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When Can We Scrap the Desktop and Go Mobile?

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Mobile development is poised to surge forward as the hardware and software infrastructure mature and allow for collaborative application development.

 

The whole idea of mobile collaboration is making my head spin.

 

Talk about computing in a cloud! We seem to be headed toward a world similar to that inhabited by the Borg in Star Trek. The Borg, as you Trekkies recall, is a fictional race of cyborgs who are organized as an inter-connected collective with a hive mind. The society assimilates information (not to mention other cultures), and afterward all members of the Borg know everything each individual member knows.

 

This may not be a bad thing, and it certainly creates a force that can be harnessed for noble accomplishments. I'm not sure what it does for maintaining one's privacy, but I think the answer is self-evident.

 

Mobile technology and collaborative processes are making great strides. I'm a big fan of Zoho, developers of an online office productivity suite similar to that of Google. In a column this week by Sridhar Vembu, CEO and cofounder of AdventNet, parent company to Zoho, he discusses the idea of creating a server farm consisting of tens of thousands of mobile phones networked together. Vembu supports his novel idea by saying that mobile phone hardware and software are a lot more efficient than what you might find in a traditional server running applications written with outdated client/server architecture that dates back 20 years.

 

"With mobile phones approaching very respectable CPU and memory capacity, packaging them together as a server cluster makes a lot of sense," says Vembu.

 

He also mentions a company called Azul Systems that makes multi-core server appliances that beef up Java applications running on many different machines. Azul has a unique multi-core Java virtual machine that helps streamline Java operations, ramping everything up to run 5-50 times faster than it might otherwise. With the speed increase, fewer servers are required, and therefore energy use and cost go down.

 

Turning cell phones into mobile desktops and allowing people to collaborate on work functions is an idea not lost on mobile phone companies. Unlike Europe, where users can buy a phone that works with essentially any service provider, we're restricted in the U.S. to service providers that have proprietary phones. The result is that if you don't have AT&T today, you won't be using an Apple iPhone. Perhaps it's of little consequence since other phone makers are running the very adept Windows Mobile on which mobile desktop applications can run quite well. Standards for application developers are an issue today, but that is being addressed by the OpenAjax Alliance.

 

This week, Sprint is demonstrating the power of its Titan software platform to the application developer community gathered at the EclipseCon conference in Santa Clara, California. Based on IBM's Lotus Expediter software, Titan allows developers to move business applications from the desktop to most Sprint Windows Mobile smart phones. Sprint is taking a fairly open approach to application development that has encouraged developers to already get started creating new business applications for Sprint phones. Reportedly there are CRM, sales force automation, and other business applications either in beta or in the pipeline. Titan was first made available to developers back in December at Sprint's application developer conference. Interested developers can download a beta version of Titan here. 

 

"Titan is another step in Sprint's evolution toward truly open mobile development," says Tom Moore, director of mobile business solutions at Sprint. "We are intentionally blurring the lines between desktop and mobile development and allowing developers to easily move their applications to the mobile environment."

 

IBM Lotus Expediter V 6.1.2 is enabling mobile application developers to create new applications and services that combine information from different sources. The key to its allowing applications to be created that span both the desktop and mobile devices is its use of the Eclipse embedded rich-client platform application model, according to IBM.

 

"IBM Lotus expediter enables faster delivery of a new generation of Web 2.0 applications to mobile phones," says Alistair Rennie, vice president of development at IBM Lotus software. Rennie notes that Expediter already has a proven track record as a platform for innovative applications in that it supports both Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime.

 

On the Sprint Web site is a demo video that depicts an application already being tested by an insurance company to help its adjusters. It allows for real-time processing of claims, this one an auto accident claim. When you see how the adjuster cuts through the red tape and paperwork by having access to all the people, forms, and information needed to process the claim, you begin to see the potential in that little device sitting in a holster on your belt.

 

Hopefully, we will be less rapacious than the Borg in their confrontations with the crew of the Federation's Voyager, but it may not be that long before we have their collective knowledge base. At the pace of development of mobile devices, it's clear that "resistance is futile."

Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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