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PowerBuilder on the iPad?

Why PB developers should consider developing for iPads, and how to get there

As you may have noticed, a number of media sources are writing about the overall progression of iOS device sales and of the iPad in particular. The latter's sales have developed to the point where their presence in businesses is becoming indispensable (see Looking into Enterprise iOS by Ian Thain)

This article is intended for PowerBuilder users who are considering developing iPad applications. We will try to determine to what point this device has become a must-have, by looking at recent sales and market penetration figures in the professional world. Then, we will discuss development tools and solutions that are adapted to PowerBuilder projects.

Facts and Figures
Recent numbers confirm the explosion of tablet sales, and the iPad in particular.

  • ComScore says 40 million tablets were being used in the US in the past 2 years, whereas it took 7 years for smartphones to reach the same point.
  • Gartner forecasts 120 million in tablet sales in 2012 worldwide (+98% from 2011), two thirds of which is predicted to be iPad sales.
  • In 2011, French tablet sales surpassed PC sales, with 90% of those sales being iPads. There is expected to be a 300% hike in sales for 2012. (GFK study).

What Is the Use of an iPad in a Professional Context?
There are a myriad of uses, but the same features that make the iPad great for surfing the web, looking at images, and viewing videos also make it a hit in a professional environment. Moreover, the portable form factor allows for a greater level of flexibility where space is limited or where mobility is required.

Airline Industry:
The US Air Force, UPS and several airlines (American, United, Continental, Alaska...) have equipped their planes with iPads in order to replace manuals. This method has been officially approved by the FAA.

Retail:
Some retailers use iPads as their new Cash Register with the added bonus of computing cross-selling opportunities at the point of sale.

Luxury:
Hermes
has distributed iPads to its stores to showcase its luxury products.

Healthcare:
Hospitals are now using iPads for various needs: from diagnosing patients, to operating rooms. The FDA has officially approved its use in certain areas. According to a recent study, 45% of American doctors use iPads and 70% of those who don't use them are looking to in the future. Moreover, there exist a number of applications available for health professionals.

Finance:
In the fourth quarter of 2011, financial services continued to see the highest level of iPad activation, accounting for 46% of the period - more than tripling the amount of activation in any other industry, according to Good Technology.

What Are the Upcoming Trends?
The previous examples reference companies that have already deployed iPad applications. They are only the tip of the iceberg, as a number of projects are in the development pipeline.

In order to better understand these trends, Novalys recently launched a survey for PowerBuilder users. From that we know that 85% of participants plan to develop their applications for tablets!

More notably, it seems that software vendors now consider these types of applications as a competitive factor - they don't want to be the last on the market to offer these features and to risk losing a significant share.

How to Get There?
After specifying the features that will be deployed on iPads, Projects always ask the following questions:

  • What development tool should I choose: what will be its productivity, efficiency etc.?
  • Do I need to develop multiple applications to support different OS (iOS, Android etc.)?
  • What will be the quality of the User Interface?
  • Will they perform well?

As you know, there are multiple solutions on the market for Mobile development, one of which is Sybase's SUP. At Novalys, we have chosen Appeon Mobile, as it allows PowerBuilder projects to reach out to Tablet users without changing technology (you continue to develop in PowerBuilder).

In most cases, it's about extending an existing system: nomadic entry screens, business statistics, executive reports, etc. So why not keep the same development team and technology? After all, it all belongs to the same system... You can reuse existing DataWindows and PowerScript business rules for mobile applications.

As for technology durability, I recommend this excellent article by Bruce Armstrong: it reminds us that a humble technology such as PowerBuilder has outlasted other technologies that were in their time considered as indispensable and perennial.

Conclusion
Tablet deployment in the enterprise is a trend that will only be increasing in the coming months. If you develop with PowerBuilder, and an iPad application makes sense for your users, you will find with Appeon Mobile the easiest and least risky solution: you won't need to change tools, nor development teams. You'll quickly create native iOS applications with a rich interface that will benefit from all the datawindow functionalities. You can even target multiple devices (Android tablets) with the same PowerBuilder code! You can learn more about this solution by attending the PowerBuilderTV Webcast, or by checking out the Appeon Mobile website.

More Stories By Christophe Dufourmantelle

Christophe Dufourmantelle is CEO of NOVALYS. He started as an IT consultant and has been a project leader and a sales executive in various IT French and international companies. He regularly participates in Sybase Seminars and User Group Conferences around the world.

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