Others Talk, We Listen.

Mobile Business Intelligence – Android, iOS, WP7 or BlackBerry?

by Ben Harden on May 24, 2011

Gartner predicts that 30% of all BI will be consumed on mobile devices by 2013. With the amount of interest in mobile BI and those kinds of bold predictions you would think it would be easy to understand the options available. It is not. There are a lot of things to consider when deciding what mobile BI tool and operating system fits for your organization:

  • What BI tool are you currently using? The mobile solution you choose may be dictated by the BI solution the enterprise already have in place. Even worse, it might not be compatible with an already implemented mobile standard.
  • What mobile OS do you want to support? There are varying degrees of compatibility across the mobile offerings, from full native support to none at all.
  • Does your BI tool deliver content via the web or natively? Native support provides an integrated solution designed from the ground up for a specific OS. Web based solutions work across more devices but may sacrifice usability.
  • Will you deliver BI on phones or tablets or both? Not all solutions support all mobile operating systems on both phones and tablets. For example, SurfBI only supports the iPad and not iPhone.
  • If it is a web delivery solution does the charting engine use Flash or HTML5? For example, Business Objects claims support for iOS, but Xcelcius is Flash based and therefore not compatible with iOS.

There is a lot of gray area with the browser based solutions since most mobile browsers can view web content in a non mobile format. The below chart is representative of what each vendor claims and is based on mobile formatted delivery.

BI Tool

Mobile Operating Systems

Android

iOS

WP7

BlackBerry

IBM Cognos 10

No

Yes - Browser

No

Yes - Native

SAP Business Objects 4

Yes - Browser

Partial

(no Xcelsius)

Yes - Browser

Yes - Native

MicroStrategy

No

Yes – Native

No

No

Microsoft SSRS

No

No

No

No

Oracle BI 11g

No

Yes - Native

No

No

LogiXML

Yes - Browser

Yes - Browser

Yes - Browser

Yes - Browser

Qlikview

Yes - Browser

Yes - Native

Yes - Browser

Yes - Native

Tableau

Yes - Browser

Yes – Native in Beta

Yes - Browser

Yes - Browser

SAS

No

Yes – Native

No

No

Note: Data as of May 2011

If the combination of tool and mobile OS you are looking for is not available yet, there are other mobile presentation layer options that can help. These presentation layer tools simply connect to a data source and present the data to mobile devices in a native format. In addition to connecting directly to a data source for presentation, these tools also provide native connectors to some of the BI tools, allowing you to reuse existing BI metadata and report content.

Mobile Presentation Layer Tools (May 2011)

Tool

BI Connectors

Android

iOS

WP7

BlackBerry

RoamBI

SSRS, Cognos, BOBJ, Oracle Hyperion, SAS

No

Yes – Native

No

No

SurfBI

OBIEE

Yes – Native

Yes – Native

No

No

As you can see, this is not a one size fits all market. The iPad and iPhone support most BI products, but there are limitations if it the content is delivered via the web using Flash objects. Microsoft SSRS does not have native mobile support yet, but I expect that to change quickly given the focus on Windows Phone 7. In the meantime, RoamBI has a SSRS connector that can deliver native content to iOS devices. Oracle also has limited support, but SurfBI has filled that void with direct Android and iOS connectivity to OBIEE. The BI vendors are adding native support quickly so I expect rapid change as the market matures and enterprise tablet leaders emerge.

In summary, the mobile BI market is rapidly emerging and there is not an obvious market leader. The right solution for your organization will depend on what tools you already have in place and your long term target mobile architecture.