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DreamForce's Big Idea: Smartphones as an Enterprise App Platform

David Taber | Dec. 6, 2013
At a conference as big and boisterous as Dreamforce, you hear a relentless stream of ideas. Some are good, but most are bad. At Dreamforce 2013, there was only one idea that really mattered: Whether smartphones are the future client for enterprise apps.

To its credit, Salesforce has made huge progress with mobile APIs, even making the claim that, for any new functionality, the APIs will come first, before the feature is enabled.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - But You Will See It in a Mobile Video

So which side of this bet should you take? While there's no doubt that tablets will be an explosive force in business apps, smartphones are another matter. Reviewing my own writings, I have noted only the surprising slow mobile uptake in CRM.

But many of the issues with smartphone adoption for business apps can be overcome by larger form-factor devices. Look at the Samsung Galaxy Note, HTC One, Sony Xperia or LG Nexus. These devices aren't far off from being tablets - and if they get more popular Apple will come out with an iPhone maxi. This kind of crossover device may be what drives us to the tipping point.

Let's look at this from a different angle: Which "wrong bet" would be more expensive?

On the one hand, if you bet on smartphones becoming the primary client for business apps, and it doesn't happen, you will have wasted some investment. However, the new skills and infrastructure improvements you make won't be wasted at all and will, in fact, be transferrable to traditional cloud apps. Most managers will give you brownie points for at least being proactive.

On the other hand, if smartphones do become the primary business app client, and you're not ready - well, that won't be fun at all. You'll have some serious catching up to do, and your executives and field personnel won't be big fans for a while. They may feel like they can't compete with industry innovators because IT holds them back.

This may be one of those situations where the politics of the bet may be more important than the economics.


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