In my last post I mentioned how Tech Soft 3D is a harbinger of where engineering software is moving. We gain a big-picture perspective of the industry through our involvement with so many next-generation applications. While we can’t talk about what specific customers are doing with our HOOPS technologies until they ship their applications, we can share some macro trends that may be of interest.
Many of our customers over the last couple of years are building products for mobile devices. Here are the general trends we’re seeing.
Tablets are currently about consumption. Almost all developers building apps for mobile devices are focused on “consumption” rather than “creation.” In other words, 3D models are usually created or stored in one place, and then later viewed and interacted with by people working away from their desks. This mirrors how tablets are used in general – to consume media such as video, books, web pages, etc.
Tablets will soon move past consumption. This is happening already, to some extent. We edit photos and videos, post to Facebook, compose emails, and with keyboard extensions, we might even write documents and create presentations. Devices are becoming more powerful and developers are figuring out the UX models that make creation more feasible. An example is Autodesk’s SketchBook app, which is already wildly popular for professional-grade painting and drawing. Skepticism about engineering on tablet devices reminds me of how we once wondered whether a PC or even a Mac would ever be used for “serious” engineering work. There is no inherent limitation that makes me think that this will not happen in due time. It’ll probably even come faster than we think.
….But not on phones. Now that I just said “never say never,” I will go ahead and say that the form factor of today’s phones means they will only be used for lightweight consumption. I can’t imagine a usage model that would make creation feasible. No one is building anything more complex than a simple viewer for phones and I don’t anticipate that happening due to the limitation of screen size. Now that I said it, someone will surely prove me wrong, but there you have it…
iPad is the favorite for consumers and execs. Apps designed for consumers generally are available on the iPad first. It also seems that apps built for the iPad are often targeted at showing simple views of projects or “dashboards” to execs, rather than doing much work. Think of these as fancy “reporting” apps. You know how we execs are –suckers for pretty graphics!
Android users are hungry for more. I’ll go out on a limb and say that compared to the typical iPad user, Android users are either a) more technical, b) more focused on what they would consider “real work” or c) both. As a result, they seem to be pushing for more and more advanced applications on their devices.
Windows-based tablets shouldn't be counted out. Much has been made in the media about how much Microsoft is lagging behind in terms of tablet market share. Those numbers aside, I would hardly count them out. Why? Because many large enterprises rely heavily on a backbone of Microsoft technology. As they consider their “mobile strategies,” Microsoft remains a strong incumbent for enterprises that use Microsoft and greatly favor predictability and integration with existing processes over speed. They will wait patiently, and Microsoft will no doubt continue to heavily focus development on this enterprise market. Unlike iPad, (but like Android), the hardware will come from many sources, so expect to see plenty of purpose-built tablets for use out in the field and on shop floors by people with dirty hands in rugged locations. Look for some interesting things here.
What’s your mobile application plan? We’d love to hear about it, but even more, we’d love to help!