EMC Goes Mobile, Creating a Redundant Déjà Vu Experience


You know the guy: Ned Ryerson the insurance agent in Groundhog Day, One of the strangest things to happen at EMC World was the announcement by EMC of a mobile client for the iPad. It is scheduled to arrive in Q3 of 2011 (I made them commit to a specific Q3). Some people even said July 15, but I’d be more than happy with an arrival before Labor Day.

So why is that strange? Doesn’t everyone need a mobile client? Isn’t that a cornerstone of Choice Computing? Doesn’t Sarah, the new user, want access to information anywhere on every device. Well, you are correct on all fronts.

The strange part is that when you take a step back, you realize that the market is already addressing this need.

The Basics

I covered this in several posts, but the goal for EMC is to have multiple mobile releases, targeting one every three months give-or-take. The first release is for the iPad, the second will be for the iPhone.

What I haven’t talked much about is that the interface looks a lot like the Media WorkSpace client and the communication between the app and the Content Server is being done through the 2nd early access release of the REST API. I expect/hope they’ll release it on the planned 3rd release this summer.

It wasn’t a shiny application, but it looked real. I got the feeling that it was a real product and that it WILL be out this Q3 and not one 2 years from now.

That wasn’t the only mobile application on display in the keynote.

To Box or not to Box

Do you know what other mobile app I saw EMC people use at the conference? I saw the Box application for the iPad live on-stage during Jeetu’s keynote. It works fairly well and is out now. There is also a version for the iPhone and Android. Box has a strategic partnership with EMC to help provide “Content Mobility” so you would think that their interface would be fairly decent..

So this raises the question, why not use Box instead of EMC’s app?

I actually asked Jeetu that question during the post keynote milling of people up front. He said that it was because the EMC app would have tighter integration with the process elements of Documentum and be free to licensed customers.

You know something, those were good reasons, especially considering the “ambush” nature of my question. I saw clear use cases for both applications without complete overlap. Things were okay in my head until Lee Dallas reminded me of the reality that has been in effect for over a year.

There are lots of other apps out there as well.

Pick an App, Any App

I quickly remembered that many companies had been releasing mobile apps over the past two years. If we just consider applications that are based upon the CMIS standard, you realize that there were lots of options.

In fact, during EMC World, multiple people approached me to show me their mobile application. While none of the apps is what I would consider game-changing, they all solved different business applications. They all have a place in the market.

They also happen to be released and being supported today.

It raises the question, is there a place for generic Documentum applications? Jeetu talked about tying their apps to process. Of course, other people will write those types of applications as well.

What Should EMC Do?

What I see in the mobile app right now is a checkbox feature. Don’t get me wrong, too many companies rely on those checkboxes when picking software, so it is a must-have for EMC. The question is, aside from getting that checkbox, what should EMC target?

First, develop enabling technologies. That means leading-edge CMIS support and pushing the proposed browser binding for the 1.1 version of CMIS. It also means pushing forward on the REST API to allow for partners and other companies to build business specific applications leveraging the deeper, compared to CMIS,  functionality of Documentum.

If the value proposition is the tie into the business process functionality, write an application that is a framework. TaskSpace mobile? Why not write an app that sends TaskSpace components to a mobile app automatically? How about making sure that the Information Rights Management products works on mobile clients?

Those might be some things that EMC could do better than partner companies.

As for generic applications, promote partner applications that are already developed. Use some of the same logic that led to the current Collaboration strategy. If you can’t do it all, make sure that you are investing in the right areas.

Just a thought.

Linkfest

Throwing some links to mobile apps out there. There is no endorsement of any of these apps. These are just known apps that are released. If something isn’t on here, I likely just forgot, hadn’t heard of it, or couldn’t find the link. The point is to show that there are options now.

I know that there are more out there, so feel free to add links in comments. Keep the sales pitch to a minimum when linking or I will remove the comment.

6 thoughts on “EMC Goes Mobile, Creating a Redundant Déjà Vu Experience

  1. Let me thank you for your really great coverage of the EMC World.

    The future is ALL mobile and not browser or ‘browser-mobile’. And I am not talking about in ten years. The iPad concept is the first ‘consumer computer’ that does not require technical knowledge to get it up and running. Deployment of new apps is a no-brainer. The key problem will be APP to APP communication on the pad device. So a mobile frontend that accesses an archive is DUMB to the max. If it uses CMIS that makes it a bit better, but NO-ONE has any need for such a fucntionality. How would anyone do the APP to APP communication to utilize the content in any sensible way.

    I also don’t understand you fascination with BOX. It is cute, yes. It is practical to keep and track stuff and to allow basic collaboration. But that is all. It has no process related functionality. Content without process and process without content make no sense. While that process mustn’t be rigid, you still need business rules to guide and goals to target. That’s where BOX fails. It can be kept to store stuff in the background, but one can use Amazon Cloud for that from the APP directly and there is no need for BOX.

    Plus, why would anyone want to install a new APP each time some functionality is added. Yes, it is simple enough to install, but there will be the need for multiple fairly complex processes to be executed around the content and it won’t simply be an inbox with a few forms. Trying to keep iOS, Android, MS Mobile and Java applications in sync will be a SW development nightmare for both SW vendor and user!

    Without any sales pitch let me add that our Papyrus Platform does both CMIS on the server and the mobile and the mobile frontend app functionality is controlled from the server and not by coding a new APP. At our Openhouse event we showed our iPad/iPhone APP using tightly integrated content into processes coming from our inhouse archive, from a CMIS Filenet connection from California, and privat content from Amazon storage.

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    • Max, I agree with your critique of an App vs Browser. Good, browser-based, mobile sites are hard to find. Most companies find the concept of an “App” sexier. The upgrade issue I think is the most important as I think the multi-platform issue will fade away. Until the upgrade is seamless, the browser will always have benefits. That said, the App can do more (aside from having an in-your-face icon), so the question for developers is simple, are you going to do more?

      I will say, in the context of this post, Box was very prominent in both keynotes and they showed their app. As such, they had to be mentioned. You are correct on the lack of process, but that is why EMC says that their app will be better for the normal Documentum user. As for my personal fixation with Box, while I agree with your assessment of where they are currently, I like their vision and their ability to execute. I think they will be a significant player in the future. They have some significant ground to make-up, but they have the SaaS architecture and model that is going to hold other vendors back down the road.

      Thanks for adding your product to the list. That is actually the joy of CMIS. You can develop an app for your server and then re-purpose it to access content from other repositories. Gotta love that.

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  2. Cloudy says:

    I get really nervous when I think something is a checkbox item from EMC. That almost always means a token effort followed by an uncertain future with perhaps a few small updates to keep you hanging on. At least they should have a proper funeral. How many dead end products or features are out there just hanging on that they are still willing to base a sale on? How many people step on these mines?

    This seems different though. If they really do make the code available that changes everything. Not only is it a “free” feature, but it is opened up so that partners and customers can support it and take it in new directions. I’m actually excited to see what happens. This is an approach they should have taken many years ago.

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    • The opening of the code, should they follow-thru on that, is a big difference. It would also allow people to create the needed specialized application. That aspect of it shows potential. This could easily be more than a checkbox feature, but only time will tell.

      Actually, we should have a pretty good idea in a year.

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