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Information Builders announced two major new products at its recent annual user summit. The first was InfoDiscovery, a tool for ad hoc data analysis and visual discoveryThe second was iWay Sentinel, which allows administrators to manage applications in a proactive and dynamic manner. Being a privately held company, Information Builders is not a household name, but it is a major provider of highly scalable business intelligence (BI) and information management software to companies around the world.

VRMobileBIVI_HotVendorThis year’s announcements come one year after the release of WebFOCUS 8.0, which I wrote about at the time. Version 8.0 of this flagship BI product includes a significant overhaul of the underlying code base, and its biggest change is how it renders graphics by putting the parameters of the HTML5 graph code directly inside the browser. This approach allows consistent representation of the business intelligence graphics in multiple device environments including mobile ones. Our research into information optimization shows that mobile technology improves business performance significantly in one out of three organizations. The graphics capability helped Information Builders earn the rating of Hot vendor in our latest Value Index on Mobile Business Intelligence. It is an increasingly important trend to combine analytics with transactional systems in a mobile environment. Our research shows that mobile business intelligence is advancing quickly. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of participants said they expect their mobile workforce to have BI capabilities in the next 12 months.

vr_Big_Data_Analytics_12_benefits_of_visualizing_big_dataWebFOCUS InfoDiscovery represents the company’s new offer in the self-service analytics market. For visual discovery it enables users to extract, blend and prepare data from various data sources such as spreadsheets, company databases and third-party sources. Once the analytic data set is created, users can drill down into the information in an underlying columnar database. They can define queries as they go and examine trends, correlations and anomalies in the data set. Users given permission can publish the visualization from their desktop to the server for others to view or build further. Visualization is another area of increasing importance for organizations. Our research on big data analytics said data visualization has a number of benefits; the most-often cited are faster analytics (by 49%), understanding content (48%), root-cause analysis (40%) and displaying multiple result sets at the same time (40%).

InfoDiscovery is Information Builders’ contender in the new breed of visual discovery products. The first generation of visual discovery products drew attention for their visual capabilities, ease of use and agility. More recently, established business intelligence vendors, of which Information Builders is one, have focused on developing visual discovery tools on the platform of their well-known BI products, with the aim of taking advantage of their maturity. Currently this second wave of tools is still behind the first in terms of ease of use and visual analysis but are advancing rapidly, and they can provide better data governance, version control, auditing and user security. For instance, InfoDiscovery uses the same metadata as the enterprise platform WebFOCUS 8 so objects from both InfoDiscovery and other WebFOCUS applications can be configured in the same user portal. When a business user selects a filter, the data updates across all the components in the dashboard. The HTML5 rendering engine, new in WebFOCUS 8.0, makes the dashboard available to various devices including tablets and smartphones.

vr_oi_how_operational_intellegence_is_usedThe other major announcement at the conference, iWay Sentinel, is a real-time application monitoring tool that helps administrators manage resources across distributed systems. It works with iWay Service Manager, which is used to manage application workflows. IWay Sentinel allows multiple instances of Service Manager to be viewed and managed from a single Web interface, and administrators can address bottlenecks in system resources both manually and automatically. The tool belongs in the category we call operational intelligence and as our research finds, activity and event monitoring is the most important use (for 62% of research participants), followed by alerting and notification.

Sentinel is an important product in the Information Builders portfolio for a couple of reasons. Tactically speaking, it enables large organizations that are running multiple implementations of iWay Service Manager to manage infrastructure resources in a flexible and streamlined manner. From a strategic perspective, it ties the company to the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), which connects devices and real-time application workflows across a distributed environment. In such an environment, rules and processes flows must be monitored and coordinated in real time. Information is passed along an enterprise service bus that enables synchronous interaction of various application components. The use of IoT is in multiple areas such as remote management of devices, telematics and fleet management, predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and utlilities monitoring. The challenge is that application software is often complex and its processes are interdependent. For this reason, most approaches to the IoT have been proprietary in nature. Even so, Information Builders has a large number of clients in various industries, especially retail, that may be interested in its approach.

Information Builders continues to innovate in the changing IT industry and business demand for analytics and data, building on its integration capabilities and its core business intelligence assets. The breadth and depth of its software portfolio enable the company to capitalize on these assets as demand shifts. For instance, temporal analysis is becoming more important; Information Builders has built that capability into its products for years. In addition, the company’s core software is hardened by years of meeting high-concurrency needs. Companies that have thousands of users need this type of scalable, battle-tested system.

Both iWay Sentinel and InfoDiscovery are in limited release currently and will be generally available later this year. Users of other Information Builders software should examine InfoDiscovery and assess its fit in their organizations. For business users it offers a self-service approach on the same platform as the WebFOCUS enterprise product. IT staff can uphold their governance and system management responsibilities through visibility and flexible control of the platform. For its part iWay Sentinel should interest companies that have to manage multiple instances of information applications and use iWay Service Manager. In particular, retailers, transportation companies and healthcare companies exploring IoT uses should consider how it can help.

Information Builders is exploiting the value of data into what is called information optimization for which they are finding continued growth in providing information applications that meet specific business and process needs. Information Builders is also beginning to further exploit the big data sources and mobile technology areas but will need to further invest to ensure it can be part of a spectrum of new business needs. I continued to recommend any company that must serve a large set of employees in the workforce and has a need for blending data and analytics for business intelligence or information needs to consider Information Builders.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

Ventana Research recently completed the most comprehensiveVRMobileBIVI evaluation of mobile business intelligence products and vendors available anywhere today. The evaluation includes 16 technology vendors’ offerings on smartphones and tablets and use across Apple, Google Android, Microsoft Surface and RIM BlackBerry that were assessed in seven key categories: usability, manageability, reliability, capability, adaptability, vendor validation and TCO and ROI. The result is our Value Index for Mobile Business Intelligence in 2014. The analysis shows that the top supplier is MicroStrategy, which qualifies as a Hot vendor and is followed by 10 other Hot vendors: IBM, SAP, QlikTech, Information Builders, Yellowfin, Tableau Software, Roambi, SAS, Oracle and arcplan.

Our expertise, hands on experience and the buyer research from our benchmark research on next-generation business intelligence and on information optimization informed our product evaluations in this new Value Index. The research examined business intelligence on mobile technology to determine organizations’ current and planned use and the capabilities required for successful deployment.

What we found was wide interest in mobile business intelligence and a desire to improve the use of information in 40 percent of organizations, though adoption is less pervasive than interest. Fewer than half of organizations currently access BI capabilities on mobile devices, but nearly three-quarters (71%) expect their mobile workforce to be able to access BI capabilities in the next 12 months. The research also shows strong executive support: Nearly half of executives said that mobility is very important to their BI processes.

Mobile_BI_Weighted_OverallEase of access and use are an important criteria in this Value Index because the largest percentage of organizations identified usability as an important factor in evaluations of mobile business intelligence applications. This is an emphasis that we find in most of our research, and in this case it also may reflect users’ experience with first-generation business intelligence on mobile devices; not all those applications were optimized for touch-screen interfaces and designed to support gestures. It is clear that today’s mobile workforce requires the ability to access and analyze data simply and in a straightforward manner, using an intuitive interface.

The top five companies’ products in our 2014 Mobile Business Intelligence Value Index all provide strong user experiences and functionality. MicroStrategy stood out across the board, finishing first in five categories and most notably in the areas of user experience, mobile application development and presentation of information. IBM, the second-place finisher, has made significant progress in mobile BI with six releases in the past year, adding support for Android, advanced security features and an extensible visualization library. SAP’s steady support for the mobile access to SAP BusinessObjects platform and support for access to SAP Lumira, and its integrated mobile device management software helped produce high scores in various categories and put it in third place. QlikTech’s flexible offline deployment capabilities for the iPad and its high ranking in assurance-related category of TCO and ROI secured it the fourth spot. Information Builders’ latest release of WebFOCUS renders content directly with HTML5 and its Active Technologies and Mobile Faves, the company delivers strong mobile capabilities and rounds out the top five ranked companies. Other noteworthy innovations in mobile BI include Yellowfin’s collaboration technology, Roambi’s use of storyboarding in its Flow application.

