Tools & Technologies

Collaboration on Mobile Devices – Only for Viewing Documents?

David looks at the challenges of supporting people using mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) for business collaboration:

With the explosion of newly-available mobile computing options, many companies now support their employees’ smartphones and tablet computers. With employees increasingly ‘always on,’ new opportunities abound for better and more efficient collaboration. But this requires a shift in how people work together, and the ways we support people on-the-go.

Porting desktop collaboration tools to mobile devices won’t work. The unique needs of the mobile worker and mobile devices’ form factor mandate for a fresh look at what it means to collaborate on the road.

I agree with some of what David says, but not all of it.

My Comments

1. Mobile and wireless access to collaboration tools has been a long-term interest of mine – take a scan through my Enterprise Mobility posts, my September 2009 column for Messaging News, or for a very long-time-ago view, my Ferris webinar and associated report from 2003.

2. David’s first point about mobile devices is that they “Offer a convenient way to view documents ‘on the run,’ but they are not appropriate for editing documents.” Given that he explicitly called out “tablet computers” in his introductory paragraph, I disagree. The Lenovo X201 “tablet computer” is a full scale computer – and you can even write on your documents with a pen! The Apple iPad has a sufficiently large screen for editing documents, and when paired with an Apple Wireless Bluetooth keyboard, it very functional.

3. If David is only referring to small form-factor devices, like the iPhone and BlackBerry, then I’d be in greater agreement … but even then, the emphasis was on “editing” not “authoring.” Both the iPhone and BlackBerry support editing of Microsoft Office documents – given that a light touch may be all that’s required, perhaps it is possible.

4. The forthcoming Research In Motion PlayBook supports seamless integration via Bluetooth with the user’s BlackBerry … so in theory, a user could open a Word document on their BlackBerry, start editing it, and then decide they need to use the PlayBook due to the larger screen, and transfer the document across.

5. Apps change things – for the iPad definitely, and probably for the forthcoming PlayBook. Enterprises have more options than HTML 5 – depending on what they’re using inside the enterprise, there may “be an App for that.” Eg.,
– SharePoint, gulp, there’s an App for that (SharePlus)
– Lotus Quickr, a team collaboration service from IBM, there’s an App for that.
– Cisco WebEx, a conferencing service, there’s an App for that.
– Huddle, an online service, there’s an App for that.

6. In other words, yes, I think there are challenges … but people are becoming much more adept at using mobile devices in their personal lives, and that will have a positive impact on what happens for business. Plus – the tools are getting much better, and much more usable on the go.

Categories: Tools & Technologies