Mobile business intelligence is getting a lot of ink these days. Yet according to Forrester Research, that coverage has far outweighed its importance in the grand scheme of things — for now.
Boris Evelson, a business intelligence (BI) analyst at Forrester, said that in the last two years, the analyst firm has received fewer than 50 mobile BI-related inquiries among thousands that have come in for business intelligence as a whole. More significantly, the bulk of these inquiries came from vendors and consultants looking to build mobile BI applications, rather than from enterprise buyers and adopters. That interest has manifested itself in the form of a steady stream of mobile BI product releases from vendors small and large over the past several months.
But with the growing popularity of the tablet, thanks in part to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad, he expects adoption rates of mobile BI to soar.
"Tablets have screen sizes and touch screen interfaces that are perfect for most typical BI applications and data interactivity," said Evelson. "In the last few months, Forrester and some of the systems integrators we talked to have seen an accelerating rate of client interest in mobile BI for their tablets."
So with a surge in mobile BI adoption potentially on the horizon, let's take a look at some of the more interesting mobile BI apps out there.
BIRT Mobile by Actuate works on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and the Blackberry. It extends BIRT-based data visualization to mobile devices.
"Actuate is investing heavily in mobile BI with native BIRT iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android applications," said Evelson.
This mobile BI application delivers content via mobile browsers and native or custom applications. It includes BIRT Mobile Viewer and HD Viewer for iPad.
"Actuate is among the handful of vendors to provide native platform support across a majority of mobile platforms," said Howard Dresner of Dresner Advisory Services, who recently predicted great things for mobile BI.
Roambi Enterprise Server 3 (ES3) by MeLLmo is comprised of server software, the Roambi Publisher utility and the Roambi mobile app. It integrates with most BI platforms and data warehouses. It also enables analysis of data from the iPhone or iPad. Users can select up to five dimensions of raw data to generate visualizations that are delivered to a mobile device.
"One of our top customer requests was for the ability to generate dynamic visualizations from raw data," said Santiago Becerra, MeLLmo co-founder and CEO.
MicroStrategy Mobile extends graphs, grids, enterprise reports and information dashboards to the Blackberry, iPhone and iPad. Features include: out-of-the-box integration with Google maps; the use of the Apple swipe, tap, flick and rotate multi-touch gestures for ease of navigation; rapid integration with email, browser, text messaging, social networking and other apps; and integration with GPS so user locations don't need to be manually entered.
"The mobile Internet will dwarf all previous IT waves with its sheer size [number of users] and convenience, and that mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad will become the de facto way that companies access business information," said Wende Cover of MicroStrategy. "Many people prefer to consume business intelligence on their mobile devices rather than on their desktop computers, since mobile devices are more portable, always on and always connected. Mobile business intelligence is a logical extension of traditional business intelligence, but requires even higher performance, with the ability to serve even larger user populations and provide rapid responses to business queries."