Although there is some commonality in how vendors provide mobile access to data, there are many differences among their offerings that can make one a better fit than another for an organization’s particular needs. For example, companies that want their mobile workforce to be able to engage in root-cause discovery analysis may prefer tools from Tableau and QlikTech. For large companies looking for a custom application approach, MicroStrategy or Roambi may be good choices, while others looking for streamlined collaboration on mobile devices may prefer Yellowfin. Many companies may base the decision on mobile business intelligence on which vendor they currently have installed. Customers with large implementations from IBM, SAP or Information Builders will be reassured to find that these companies have made mobility a critical focus.

To learn more about this research and to download a free executive summary, please visit http://www.ventanaresearch.com/bivalueindex/.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

Vice President and Research Director

Roambi, a supplier of mobile analytics and visualization software, announced the release of a cloud-based version of its product, which allows the company to move beyond the on-premises approach where it is established and into the hands of more business users. Roambi Business enables users to automate data import, create models and refresh data on demand. Furthermore, the company announced a North America Partner Program along with the cloud release. This will encourage ISVs and solution partners to develop for the new product. The move to the vr_bti_br_technology_innovation_prioritiescloud is a big one for the company, giving access to a new market in which companies need to deliver business intelligence (BI) to their increasingly mobile workforces.

The challenge of mobility and operating across smartphones and tablets is coming to the forefront of the BI industry, as indicated by our business technology innovation benchmark research, in which mobile technology is ranked as the second-most important innovation (by 15%) in a virtual tie with collaboration; analytics is the only higher ranked innovation (at 39%). With tablet sales likely to surpass PC sales in just a couple of years, the trend toward mobile devices will continue to gather momentum, and vendors of BI applications will need to provide them for these platforms. One way companies and vendors alike are addressing this challenge is to move applications to the cloud.

Roambi was one of the first to embrace industry trends in data visualization and mobile BI, but until now it focused on larger corporations and intersecting to business and on-premises approaches to BI. The company has been successful with deployments in 10 of the Fortune 50 and in eight of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies. This presence in industries such as pharmaceuticals makes sense in that many of the early uses of mobile BI has vr_ngbi_br_importance_of_bi_technology_considerationsbeen in retail and sales specifically.

Roambi first caught our attention for having a user-friendly approach to BI that helps mobile workers improve productivity by accessing various forms of information through a handheld device. In particular, Microsoft Excel and BI applications can be ported onto mobile devices in the form of report visualizations and flipped through using the native swipe gestures on Apple iOS devices. The broad access of a cloud platform extends the firm’s focus on usability, which our benchmark research into next-generation BI finds to be the top evaluation criteria for 64 percent of potential customers. My colleague Mark Smith has written more on the user-focused nature of Roambi’s products.

Roambi Business is multitenant software as a service hosted on Amazon Web Services. It offers a no-integration API approach to data movement. That is, the API utilizes REST protocols for data exchange. When a request is sent from the Roambi application, responses are returned in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). (The exception is that results for particularly large request sets are returned in IEEE754 format.) In this way, the API acts a conduit to transfer data from any JSON-compliant system including Excel, salesforce.com, Google spreadsheets and BI applications. Once data is transferred into the Roambi file system, the publishing tool allows users to quickly turn the data into a user-friendly form that is represented on the mobile device. As well, the product empowers an administrator to define user rights, and single sign-on is provided through industry standard SAML 2.0. Security, a big concern for mobile BI, is addressed in a number of ways including remote wipe, file exploration, application pass codes and file recall.

For the cloud version of the software, Roambi has redesigned the entire publishing engine to be HTML5-compliant but still iOS-oriented in that it takes advantage of native iOS gestures. The redesign of the publishing tool set extends to Roambi Flow, an application that enables power users to assemble and group information for presentations, publications or applications. (An example of such output is a briefing book or a digital publication.) This feature is particularly important since a specific data-driven storyline distributed to a group of users often is needed to produce a decision. Currently, the cumbersome cut-and-paste process revolves around data and content produced in Excel and Word and put into vr_ngbi_br_what_capabilities_matter_for_mobile_biPowerPoint for ultimate dissemination through an organization.

