Windows tablet development may be best for mobile businesses

Although Windows 8 tablets might not be what most Java developers have in mind, some experts say it's the right way to get enterprises mobile.

When Java developers talk about taking enterprise applications mobile, the conversation often gravitates toward Android and iOS, but some development experts are certain the Windows mobile platform is a better fit for the enterprise. Patrick Emmons -- co-founder of Adage Technologies and an accomplished technical architect with more than 15 years of experience -- told us that Windows tablet development may the best fit for enterprise organizations that need to send workers out into the field.

While Emmons emphasized the point that he and his colleagues are "not hating on Apple," they do see Windows as a better fit for business. "We all have iPads, and it's not that we don't appreciate those products," he said, but Apple products are designed to delight consumers and that might not meet the particular needs of an enterprise organization. Emmons pointed to a few key advantages of the Windows platform over Apple or Android.

We all have iPads, and it's not that we don't appreciate those products.

Patrick Emmons, co-founder of Adage Technologies

Emmons said that Apple has a dedication to using only the best hardware, which is obviously to their advantage for a consumer device. However, many enterprises depend on technology that may not fit Apple's definition of "best." For example, the iPad does not include USB ports for connecting to outside storage and devices. Neither does the Apple iOS extend to embedded devices, such as factory scanners or mall kiosks. Emmons said there are multiple advantages to holding the same experience over multiple different device types.

Choosing Windows 8 as a mobile platform gives organizations that are already running Windows in the office advantages, for both the users and the application developers. On the user side, moving from one device to another is easier because the operating system is already familiar. On the developer side, applications are easier to develop, and there's a much greater potential for the reuse of software components as the application developers move from the desktop version, to the tablet version, to the kiosk version, to a specific embedded version.

Emmons talked about an example where he was working on an enterprise mobile application for a health care services organization. This organization works with health care insurance claims, and their mobile employees need access to the line of business application in whatever medical facility they happen to be working in on any particular day. Their job requires them to scan and print documents and pictures from medical files that could be on servers, hard drives, USBs, CDs or paper. The facilities they work in run the gamut from cutting-edge to lagging behind in terms of IT.

Some of their mobile workers wanted iPads and some didn't, but they all wanted touchscreens so that they could work with one hand while communicating with doctors and patients. A variety of form factors were considered. Smartphones are convenient for their size and portability, but lack the necessary power and usability. Laptops have much more power and, when the space is available to set them up, they provide the same user experience as a desktop computer, but they're a little too clumsy to use while following busy doctors on their rounds.

Emmons said the Lenovo Yoga is very promising, because it can be as portable as a tablet, but can also be set up as a laptop workstation. This gives employees the same work experience in the office and in the field, which can boost productivity by lowering the learning curve. Emmons expects the Yoga to grow in popularity and to inspire new devices with a similar form factor, although touchscreen laptops are struggling against traditional tablets. He expects Windows to support this new generation of mobile workstations.

Are you comparing mobile application platforms? Let us know what you think about developing Windows 8 tablet applications for enterprise mobile.

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