Cover Story: The Mobile Technology Revolution

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More than 17 billion mobile applications will be downloaded worldwide from online application stores this year, according to market-research firm Gartner. By 2015 the global mobile application market will generate $25 billion in sales, according to a forecast from Research and Markets.

There’s no question the demand for software for smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices is exploding -- everything from Angry Birds for consumers to sophisticated operational and analytical mobile applications for road warriors. Angry Birds aside, solution providers say the opportunity to provide applications and services to business users with mobile devices is huge.

“Our challenge is keeping up with demand and making sure we’re keeping up with the pace of change in the mobile world,” said Bill Hoggarth, a divisional director with CQS Technology Holdings, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based solution provider. CQS partners with SAP and its Business Objects operation, as well as with MeLLmo, developer of the Roambi software that provides a mobile front end to corporate business intelligence systems.

Noting that virtually every decision-maker owns a smartphone and/or tablet computer, CQS recognized the opportunity. “The future of business intelligence is, by definition, mobile,” Hoggarth said. CQS has developed a range of business intelligence-related services, including helping customers design their business intelligence systems and connect mobile and desktop devices to corporate business intelligence platforms.

“I think the tablet revolution is what’s really driving this,” said Bill Harrison, president of Epicom, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider that focuses on CRM system implementations. “Smartphones are fine for communications, but tablets are better suited for information-rich applications like CRM.”

Epicom partners with SugarCRM, implementing its CRM mobile client application on customers’ mobile devices. While mobility usually isn’t the driver behind customer projects, Harrison estimated that it’s among the top three requirements in 70 percent to 80 percent of contracts.

While Epicom is largely a systems integrator, the company is investing more in developing applications that can be easily ported to iOS, BlackBerry and Android systems. “Business is shifting and we’re becoming more of a product company,” he said. “I think we’re going to get more requests for custom applications that are tailored around people’s specific businesses.”

—Rick Whiting

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