A couple of features are not yet available on the cloud addition. Push notifications are important, and with the new architecture I expect to see that soon. According to our next generation business intelligence benchmark research on mobile BI, alerts and notifications is the most important ranked feature (important to 42% of organizations), which should be a big part of mobile BI. While some interactivity is not available in the first release of the cloud edition with visualization, the flow of reviewing data is simple and easy to examine metrics.

Roambi will face strong competition from other BI vendors aggressively improving their own mobile BI offerings. Vendors of visual discovery software, of traditional BI and of integrated stacks each have a unique position that takes advantage of features like data mashup and broad integration capabilities. The battle for this market will be won only over time, but Roambi has a unique position of its own in terms of ease of use and time-to-value. In fact, the company’s strategic focus on design and the user experience is coinciding with current business discussions and top priorities in the buying trends in the market.

Roambi’s flagship product now in the cloud, technology that was mostly configurable by teams in larger companies’ is available to anyone easily including ISVs. Furthermore, cloud computing approach allows easier access for the business and requires less technical resources and reduces the potential financial impact. For companies looking to deploy business intelligence and analytics quickly to mobile devices while providing ease of use and the ability to communicate not only graphically but with a storyline approach, Roambi is worth a look to see how simple business intelligence can be on mobile technology.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

We recently completed our benchmark research on next-generation business intelligence. Ventana Research looks as next-generation BI as a function of traditional BI that is converging with new technologies such as mobility, collaboration and cloud computing. Just a few years ago business intelligence might have been considered a mature category with incremental growth, but now it’s growing in new directions and it’s difficult today to call business intelligence mature.

vr_ngbi_br_mobile_device_deploymentsOne of the reasons for the dramatic change in business intelligence is the impact of consumer technologies in the workplace. Our study shows that 53 percent of companies are currently deploying or plan to deploy tablet computers in their BI environments. This trend is driven by executives who have started to bring their devices to work and are asking for support – the so-called BYOD movement.

From the BYOD trend, it is apparent that ease-of-use and integration expectations are being led at the consumer level. Think about how easy it is to do things on an application like Yelp, where social, local and mobile technologies come together in real time to offer insights on our choice of restaurants.

When we port these expectations into the business environment, however, the tools we have in place do not meet these expectations. In our study, only 28 percent say they are fully satisfied with mobile BI, and only 32 percent with collaborative BI. Furthermore, our maturity model shows that while the people and technology categories are mature, information and processes are immature and holding companies back with respect to next-generation BI. This makes sense, since people have the technology and are skilled at using it in consumer environments, but they lack integrated information in the workplace, as well as the processes they need to take advantage of next-generation BI capabilities. Until businesses can take advantage of the kind of integration available in the consumer environment, we will likely see the satisfaction with these technologies stay relatively low.

Unfortunately, we found no coalescence around any particular access method. Just under two-fifth of the study (38%) prefer business intelligence applications as the primary access method for collaborative BI, but 36 percent prefer access through office productivity tools, and 34 percent prefer access through applications themselves.

Clearly, next-generation business intelligence is extremelyvr_ngbi_br_collaboration_tool_access_preferences important and can provide real competitive advantages, but it is still a bit of a mine field. For this reason, we strongly encourage companies to look at their information environments, consider current role-based workflows, and develop solutions that fit as seamlessly as possible into their environments. The alternative – deploying next-generation BI in a horizontal manner without careful thought for how the technologies integrate with the surrounding people, process and information – is just asking for trouble.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite competes in the open source and broader BI market. Its customer base is mostly in the small and midsized business and OEMs and SaaS providers who can embed Jaspersoft code directly into their offerings. Earlier this summer, the company introduced Jaspersoft 4.7, which features advancements in interactive reporting, big data access and mobile business intelligence for Android. The 4.7 release brings interactive features such as segmenting and filtering, though these are not as user-friendly as those found in some of the other tools in the market. As many of our benchmark research reports show, usability is becoming more important in the tools environment as business users become more proactive in the selection and use of these tools. Interactive reporting is quickly becoming table stakes, but we’re still not seeing the advancements that will lead to mass business user adoption, as my colleague Mark Smith  recently noted.

