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Mobility Focus Issue: What Is Mobility?

Mobility Focus Issue: What Is Mobility?

In his book Building Solutions with the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, Dan Fox begins with a brief discussion of the etymology of "mobility." Coming from the Latin word mobilitatem, Dan explains that mobility is the capacity for motion. When I'm talking to user groups, I like to mention these facts so that I can sound intelligent. But, when I talk to customers and specifically decision makers, the talk is about the value of mobility.

Considering ROI from A Scenario
When a developer approaches a business with a mobility solution, some homework must be done in order to justify the effort. If I had a dollar for every time someone looked at my Tablet PC and told me it was just a toy, I would be writing this from a beach somewhere. But, what would happen if I could give them a few statistics on cost savings in their scenario? Let's consider the following.

It's a fall evening in St. Louis, Missouri. Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, is at full capacity as Game 7 of the World Series unfolds. It's the bottom of the eighth inning and the game is tied. The lead-off batter has just walked and the Cardinals' top relief pitcher, their closer, is walking towards the batter's box. Knowing that one run scored will probably win the game and the series, the manager has a tough decision. If he wants to save the pitcher for the next inning, he has to let the pitcher bat, but everyone knows most pitchers are not offensive power houses. Should he bunt? Should he have his runner on first steal? Should he pinch hit for his pitcher?

Ah, mobility to the rescue! He whips out his Pocket PC, which is running a .NET Compact Framework application called Big League Pocket Manager (see Figure 1). The application uses data culled from thousands of actual major league baseball games to calculate the odds the manager needs to beat in order to increase his chances when employing a strategy in any situation. The manager plugs in a few facts about the current scenario, gets back the results, then chooses whether to follow the statistics-based advice, and signals in the next play.

Realistic? Absolutely! The application is something that Dan Fox wrote about in his blog (http://danagonistes.blogspot.com/2004/08/effect-of-pitchers.html); there is even a picture of the application depicting the above scenario. But how would an application in real life come about? First, it helps to have a business pain. Then, one of the best ways to bring a mobility solution to life is to put some real numbers behind the pain, specifically financial ROI. If you can show that financial benefits outweigh TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), then the technology is the easy part. But, there are some things that can be added to the mobility justification that are soft benefits, and these add the icing to your mobility justification. Do your homework and be prepared. Use the case study documents that Microsoft provides at www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/business/whitepapers/mobilityroi.mspx to add even more benefits to your effort.

My point is this: as you read this issue, I ask that you think like the boss and consider ROI in your projects.

At a time when economic conditions are severe, identifying ways to increase productivity, decrease operational costs, improve revenue generating processes, and increase customer satisfaction, provide a strong justification for technology investments. (www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/business/whitepapers/mobilityroi.mspx )

Jon's Definition of Mobility
I notice another phenomenon when I talk to people about mobility. My view of the mobility landscape is a little different from the traditional idea of just programming a Pocket PC. I see that some people do not realize the breadth of what Microsoft can offer their mobility toolkit.

When I think of mobility, I think of business activities where mobility enhances the business process. Here are several points for you to consider and what we used while looking for topics in this issue:

  • Working with devices and applications that do not need a wired network connection to access data and business services
  • Using data while away from the office without requiring paper
  • Collecting data while away from the office
  • Synchronization of data back to the enterprise data stores and/or processes
  • Remote notification of critical business events to customers, employees, and managers
  • Extending the reach of your services by utilizing non-PC devices, including the telephone
  • Enhancing your services with location information and GPS
If your company could be enhanced by executing one of these points, then does Microsoft provide products that can help a business in any of those activities? Consider the following list:
  • Windows CE, XP Embedded, Pocket PC, SmartPhones
  • .NET Compact Framework
  • ASP.NET mobile controls
  • Tablet PC
  • Speech Server 2004
  • MapPoint 2004, MapPoint Location Server, MapPoint Web Service 3.5
  • SQL Server
  • SQL Server Mobile Edition (formerly known as SQL Server CE)
  • SQL Notifications
  • Exchange Server: Mobile OWA and Server Synch
  • InfoPath and BizTalk
  • SPOT
We could add more Microsoft products to the list, but this should get you started using technology that exists today.

Signs of Mobility
Microsoft is adding mobility features all over. For example, Streets & Trips, Microsoft's travel planning software, has included a free Pocket PC version for a while. Even more interesting is to look at what's new: (Click Here !)

  • A variety of BlueTooth features added to Windows XP Service Pack 2
  • Network information and events in the upcoming .NET 2.0 Framework
  • A recent version of Microsoft's CRM built with the .NET Compact Framework
  • WinFX and Longhorn to include mobility features
  • Streets & Trips 2005 has an option for a free GPS Locator manufactured by Microsoft and supports laptop and Pocket PC devices
This list is not exhaustive. But, I think it demonstrates that Microsoft believes in mobility and is committed to making it a standard part of our lives.

More Stories By Jon Box

Jon Box is an Architect Evangelist in Developer & Platform Evangelism with the Microsoft Corporation. He coauthored Building Solutions with the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, published by Addison-Wesley, and blogs at http://blogs.msdn.com/jonbox/default.aspx.

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