Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 11?

Apple iOS 11 has been out less than a week but it’s already old news for SAP’s mobile analytics team.

Yes, yes it is!

After years of wondering if SAP Mobile BI is ready for iOS 10, iOS 8, iOS 7, iOS 6 (I must have forgotten to complain about delayed iOS 9 support), I can say that SAP has surprised its analytics users by getting Mobile BI to the app store before the official release of iOS 11 and getting its companion apps, SAP Roambi Analytics and SAP Analytics Cloud, into the Apple App Store just a few short days after iOS 11’s release.​

SAP Analytics Cloud
version 2.8.0
released September 23, 2017
Mobile BI 6.3 Icon SAP BusinessObjects Mobile
version 6.6.5
released September 16, 2017
SAP Roambi Analytics for iOS icon 2017 SAP Roambi Analytics
version 9.1.17
released September 21, 2017
SAP Roambi Flow Icon SAP Roambi Flow
version 9.1.18
released October 3, 2017

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.6.5

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.6.5 for iOS includes Lumira 2.0 compatibility and is the first version to support a new iOS version before it is released.

SAP gave its mobile BI users a surprise over the weekend by releasing SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.6.5 for iOS. Not only does it include support for SAP Lumira 2.0 SP02 (the GA release) but also includes support for iOS 11, which will be released to the general public this Tuesday, September 19, 2017. This is the first time that SAP has provided compatibility for a new version of iOS before its release.

SAP RoamBI Analytics , SAP RoamBI Flow, and SAP Analytics Cloud  don’t explicitly promise iOS 11 compatibility, so users of those apps will want to defer updating their iOS devices to iOS 11 until SAP has issued minor releases that explicitly promise iOS 11 compatibility.

SAP still keeps the stand-alone version of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer in the Apple App Store despite the fact that SAP BusinessObjects Mobile has supported Explorer content for many years and the app hasn’t been updated since 2013, which is nearly an eternity for mobile apps. It’s probably time for SAP to consider retiring the app.

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.2.20 for Android was released on August 22, 2017 but lacks any Lumira compatibility at this time.

Lastly, iTunes 12.7 was released last week and no longer includes the App Store.

The new iTunes focuses on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks.

Apple release notes for iTunes 12.7

This means that you’ll have to use your iOS device and the updated App Store included in iOS 11 to review release history and release notes.

I recently recycled my old iPad 2 and replaced it with a new A9-powered iPad. I’ve already updated it with the latest SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app and eagerly plan install iOS 11 when it is released later this week. I intend to write soon about its new Lumira 2.0 features and delve into the growing Web Intelligence functionality gaps between the Mobile BI app and its browser-based cousins.

Good luck with your iOS 11 upgrade!

UPDATE: SAP Roambi Analytics 9.1.17 now available in Apple App Store with iOS 11 compatibility (September 22, 2017)

UPDATE: SAP Analytics Cloud 2.8.0 now available in Apple App Store with iOS 11 compatibility (September 23, 2017)

RoamBI (If You Want To)

Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to
Without wings, without wheels

the B-52’s

Yesterday during the SAP Insider BI2016 keynote, Jayne Landry, SAP Global VP and GM for Business Intelligence announced SAP’s acquisition of RoamBI with a single slide, then quickly moved onto other announcements. RoamBI Co-Founder Santiago Becerra stepped down as CEO in November 2014 and passed away a few weeks ago. He was, in the words of InfoSol’s Paul Grill, a true BI visionary, seeing the business potential of first Adobe Flash and later the Apple iPhone (an ironic combination, to be sure). SAP customers may also recognize Santiago’s name as one of the founders of Infomerssion, the company that created Xcelsius. Xcelsius was sold in 2005 to BusinessObjects and continues to live on rebranded as SAP Dashboards.

