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Fulfilling its intention to make it easier to access and use analytics and business intelligence, IBM released its Cognos Mobile application natively for the Apple iPad. Of course IBM is not the first to release a native application for the tablet, and many might say that it is late in doing so, but in reality the market for dedicated applications on tablets is just heating up. The adoption rate of the iPad as the tablet of choice for business continues to grow, and while statistics are not yet available our research has found a groundswell of interest this year and last among businesses in mobility for analytics and BI. In this context, the mobile app is significant for IBM Cognos. It has delivered software for mobile technology including smartphones for over a decade, but the new application was carefully designed to establish a foundation for upcoming incremental releases in the tablet format.
After monitoring its progress in development over the last year, I personally downloaded the production release of the application from the Apple AppStore. With a couple of clicks I was up and running on the demonstrations and examples, which is the best way for anyone to get an understanding of what is possible with the application. It provides a folder and library view of analytics that you can select from and open to interact with. Nicely laid out views of analysis can be combined with geographic maps to add context to the information, and you can use charts to update data and charts in the same view. A range of customer, geographic and product analysis is available in the example of a recruitment dashboard for workforce analytics. You can easily connect to your own IBM Cognos server to access content designed in IBM Cognos 10, which my colleague David Menninger assessed.
A somewhat hidden feature of the application I like is the pencil graphic in the upper right; this “scribble” capability enables you to draw on the screen, highlight any content or write a message that you can email to anyone who should attend to the issues or opportunities you point out. This is one of those simple capabilities that can make an application easy to use; I would have marketed it more strongly to differentiate the application’s approach. In my view, this application is comparable to others in its class that I have assessed, like Roambi, or MicroStrategy, which David recently assessed,although they have been in the market longer and have more interactive and navigation capabilities. The IBM Cognos app is simpler in some ways than those from Actuate, QlikView and SAP, but those have more data-driven methods to adjust the analytic views. All of these are better than those like that of Oracle, which does not provide a publicly available demonstration from Apple App Store. Information Builders’ WebFOCUS toGo has some interesting features, but it is a Web application, not a native application, and also is not accessible for general review although I did assess it recently. Microsoft is not competitive in this field, lacking even an application for its own platform and apparently hoping for a miracle to get people to adopt its mobile technologies as I have assessed. For mobile analytics and BI, Microsoft should transition to support the Apple and Android platforms if it hopes to utilize its underlying technology.
IBM supports other mobile platforms including RIM, which has struggled in recent months with slowing adoption and migration to platforms like Apple, though I have written of its potential. IBM realizes the importance of Android and supports that platform, too and has skipped supporting Microsoft platform.
Overall IBM Cognos has taken a large first step by providing a native application on the iPad, and its cute scribble capabilities complement its overall BI platform and tools. As David Menninger has written, the consumerization of collaborative BI has arrived, and the use of mobility is part of the evolution of business analytics. IBM is smart to support the major Apple, Android and RIM platforms natively. I expect IBM to add more collaborative and interactive capabilities in later releases of the application, which the company has promised to provide more frequently, perhaps even quarterly. If you have not taken a look yet, I think it is worth a couple of clicks from your iPad to see what this major player in business analytics is doing in mobility.
Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer