Applications Are Outward-Bound

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2005-11-21 Print this article Print

Tech Analysis: The mobility issues of tomorrow define development priorities today.

Mobile applications are the fastest-growing opportunity and challenge for developers, who are finally getting both the tools they need and the consensus on good practice that liberates them to do their best work.

A mobile user should not be envisioned as merely a Wi-Fi-enabled, laptop-carrying knowledge worker in a conference room or a coffee shop.
Rather, the mobile user requires applications designed for diverse mobility demands in both internal and external respects.

Internally, the mobile application must deal gracefully with intermittent connectivity and with limited and sometimes varying bandwidth. Externally, an application must deliver an appropriate experience when using a small screen on a handheld device or when using no screen at all with a voice-based system in a hands-free environment, such as an automobile.

Developers must therefore think in terms of loosely coupled layers of application function and user interaction, rather than starting with a user interface and designing function inward from that surface.

They must think in terms of scenarios where users in different situations will have different needs—and think about how applications will offer graceful degradation, rather than all-or-nothing access, when they have intermittent or varying connectivity.

The value of mobile access will sometimes lie in location-specific data—whether for critical applications, such as identifying the nearest trauma center, or for commercial applications, such as finding the nearest Thai restaurant after a show. Click here to read more about SCOs ventures into the mobile device applications space. This implies transparent integration of data, such as GPS coordinates, or the use of other position estimates, such as those based on cell-site triangulation, without inadvertently compromising privacy by disclosing a users location too freely.

Next Page: Rising user expectations.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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