred some music I had on my other device over – fine, it went into music.  But then when I bought new music, it went into a separate “Play Music” and there’s no seemingly easy way to create a play list, which is kind of frustrating for me because I use them a lot for my long runs or workouts.
  • There’s no external silence or volume control button. Well, there is, but it doesn’t work unless the phone is unlocked. It’s kind of annoying because I think it’s important that people keep their phones locked with a code (All about light MDM!) but if my phone is ringing in a meeting I want to be able to kill the sound quickly and it’s not easy to do on the S4.  Also, when a good song comes on, my instinct is to make it louder, and when you hit the volume button on the S4 it doesn’t raise the volume until you accept a notification that listening to music too loudly can damage your ears.  Don’t worry Samsung, I’m sure that ship has sailed.  It was cute the first time, (“Aw, my phone even cares about my well being!”) but it’s been reminding me of that since April now, and I can’t help but feel a tiny bit like it’s a nagging mother reminding me to take a sweater because it might be chilly.  I’m nearly 30 – I think I can make volume choices on my own, thank you very much!
  • The transferring process was not as seamless as I think it could have been.  Samsung has this Smart Sync program that’s supposed to sync your contacts, messages, apps that they can, etc. It was pretty easy to get going, but I was never able to get it to complete.  I let it go for a variety of hours (3 hours, then 5 hours, then 10, then 18) and nothing seemed to do the trick. And because there’s no genius bar in tow, there was very little to no support.  I tried the customer support line, twitter, facebook…everything I could think of.  I resorted to my last line of IT defense – my brother the IT engineer, who was befuddled as well.  Needless to say I resorted to using AT&T’s sync to at least get my contacts, and transferred my music and pictures manually…meaning I only lost my messages – not horrible.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied – my boyfriend got the same phone shortly after I did (yes, apparently we’re that couple), and he likes it too. That said, I’m not 100 percent bought in because there’s not a real ecosystem of things I feel tied to, although I’m a happy camper for the most part. But suffice it to say that if Apple stepped up its game and came out with something as sleek and truly game-changing as they did with the first few versions of iPhone, I’d be willing to entertain the thought of going back.  There are others out there that have also made the switch – this article in particular I found interesting, and worth a read, if you’re interested in more than just one woman’s journey.

Ultimately it was nice to cut the cord and not feel tethered to iOS, and it gave me some good perspective on the advantages of the more open Google ecosystem. I think what remains to be seen is if Apple can innovate again the way it did in 2007, and pull back some of the people – like me – who’ve jumped ship.


Enabling the Field Worker

Today we’re excited to be participating as a sponsor at Citrix Synergy 2013, where we have announced that Antenna will be a Citrix Ready Worx Verified partner.  This will raise the bar for simplified creation, distribution, and security of enterprise applications.  With Antenna’s mobile application development platform, AMPchroma, and Citrix MDX technology, anything is possible.  Any enterprise application can be mobilized in a secure manner with the combined technologies.  And although anything is possible, our focus today is on the service technician and enabling the field with the power of mobility.

Service organizations vary.  Some have a small staff of field workers, others have thousands.  Some have products that can be serviced in mere minutes; others have complex products where services may be measured in hours or days.  Some maintain physical products; others may have digital products or services that are not products that you touch.  But there are many commonalities in service organizations that do allow the repurpose of best practices in mobile applications.  They share many functions such as:

  • Assignment of work orders
  • Route/mapping of work order location
  • Time tracking
  • Parts and order management
  • “How Do I” functions and escalation
  • and much more…

Mobility can significantly reduce costs by efficiently assigning and routing the correct worker to a location.  And once the technician is onsite, further productivity is enhanced by using a mobile device to get instructions, order parts, record photos, or log trouble ticket information.  Critically, this can be tied into corporate systems for real-time access to data, so that customers and management alike are current on the progress of any account, at any time.  This is the real-time power of mobility.

The challenge of building an enterprise application, designed for employees working in the field, cannot be underestimated.  Technology and devices are constantly changing.  Employees are constantly changing.  Enterprise systems, where data is stored, are constantly changing.  Thus, a good mobile application must consider all of these changes and be able to plan for the future to really offer the enterprise a good return on its investment – over multiple years.

This is where Antenna’s AMPchroma and Citrix Ready Worx Verified have set the bar.  Now, with any “smart” device supporting Citrix MDX technology, Antenna’s solution can be securely deployed to a field worker and managed with solutions the enterprise is already familiar with from Citrix.  And the application can be customized to nearly any workflow process and integrated with most major backend systems to synchronize data in real time.  The power of access to real-time data, from field workers, on smartphones and tablets is huge.  Just ask AT&T, Heineken or Pitney Bowes.  Those are just a few of the many companies leveraging Antenna’s technology and experience in field service to enhance productivity for their field workers.


