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New iPhone Business Apps: Designing for Usefulness

New iPhone Business Apps: Designing for Usefulness

Various vendors are designing business apps for the iPhone, but not all of them agree that it's worth it

BI firm Oracle also couldn't pass up an opportunity to design an app specifically for the iPhone. Oracle Business Indicators lets users access their company's business performance information and manipulate the data based on what's most convenient for them.

Lenley Hensarling, general vice president of application development at Oracle, says, "It's not meant to replace a dashboard and analytical apps that have a whole bunch of drill-downs, but rather to give you handy access to core sets of metrics. We wanted to make usage and availability ubiquitous, and let users tailor the information to exactly what they want to see."

Indicators also makes use of the iPhone's native tools. "Since we support [the iPhone's] alerting mechanisms, you don't have to go hunting for information. You'll get alerted when data crosses a threshold that you or someone else has set."

Although Apple is famously picky about who gets access to the iPhone Software Developer Kit (SDK), Hensarling says developing an iPhone app was easy as pie. "The cool thing is that you're actually developing in Cocoa and the Mac OS environment, so in terms of the development environment, it's very mature and complete." He says they also never felt constrained during the development process because rather than try to shoehorn an app made for the desktop onto the iPhone, the team instead built Oracle Business Indicators from the ground up.

Salesforce's Dietrich agrees that building an iPhone app is a smooth process. "Thanks to the iPhone's robust development environment, we were able to develop, test and deliver Salesforce Mobile for the iPhone, all in less than three months," he notes. In fact, the process was so painless, the company plans to develop additional apps in the coming months. "Salesforce.com and Apple will continue to work closely to iterate and expand the breadth of functionality of Salesforce Mobile for the iPhone to expand the ways that enterprises can use Salesforce CRM and Force.com applications to improve the way they work."

Still, Jaspersoft's Halsey remains unconvinced. He says there is a greater demand for Web apps that can be accessed anywhere, regardless of device or browser. He points to the growing trend toward cloud computing as evidence. "What's more interesting to us in the enterprise, and where we see customer demand, is for Web 2.0 tools for reporting and analysis as well as for collaborating on making BI tools better," says Halsey.

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