What does the RoamBI acquisition mean for SAP analytics customers? It’s simply too early to tell. The first iterations of RoamBI’s signature mobile product only worked with the SAP BusinessObjects suite, although support was later added for other on-premise and cloud-based data sources.

SAP’s lack of an acquisition roadmap is probably an indicator that the deal came together quickly, with Santiago’s passing potentially acting as a catalyst. It’s likely that the technology gained from the RoamBI acquisition will benefit both classic SAP BusinessObjects on-premise customers as well as users of SAP’s new Cloud for Analytics offering.


Between an Xcelsius Rock and Dashboard Hard Place

Xcelsius is not dead. But neither is speculation about its future.

 

With the introduction of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 ramp-up now behind us (see related article, Future Pack 3) and the North American SAP SAPPHIRE ahead of us (May 14-16, 2012), some SAP BusinessObjects customers are unsure how their dashboard and guided analysis strategies align with the SAP BusinessObjects product roadmap. Many feel like Homer Simpson, caught between a rock and a hard place.

Although the most visible conversations are happening on Twitter, many more conversations are occurring within business intelligence competency centers around the world. Xcelsius, now rebranded as SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards Dashboard Design, is being attacked on two fronts. The first front is, sadly, the vendor’s own self-inflicted wounds. The second is the emergence of the post-PC tablet era. The combined effect of both on customers is somewhere between mild disorientation and paralysis.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Xcelsius 2008 seemed to get lost during SAP’s acquisition of BusinessObjects. The product was legendary for service packs and fix packs that seemed to introduce more bugs than bug fixes. And it failed to keep pace with both simple updates to the Adobe Flash Player and more substantial innovations of the underlying Adobe Flex platform. As recently as September 2011, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0, the successor to Xcelsius 2008, shipped with only Adobe Flex 2 support. And that release only contained modest feature and productivity improvements. Although SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Feature Pack 3 (now in ramp-up) supports Flex 4, it is reasonable to interpret these missteps and others as an indication of SAP’s lack of interest.

The Failure of Mobile Flash

Vendor missteps would be enough to give customers some reservations. But Xcelsius has also been attacked on the mobile front. There is a long list of companies caught completely off guard by the success of Apple’s iPad. Enterprise stalwarts like Dell, Google, HP, Microsoft, and Blackberry/RIM have been outmaneuvered. So we shouldn’t be surprised that SAP was also caught a bit off guard and is coding furiously to catch up. To be honest, I expected the tablet wars to play out differently. I assumed Adobe would eventually get Flash working well on non-iOS mobile platforms and force Apple to begrudgingly accept it. For the record, I was also expecting HP to claim the #2 spot in the tablet market with Palm’s webOS (Thanks for nothing, Leo). Instead, the “tablet market” is currently the “iPad market” and will remain so for the foreseeable future. And rather than forge ahead with a dwindling number of mobile operating systems and device vendors, Adobe is pulling the plug on mobile Flash. Microsoft has since followed suit, dropping plans to develop mobile Silverlight, its Flash alternative.

SAP recently announced a “mobile first” strategy for business analytics. Should a “mobile first” guided analysis tool have dependencies on Adobe Flash and Microsoft Excel, neither of which run natively on today’s tablet devices? Is HTML 5 support really important when a native iOS app would satisfy the current iOS-dominated tablet market?

Should Organizations Continue Xcelsius Development?

So the big question remains. Should organizations invested in Xcelsius technology continue their Xcelsius development? My answer is a resounding “yes”. Customers who have already been successful with Xcelsius, who have determined their winner in the Coke vs. Pepsi taste test (QaaWS vs. Live Office), and made investments in licensing and training should continue to use the product with enthusiasm. Of course, that enthusiasm should be tempered. And new business requirements should always be weighed against any vendor’s up-to-date tool selection decision tree. Xcelsius should never be chosen as a development tool solely because a business user says “I need a dashboard”. Tool selection has always been nuanced and this fact is unchanged in the current product landscape.

