What it is: IBM has created apps for the enterprise that cover a wide range of industries and fields. By studying IBM’s apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, you can truly see the strengths and weaknesses of each device.
The smartphone, tablet, and wearable computer all have different purposes and uses. You can’t take a smartphone app and cram it in a wearable computer and expect it to work the same because the form factor of each device is different. This is a major failing with Microsoft’s Windows 10 plan of allowing you to write code once and run it on multiple devices. Technically that may be possible, but it will create a poor user experience on devices not optimized for its use.
For example, Microsoft Word lets you do mail merge where you can write a form letter and merge it with a database of names and addresses. For a desktop application, that’s fine, but if you port Microsoft Word to a smartphone or a wearable computer, will anyone really want or need to perform mail merge on a smartphone or wearable computer? The program may still run, but it’s no longer as useful because mail merge is a specific task for performing on a desktop or laptop PC, not on a smartphone or wearable computer.
That’s why IBM’s family of enterprise apps is so interesting to study because it shows you how different devices can work together and offer their own strengths. Rather than write one program and port that code to run on multiple devices, IBM likely customized their apps to run on each device. What will give a better user experience? A program optimized for the device it’s running on or a program designed for a different device but ported to another one?
One of IBM’s enterprise apps is called Hospital RN, which uses Apple’s iBeacon technology. Now a nurse can use an iPhone or Apple Watch to receive patient requests, changes in lab status, safety alerts, and prioritised task lists for immediate action disposition. By using technology to display patient information when they’re in that patient’s room, IBM’s Hospital RN app gives nurses relevant information they need right away so they can spend less time looking for information and more time caring for patients.
Another IBM enterprise app is called Incident Aware and lets first responders to a scene view the location of other first responders. For example, suppose there’s a shooting at a shopping mall. By looking at a smartphone or tablet, police can use GPS to track the location of other police officers so they can coordinate their movements towards the emergency. By viewing notifications on their Apple Watch, police can get the latest information without having to constantly pull out and look at their iPhone or iPad.
A wearable computer like the Apple Watch is best for interaction that requires only seconds, such as notifying the police that a target has moved or is no longer a threat. A smartphone can use its GPS to help track other first responder positions. A tablet can provide a bigger screen allowing police to coordinate their efforts and see a map of their environment so they can navigate to the problem right away.
Each device offers advantages that the other device lacks. That’s why customized apps, like IBM’s family of enterprise apps, can be so interesting to study. That’s also why Microsoft’s Windows 10 initiative to make it easy for programs to run on multiple devices isn’t the entire solution since each device needs software that takes advantage of its unique features, not ignores them.
IBM will likely continue developing unique and interesting apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. If you’re an app developer, study how IBM’s apps work. By learning how apps need to work for solving enterprise problems, there’s no better example than IBM’s family of enterprise apps.