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"Let's build a mobile app" is only part of the answer

‎11-06-2012 04:02 AM - edited ‎09-02-2013 08:07 AM

Our apps testing guys are working with a large investment bank. The business is saying to the IT guys at this bank, "we need smartphone apps".


Actually, I don't think this is what the business wants. What it wants is "multi-client apps". By multi-client, I mean a client for smartphones, for tablets, for laptops and possibly, for smart TVs (like the Samsung Smart TV). Increasingly, customers are using a multitude of app-enabled devices. In order to deliver a compelling user interface for the business, we need to build multi-client capability into our application development plans.


Our customers expect to use multiple clients

It depends on exactly what you want your app to do, but if the app is more than just an information presenter, then research shows that customers will prefer to use a tablet or a laptop as the client.  A recent Forrester report confirms this ("Why Tablet Commerce May Soon Trump Mobile Commerce", by Sucharita Mulpuru and Sarah Rotman Epps, July 25, 2011). The report found that most people would prefer to do shopping using a tablet than a smartphone.


Another Forrester report predicts that by 2015, there will be as many tablet apps are there are smartphone apps ("Mobile Is the New Face of Engagement" by Ted Schadler and John C. McCarthy, February 23, 2012).


And don't forget the smart TV. I've just bought one of the new LED Smart TVs from Samsung. While there aren't yet that many apps available, the ones that are there are impressive. Netflix and the BBC catchup service, iPlayer, are very nice to use, for example. (I predict that Microsoft will morph the Xbox into a smart set-top box before long: i.e., you won't need to be a gaming freak to buy one.)


The importance of context-switching between devices

With multi-device apps, context switching between the different devices is important. Let's jump to the year 2020 and look at an example. An architect is on site. She takes 3D pictures of a building she is going to gut and refit/remodel with her smartphone. With her phone’s architecture app she superimposes her design ideas onto the 3D pictures. When she gets home, she goes into the architecture app, but on her 3D smart TV. She uses gesture recognition on the TV to add detail to the design.


What's happened here is a number of things:


  1. Firstly, the architecture app is multi-device : smartphone, smart TV, laptop, and tablet.

  2. Secondly, it's saved context between the different device types - she left off her design work on the smartphone and picked it up on the smart TV.

  3. And thirdly, the app is optimised for the device she is using - the smartphone doesn't do gesture recognition (actually, this is a bad example - I'm pretty sure smartphones will perform gesture and facial recognition by 2020).


Good examples of multi-device apps : Spotify and Evernote

I think that Spotify and Evernote are two good examples of multi-client applications.


Spotify is a Swedish-based music streaming/music social media "experience". There is a smartphone client which is essentially a "player" of music. There is an iPad version which is just beautiful using albmum artwork to the full . And there are Mac and Windows versions which are very functional.  I use these to "build" my music experience (i.e. my playlists, my subscriptions to others' playlists, and my music research using Spotify music apps like Last.fm and Moodagent).


You could imagine a smart TV version of Spotify that shows either a music video or a suitable graphic realisation on the 3D TV. When I have guests, the TV could thus provide a suitable backdrop (perhaps the TV could use facial recognition to gauge the mood of the guests and adjust the music and graphics accordingly).


I just bought my daughter an internet radio for her university bedroom. It also has a Spotify client - it simply plays Spotify playlists from the Internet.


Evernote—a popular service for note-taking and archiving—is similar in its multi-device capabilities. There are smartphone, tablet, Mac and Windows clients. Context is saved between all of the clients - I can start working on a note on one client and pick it up on another client.



In summary - of course mobile is important. But so is tablet, so is laptop, so, increasingly will be smart TV. And maybe "tablet in back of car seat" will become important too, as 4G rolls out and coverage becomes good.


This topic - multi-device applications - is discussed in HP's "crowd sourced" vision of the future, Enterprise 20/20. Enterprise 20/20 is broken down into a series of chapters. It's in the Dev Center 20/20 chapter  that we talk about the importance of multi-client applications.


Author : Mike Shaw

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About the Author


Mike has been with HP for 30 years. Half of that time was in R&D, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product management, product marketing, and now, solution marketing. .

mobile application development
on ‎11-16-2012 02:38 AM

I agree fully with the idea of  delivering  a compelling user interface for the business through including multi-client capability into our application development plans.

Yulia Kudryskov
on ‎01-01-2015 12:37 AM



I work for MI Dynamics, an offshore software development company. Visit us: http://www.midgr.com


I beleive the hardest part is not coming up with an idea or getting your mobile app developed. It is about perceiving a User Experience that's optimized to engage your users and keep them using your mobile application.

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