Should Organizations Start Xcelsius Development?

What about SAP BusinessObjects customers not actively using Xcelsius? Their situation is different. Based on the current state of affairs (see related article Thoughts on Xcelsius), I am hesitant to recommend Xcelsius to customers not currently using it. Others may disagree, and that’s a conversation worth having in the social media marketplace and at Starbucks locations everywhere (see Donald MacCormick’s A New Lease of (HTML5) life for Xcelsius on the Antivia blog). But based on what is presently (and publicly) known, that is my recommendation. I may think differently after SAPPHIRE if the rumors about new products and product roadmaps are true, but I still believe Xcelsius is the new Desktop Intelligence. Xcelsius in its present form cannot go mobile without third-party help from vendors such as Antivia and Exxova. While existing Xcelsius users should eagerly evaluate these solutions, customers not currently using Xcelsius would be better served making investments in SAP’s own Mobile BI app or Mellmo’s RoamBI. Both tools leverage existing investments in Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence. And although Exploration Views, new in Feature Pack 3, are not a direct replacement for Xcelsius, they are a key component of SAP’s current mobile strategy.

Conclusion
At the recent SAP Insider BI2012 conference, there was standing room only for Scott Leaver’s “Future of Dashboard Design” session. Scott is the enthusiastic global solution manager for the Dashboard Design product line. Although customers are a bit disoriented, the fact that they showed up to pack the room should demonstrate to SAP that a future for Xcelsius is important to a substantial number of SAP BusinessObjects customers. Scott and his crew are passionate about the product and resolute in protecting and extending their customer’s technology investments. So the Xcelsius product line will continue to be supported. And it will be enhanced, with HTML 5 features promised for later in 2012.

But today, customers find themselves between an Xcelsius rock and a Dashboard hard place. They presently do not have all of the facts needed to move forward with confidence. No SAP reality distortion field can change this situation. Only shipping products can.

How has your organization’s dashboard and guided analysis strategy changed in the last 12 months? I’m eagerly expecting more news at SAP SAPPHIRE and hope in the meantime that SAP can facilitate a respectful and constructive conversation with its customers and partners.

Thoughts on Xcelsius

Is Xcelsius dead?

Last week, Xcelsius Guru Mico Yuk pondered on Twitter whether Xcelsius was dead. 

This week, Steve Lucas, SAP’s General Manager for Business Analytics, provided new insight to SAP’s mobile business intelligence strategy in two blog posts entitled “The Demise of Flash and the Battle for the End-User Experience” and “Putting Mobile First and the New Business Intelligence Priorities”.  Steve lays out a three-point business analytics mobility strategy.

First, allow access to existing content like Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports via the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI app, currently on the Apple iPad and coming soon for other tablets. Second, provide “high-definition dashboards” using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, soon to be extended with new functionality known as “exploration views”.  And third, a “completely open” development experience for custom business analytics applications on mobile devices. I assume this refers to the Sybase Unwired Platform.

So where does Xcelsius (known on the new BI 4.0 platform as SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0) fit into this three-point strategy?

It doesn’t.

Scroll to the very bottom of Steve’s remarks, where we learn that SAP will “deliver an HTML 5 version [of Xcelsius/Dashboards] in 2012”. But “this may not make life perfect”, which I interpret as an early indicator that the HTML 5 version won’t be as robust or powerful as the current Adobe Flash based product.

In my opinion, Xcelsius has become the new Desktop Intelligence. In the pre-web era, Desktop Intelligence was the only BusinessObjects reporting tool. But it was too wedded to Microsoft Windows to make an effective leap to the web browser, so Web Intelligence was created. In a similar way, Xcelsius is too wedded to the Adobe Flash platform to make the leap to mobile devices.