To handle more big data, Jaspersoft adopted MongoDB, a real-time-oriented NoSQL database. Users can now display log data directly on a dashboard, and developers can build reports.  This addition augments Jaspersoft’s native access to other big-data NoSQL approaches such as Hadoop and Cassandra. Jaspersoft also partners with big-data companies including IBM Netezza, Datastax, HP Vertica, 10Gen and Google BigQuery. The importance of connecting with a variety of data sources is highlighted by our recent big data benchmark research, where companies say customer data (68%) and transactional data (60%) top the list of critical data sources.

Release 4.7 lets users build applications and view reports natively on Android mobile devices, adding to the native support already available for Apple iOS. An SDK for Android allows developers to embed directly at the device level. I went ahead and tried out the mobile version on my Apple iPhone 4S and found that it lacked the auto-sizing and interactivity found in other approaches today.

I also decided to test out the trial version of the cloud version of the software and I was advised that it would take an hour to provision the resources. While I waited I went ahead and downloaded the 64-bit version of Jaspersoft 4.7 for Windows. The install process was relatively seamless with the only challenge being that there was no clear user name and password available. Fortunately, there was a live operator for me to call and resolve the issue immediately. The trial included sample data to play with which was nice, but the tool really lacked many of the features such as search and collaboration that we are seeing from other available tools in the market. I can see how Jaspersoft may be a nice addition to a SaaS offering or for OEM, but as far as a standalone BI tool, Jaspersoft has an uphill climb. When the cloud version arrived as promised, the demo was essentially the same with minor hang times as opposed to the download version.

While Jaspersoft 4.7 helps move the needle in the right direction, I’d like to see further development in ease of use (especially in the mobile area) as well as in areas such search and collaboration. As our NextGen BI benchmark research will reveal, expectations for mobile and collaborative BI systems are high, but actual time-to-value is still wanting. Overall, however, the ability to embed Jaspersoft in OEM applications along with the rise in cloud computing and SaaS should give the company ample space for growth, and the advancements in the latest release in reporting, big data and mobile areas should help it take advantage of the hottest trends. Companies looking for a low cost BI option or looking to embed basic BI functionality into their own applications should consider Jaspersoft.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino – VP and Research Director

MicroStrategy, announced version 9.3. The announcement came out of Amsterdam this month just in front of MicroStrategy World, the company’s annual conference for the European market. Release 9.3 delivers significant updates in four main areas: big data, advanced analytics, automated administration and visual data discovery.

The announcements on the big data front have to do with bringing data together from disparate sources, enriching available data, and new report search capabilities. Addressing the need to provide more automated support for data access and preparation are critical as found in our benchmark research on big data and our predictive analytics benchmark research as key obstacles to gaining business value from available data. The data source access improvements in 9.3 include improved access to departmental data, including data from spreadsheets and Salesforce.com, and from multidimensional sources such as Microsoft Analysis Services and Cognos TM1. The software can access data from SAP’s HANA appliance, and use a thrift connector to Hadoop distributions, including those of Cloudera and Amazon Web Services. The data enrichment enhancements include expansion of data based on ZIP code or date. Such location intelligence features address a hot area with great potential in the areas of database cleansing and enrichment. We’ll be exploring these trends in our upcoming benchmark research on location intelligence. MicroStrategy 9.3 also provides a Google-like function to discover reports and a dashboard, so users don’t have to spend unnecessary time looking for reports or creating new ones.

With respect to the Hadoop access, the company has four approaches. The first is to bring data from Hadoop into an in-memory structure for visual exploration and rapid prototyping using the imported data. This approach is interesting, but you still need to define your Hadoop queries before you do the analysis in memory, thus taking away the exploratory element of the big data. The second approach is to do freeform queries directly into Hadoop using Pig Latin or HiveQL.  This approach gives users back the exploratory aspect, but introduces complexity and sacrifices speed. The third approach is to model the data with a traditional multidimensional approach, while the fourth approach is to merge the Hadoop data with the enterprise data warehouse into a uniform view. The company says this last model is gaining traction for a number of their clients, which is in line with what we have been seeing from others in the space. Providing these options are critical as our big data benchmark research found that Hadoop as one of the key technologies planned in almost a third of organizations (32%).