Real Men, Quiche and the Hybrid

Real men don’t eat quiche. Don’t they? It took the quiche industry years to recover from those 5 little words. Our society constantly pits people/places/things against each other and HTML5 vs. Native is no different. Can’t we all just get along and realize that there is a time and place for everything. I for one, truly enjoy a nice quiche Lorraine after my Saturday morning hike right before I go for a nice glass of Pinot Noir (notice it’s Pinot Noir, not Grigio, as real men cannot eat quiche and drink Pinot Grigio in the same day, that’s just a known fact). It’s time people realize that you don’t have to choose one camp over the other – there is a time and a place for HTML5, and a time and place for Native development – don’t let anyone tell you differently.

“Containerization” of IT? How Device Manufacturers Are Getting in the Mobile App Management Game

Recently, some big-name device OEMs like Samsung and BlackBerry have been touting new or updated solutions to keep “work and play” information separate. BlackBerry’s Z10 and Q10 devices build on the company’s “BlackBerry Balance” solution that has been around for a few years now and helps companies keep apps and information for work and play separate.  At Mobile World Congress a couple months ago, Samsung introduced their KNOX solution, which aims to do something similar – create separate spaces within the devices they manufacturer to provide companies some built-in mobile device management capabilities.

However, it’s not just the device companies that are talking about containers.  There’s a list as long as your arm of software companies that are pitching their wares to cordon-off sensitive work activities from the tweets, downloads, posts, and Angry Birds that workers like to do both on- and off-the-clock.  Products like Good Dynamics, Citrix MDX, Apperian’s EASE, and Divide from Enterproid are just a few of the myriad solutions available on the market today. They may not actually call it a “container,” but instead use terms like shells, hubs, sandboxes, and personas.  But don’t be fooled – they are all essentially trying to accomplish the same thing.  It’s about the data.  It’s about protecting sensitive work information and securing it from the other potentially hazardous activities folks could be doing on their mobile devices, which by the way are increasingly being supplied by the employees themselves.  In fact, a recent report from Gartner states that by 2017 half of all employers will require workers to supply their own devices for work purposes (commonly referred to as BYOD, or bring your own device).

 While BYOD was originally thought to be a boon for businesses looking to shed device costs, there has been some recent backlash among enterprises that have lived with it for a while.  I was recently speaking with a CIO at one of our largest and most tenured customers who told me he is reevaluating his entire BYOD strategy.  For him and many others like him, the original attraction to Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions was the ability to allow employees to bring their preferred device into the workplace as long as they downloaded a piece of client software that gave IT a level of control and management over the computing tool.  The value proposition was dirt simple and was to a certain degree pushing on an open door, which is why MDM solutions have become so pervasive throughout enterprises in recent years.  As the old adage goes: “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  In other words, if folks want to use their own devices, many IT executives are saying, “I might as well let them because (a) I don’t have to supply and pay for corporate devices, and (b) it will help drive greater end-user satisfaction and productivity.” (Because the last thing any CIO wants is to be known as someone getting in the way of productivity).  But as was the case with our customer, he told me he was moving away from BYOD because the time and cost to support the devices had far eclipsed the advantages.  And the security risks were also too great in a business that has a high turnover rate.

Retail & Mobility

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of posts which will (briefly) examine the impact of mobility in various industries. Have an industry you’d like Jon’s comments on? Let us know below!

The state of today’s mobile shopper has drastically changed within the last couple of years. The convergence of social, mobile and all things digital have become the key elements in delivering a seamless experience to shoppers. As mobile has become a more important part of that equation, retailers have jumped on board in order to keep up with ‘tech giants’ such as Amazon and eBay who have already have reinvented the customer experience.

However, many retailers are still in experimentation mode. In some cases, they have fallen short in their customer’s expectations around mobile offerings and are now faced with potential lost sales/revenue to companies who have made it easy for consumers to purchase items. The solution is creating mobile apps that have the right elements to reach and engage the customer by personalizing the experience which will ultimately drive sales, and providing an experience that works seamlessly across the various retail channels – in store, mobile, and traditional online. One example we love is Dick’s Sporting Goods mobile app – check it out.

When building an app, retailers should keep the customer top of mind as they are most vocal in what works for them. Here are some tips to enhance your mobile strategy:

Google Reader is dead…but news apps are alive and kicking

Last month Google announced that it was retiring Google Reader. Cue howls of protest from thousands of devotees that no-one knew existed (it was a low key product, after all). But despite these protests – protests that eventually took the form of a massive online petition – Google Reader looks about as likely to make a comeback as Firefly does. 