And just like multiple iterations of Web Intelligence were required before it came close enough to the capabilities of Desktop Intelligence, it may take multiple iterations of an HTML 5 product before it can fully replace Xcelsius.  But there isn’t time for multiple iterations – customers are demanding mobile analytics now.  And while mobile Adobe Flash solutions from Exxova or Antivia may bridge the gap, adopting Adobe Flash to mobile devices is a short term, not a long term strategy.  Which is why declaring a “mobile first” strategy makes sense.

SAP BusinessObjects customers do not need Xcelsius on their tablets.

They need business intelligence on their tablets. And even smaller mobile devices like smart phones.

Tablets have a unique user interface. A great mobile business analytics tool will design for the device, not retrofit existing paradigms, which explains why Mellmo has been successful with its RoamBI product.  It was designed from the ground up for the era of mobility.

As best as I can tell from this week’s strategy announcement, SAP is designating its upcoming Exploration Views (coming later this year in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3) as its from-the-ground-up mobile analytics tool, not Xcelsius for HTML 5.  “Today, we call this SAP BusinessObjects Explorer” (are we going to call it something else tomorrow?).

This is not all bad news.  Just as SAP has protected customer investments in Desktop Intelligence with a lengthy rather than abrupt retirement, SAP is promising that it will protect customer investments in Xcelsius. And although it’s easy to poke fun of Desktop Intelligence today (see related Diversified Semantic Layer podcast, Die Deski Redux), it was only yesterday (OK, so it was 10 years ago) that Desktop Intelligence was absolutely the right answer for business intelligence.  In 2005, Xcelsius was the right answer – think of all the cool solutions that have been deployed since BusinessObjects purchased Infommersion. But in 2012, we need something else.

It’s OK to love technology. And its OK to cry when it lets you down and breaks your heart. But always love your users more.

Additional Materials

What do you think of SAP’s mobile business analytics strategy?

Thoughts on Mobile BI

Corporate business intelligence leaders and managers need to make sure that they are seated at the table of their organization’s mobility discussions.

Today was an interesting day for mobile BI news. First, Walt Mossberg, David Pogue, and other high-profile journalists released unfavorable reviews of the HP Touchpad. The Touchpad is HP’s first webOS tablet, the operating system inherited as part of their Palm acquisition. Second, ASUG and SAP produced a webcast entitled SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Changes Coming for iPad, iPhone/Mobile in General.

SAP Explorer iPad
SAP Explorer for iOS is a cornerstone of SAP’s mobile BI strategy

In an interview, HP’s Richard Kerris said that HP is aiming for the enterprise, not Apple. However, like any good enterprise software vendor, SAP is pursuing Apple iOS first because it is leading the market. The HP Touchpad, Blackberry PlayBook, and various Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 all show signs of promise, but none have been declared better than Apple’s iPad. Although my Xcelsius Guru fans are keen on seeing their dashboards on a tablet that supports Adobe Flash, the mobile Flash player remains in beta and flaky.

Regarding SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, version 4.02 is available today for the Apple iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad (click here to download Explorer from the iTunes App Store). It will be available “Q4” for Android and “early next year” for the Blackberry Playbook. Next year, we’ll see BI 4.1 Feature Pack 3 and Exploration Views, taking Explorer to the next level. Although today’s webcast did not address SAP BI Mobile for the iPad (click here to download BI Mobile from the iTunes App Store), clearly SAP has prioritized Apple iOS development above other mobile platforms. And they’re not alone. Honestly, I’m surprised that HP isn’t writing checks Microsoft-style to convince vendors like SAP to move apps like Explorer to webOS regardless of its market share. Speaking of Microsoft, it is conspicuously absent from this year’s horse race with Apple. It seems that we’ll have to wait until next year’s Windows 8 (see related article, First Impressions of Microsoft Windows 8) to see what a true Microsoft tablet looks like.

Disclaimer: I am a bit of an Apple fan boy. I bought a third-generation black-and-white iPod in 2005, matching husband-and-wife iPhones in 2008, a Mac Mini (my first Mac) in 2010, and an Apple iPad 2 on its release day earlier this year. But I think you have to wake up and face reality— Apple is leading both the smartphone and tablet markets. Don’t believe me? Just visit the lonely tablet area at your local Best Buy.