For advanced analytics, the new release integrates R statistical packages into the MicroStrategy BI platform, which allows for advanced in-database analytics with any available R algorithm, including many custom R developments. Version 9.3 supports the most-used algorithms straight out of the box with more than 300 functions. While others have integrated R, few have gone as far as integrating the visualization aspects of R, as MicroStrategy does in this release. R is well-known as an analytical tool, but most users don’t know about its visualization capabilities. The R language is gaining traction in both the academic and business worlds, with universities, large government organizations and the pharmaceutical industry all showing significant support. This integration of predictive analytics into business intelligence is an important step for MicroStrategy and our predictive analytics benchmark found 58 percent of organizations have this as a priority.

The third area of improvement is introduction of System Manager, a GUI administrative workflow tool that the company claims will reduce operating costs by more than 50 percent. The tool allows users to create administrative workflows from both MicroStrategy admin products and third-party tools to do things such as create an Amazon instance. Use cases include MicroStrategy intelligence reports, daily report execution schedules, and migrating objects. The package is priced separately, which is fine since this is a capability most BI packages do not offer.

The fourth and final area of improvement involves the already formidable Visual Insights, a visual data discovery tool MicroStrategy introduced last year. Visual discovery tools continue to gain traction in the market due to their ease of use and their ability to give time back to analysts. Our benchmark research into big data found that visualization is a top priority and unmet need in 37 percent of existing deployments just as is predictive analytics in 41 percent of organizations. The new capabilities of the 9.3 release include density maps, which help to highlight geographic concentration levels such as sales volume. Users can create network diagrams for analytics with web traffic, affinity marketing, or market-basket analysis, and image layouts, which allow for visual mashups. Other enhancements to Visual Insight include a wizard to suggest appropriate visualizations based on the data, the ability to do rank filtering, and shortcuts to commonly used metrics such as counts, moving averages and running totals.  Finally, the ease of creating and distributing dashboards is significantly improved. Drag-and-drop visualizations, and the ability to do visualization-to-visualization overlays, are impressive, and I expect to see others try to emulate these in the future.

Mobile Business Intelligence wasn’t addressed directly in the 9.3 release, but MicroStrategy’s platform for mobile applications was the focus of the 9.2.1m release in January. Mobile intelligence is a big part of the MicroStrategy strategy, and it was also a big part of the conference in Amsterdam. In a separate blog post, I wrote about Michael Saylor’s keynote speech, his new book, The Mobile Wave, and the company’s direction in mobile technology. MicroStrategy has been investing heavily in mobile for a while, especially around native support for Apple’s iOS.

In sum, the MicroStrategy 9.3 release is a big advancement for a firm already providing leadership in the analytics market. Given the firm’s advantage of being an enterprise platform and moving into discovery tools with Visual Insights, it is likely in a better position to expand than many of the discovery players trying to move upstream into an enterprise role. The fact that the company has built the platform from the ground up also gives it an advantage over some of the larger players with less than organic strategies. For organizations with MicroStrategy already installed, the 9.3 upgrade (and memory upgrades) makes plenty of sense. Any firm looking for deeper support of Hadoop, predictive analytics and visual discovery should examine this 9.3 release from MicroStrategy.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino – VP & Research Director

On the heels of the release of his new book, The Mobile Wave, Microstrategy’s CEO Michael Saylor delivered an interesting keynote at Microstrategy World in Amsterdam this past week. Unlike other keynotes we’ve seen at various supplier conferences, the presentation was not a sales pitch. There was no reference to the fact that the company was simultaneously launching MicroStrategy 9.3, a major new release of its flagship offer. The presentation focused almost entirely on the rise of mobile computing and its ability to change the world. Saylor sees the Apple iPad at the heart of the mobile revolution, and notes that BI capabilities delivered through the device are displacing paper and people within organizations. The iPad’s 10-inch screen, which can display 90 percent of printed pages, is the key for companies to unlock the shackles of the physical office environment. Between the lines, it’s easy to read that Microstrategy is betting a lot on mobile and on the iPad.