So what will the news junkies do when their favorite dealer of news fixes goes into retirement on the non-extradition-treaty island where Google houses its past-it projects? The answer, of course, is: go over to the competition.

If you’re someone who’s going to be looking for a new RSS reader come July 1st, you might want to check out the following tablet-friendly programs:

Pulse News (free on iOS, Android and web) has an extremely intuitive interface – one that has been noticeably optimized for touch screens. Another plus is the way it displays news sites in vertical columns, making it easy to scroll up and down to view all the latest headlines. Pulse is cheekily taking advantage of the furor over Google Reader’s demise by offering users the option to import their Google Reader feeds via a special page on its website.

Flipboard (free on iOS and Android) is the big daddy of mobile news-readers thanks to options that allow users to customize their news homepages down to the last serif. The latest edition of the app also allows users to create their own ‘automatic’ attractive magazines. Sharing stories over social networks is as easy as you would expect, meaning that you’ll be able to send your favorite Buzzfeeds to all and sundry (except your boss) in the blink of an eye.

Never Forget How Far We’ve Come

As a fairly young mobile maven, sometimes I forget how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.  Recently I’ve been pretty frustrated with my iPhone 4 (more on that in an upcoming blog!) and have found myself a victim of what I call the Louis CK syndrome — if you’ve never seen his bit about cell phones needing to communicate with space, I highly recommend it but I won’t link to it here because of the language, but you can check out a more friendly version here. I’ll try to open an app, wait for what feels like forever for it to load and shut it down in frustration – and then repeat about 10 times.  Probably all in the span of a minute.  I’m definitely a product of the “RIGHT NOW” generation, but sometimes I just can’t help it.  Yet I know it’s important in times like that to reflect on how far technology has taken us.

Recently I’ve gotten some great perspective on this.  Take for example the milestone of last week — when we celebrated 40 years since the first cell phone call. That’s longer than I (or Mark Zuckerberg for that matter) have been alive. In the 40 years since that first call a lot of improvements and changes have been made — to the design, functionality, and use of these devices that now serve as a crucial part of most people’s daily life. And I can’t even begin to imagine what will be accomplished in the next 40 years in mobile technology.

Mike’s Almost Famous BYOD Recipe

Image courtesy of Flickr user Christian Cable.

I was just listening to Jon Stewart interview NY Times writer Michael Moss about his new book Salt Sugar Fat and he said something that struck a chord with me. He was talking about the science of creating food and something called the “Bliss factor.” That perfect balance that will ensure that the products are a smash hit with consumers. That’s where I want to go with BYOD policy – I’ve been searching for that perfect mix of hardware, software, and education that will protect my IP yet give my consumers that rush they get when eating a Twinkie. OK, I know it’s a bit of flight-o-fancy to think that a BYOD policy can compare to a Twinkie (they are coming back!), but why not, why not venture out on that quest, at least for a little bit.

Kids and the Digital Age

When I was growing up, we were encouraged (er, pushed mostly) to go play outside.  Video games you could play at home were in their infancy and computers were just starting to infiltrate the home.  Smartphones hadn’t been invented yet and the idea that “there’s an app for that” was a long way off. Being ambitious as a kid meant being a good student or excelling at a particular sport or musical talent. But in today’s digital age, ambition in youth looks more like young technology entrepreneurship (a la the Mark Zuckerberg effect), and kids are leveraging technology to make a name for themselves early on.

In the last couple days a few of these ambitious digital youngsters have really jumped out at me.  Take for example this super cute (and funny) nine-year-old girl who put up a Kickstarter to raise some money for a camp that would equip her with better skills for building her own RPG (Role Playing Game).  A pint-sized developer in her own right (with an edge), she asked folks to donate a mere $829 for the course fee. Fortunately, people love a little tech tycoon and her project went viral – as of this writing she’s raised nearly $23,000.  She said if she got more than her $829 goal her mom said maybe she could buy a new laptop…so I’m guessing she’ll be getting a nice digital upgrade. As developers become a more and more important role – particularly in mobile – it’s nice to see a young girl with such an avid appetite for technology, and the gumption to go out there and really do something with it.

On the flip side is 17-year old app developer, Nick D’Aloisio, whose app Summly was just bought by Yahoo! for $30 MILLION.   He launched his first app a few years ago and right now his company (and his time alone) is worth quite a pretty penny.  It sure beats the $5.00 an hour I was making at an apple farm when I was 17.

It’s interesting to watch these tiny tech moguls pursue their dreams and ideas with the help of technology, and I think it puts a whole new spin on what being an ambitious kid means in today’s society.