Corporate IT likes its standards. And its double standards. The RIM Blackberry Playbook is frequently cited as a favorite with organizations that have a large installed base of “secure and reliable” Blackberry phones. However, the Playbook uses an entirely different (and untested, despite its solid QNX roots) operating system. Google has only recently released Android 3.0, its first tablet-ready version of Android. Remember, Android is “open” and Google isn’t “evil”. And Adobe Flash? Please! I’m tired of being told that Flash 10.1, I mean Flash 10.2, uh, I mean Flash 10.3 will support mobile devices. It’s still in beta. And it’s still flaky. Anyone concerned about the lack of Adobe Flash on iOS should compare the web edition of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer— which is entirely Adobe Flash— with the iPad edition. The user experience is virtually identical.

And look at Mellmo’s RoamBI. After breaking ground on the Apple iPhone in 2008, Mellmo is only now getting its software on Blackberry and Android devices. With Mellmo, it was never about marketshare. Marketshare would have put RoamBI first on a Blackberry phone. But it just wasn’t technically possible.  The Apple iOS SDK made it possible for RoamBI to do business intelligence in a bold new way. And even though the relationship between SAP and Mellmo seems a bit chilly, corporate BI organizations would do well to consider RoamBI right alongside SAP’s BI Mobile and Explorer offerings.

Apple mobile hardware is in its second (iPad) and fourth (iPhone) generations. The mobile operating system, iOS, will soon be on its fifth major release.

The mobile device and mobile BI markets are both in their infancy. Both will certainly look much different a mere 12 months from now. It’s simply too early to choose a corporate standard for mobile devices. Rather than basing a corporate standard on religious preferences, corporate IT should make mature decisions after small pilot deployments of multiple mobile platforms. Today’s tablet market doesn’t look like today’s personal computer market based on Microsoft Windows. Instead, it looks like the early 1980’s Wild West personal computer market. A horse race of Apple, Atari, Commodore, IBM and others eventually thinned out to IBM + Microsoft MS-DOS as the market leader with the Apple Macintosh as a distant second.

Corporate business intelligence leaders and managers need to make sure that they are seated at the table of their organization’s mobility discussions. Organizations wanting to deploy SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence on mobile devices today—  not next year— need to get over their aversion to Apple products. Choosing an Android or Playbook tablet as a enterprise standard will delay your organization’s ability to embrace mobile business intelligence.

I’m sure we’ll be having a different conversation about mobile BI next summer. But for now, BI managers should run, not walk, to the Apple Store and get a couple of Apple iPads. Get 3G models, even if your pilot will be Wi-Fi only, as they’ll demo in more places. Deploy a test environment of SAP BusinessObjects BI Mobile, either on your existing XI 3.1 or as part of your BI 4.0 pilot. Show your executives BI Mobile, Explorer, and RoamBI on the iPad with their data. Don’t focus on the device or its vendor.

Focus on the business value and speed that mobile BI can provide to your organization’s fact-based decisions.

What’s your organization’s strategy for mobile business intelligence?  Join the conversation below.

Maybe I should become an iPhone developer instead?

Fame and fortune can become yours if you develop the right iPhone application.

As the entire world eagerly awaits the announcement of the next Apple iPhone model, here’s a fascinating article entitled “Shooting to Software Stardom on the iPhone“about how fame and fortune can become yours if you develop the right iPhone application.

On a related note, Timo Elliot reviews RoamBI, a BI front end for the Apple iPhone. RoamBI was developed by Santiago Becerra and his new company Mellmo. Santiago is the founder of Infomerssion, original developer of Xcelsius.

Hmmm… With a low entry fee of $99 to become an iPhone developer, maybe I should give it a shot…