Saylor’s argument against paper is relatively straightforward. For years we’ve been talking about the paperless office, but technology has not yet allowed us to get away from paper, and executives are still using it for all types of reports and data. Business intelligence before mobile was restricted to columnar reporting, and business intelligence before device interactivity was a manual, paper-based process in which an executive asked an analyst to run a report to answer a question, then looked at the report on paper. The results often inspired other questions, sending the executive back to the analyst to run yet another report – and so on.  Finally, once the executive’s questions were answered, he could ask an employee to take action based on his conclusions.

The iPad, Saylor argues, changes all of this, since iOS and the 10-inch screen allow us to look at standard-size documents and interact with company data. Given the revolutionary capabilities of mobile BI systems, an executive can interactively and visually query multiple data sources, get answers immediately, run his own scenarios, and take action, all from the sidelines of his kid’s soccer game. The executive, now doing the job of three people, is much more productive (if a bit lonelier).

How does the Microstrategy iPad-focused BI strategy stack up in the new mobile world that also contains tablets such as Google’s Nexus 7 and Microsoft’s Surface? With his presentation and over the course of the conference, Saylor took aim at the mobile strategy of a number of industry stalwarts, including Google and Microsoft. Microsoft in particular, he suggested, alienated both its customers and its partners with its recent preannouncement of the Surface tablet computer.

The most obvious competitor currently in the enterprise environment is Google’s Android, but the Android development community is focused around the smartphone, not the tablet. Google’s Nexus 7 suggests that the company is not keen to take on the iPad directly in the enterprise market; the 7-inch screen suggests consumer ambitions. One argument that Saylor gives against the Android is that it lacks tight enough integration between the hardware and the software for delivery on a 10-inch device. I’m curious whether this argument will still hold as Google starts to produce larger form-factor devices with tighter hardware and software integration, and as improved content parsing technologies allow for more information to be consumed on different-sized devices.

The more interesting enterprise play is around Microsoft’s Surface tablet running Windows 8 on Intel chips. When it is finally introduced, the Microsoft advantages will be hard to ignore. As it moves away from ARM-based chips, Microsoft will be able to provide full access to entrenched office productivity software, tight integration with other Windows-based hardware and software, and backward compatibility.  Hewlett Packard, in signing with Intel earlier this year, signaled its own move into Windows 8 tablets. HP’s global distribution power could make this an important milestone. The challenge is whether business will engage and consider Microsoft tablet or how many folks will bring this technology into business and expect support for it with business intelligence.

Unlike Google today and Microsoft tomorrow, Apple takes a “walled garden” approach to its operating system and applications, and enterprise IT departments generally do not like this idea, especially as it relates to security. On the other hand, the developer community in this garden is huge, and the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend is really helping drive iPhone and iPad into the corporate market. The most influential businesspeople and cultural icons in our society carry iPads, and corporations, much to the chagrin of IT departments all over the world, are being forced to deal with this phenomenon.

On a practical note, I had an opportunity to test-drive MicroStrategy’s platform for mobile applications. I built a number of interactive mobile dashboards for the iPad, the iPhone, and for my own smartphone running Android. While things worked well with the iPad and the iPhone, the Android applications had a lot of issues. I’m not sure if this was due to the lack of Microstrategy focus on Android, or to Android itself. What I do know is that Microstrategy Mobile works well on iPad; just about any user can create designs with minimal training, and not having to wait for coders is a huge advantage.

Nevertheless, an Apple-focused bet in the enterprise environment is a bit risky as new devices come onto the market. It will be interesting to look at Microstrategy’s tack in the context of our upcoming Next Generation Business Intelligence Benchmark Research, which focuses on mobile and collaboration technologies in the enterprise BI environment.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino – VP & Research Director

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