One of the big disappointments of Oracle OpenWorld 2011 has been the near-total lack of presence of mobile computing support. Yes, Oracle does have a mobile computing pavilion at the show, but this seems little more than a brief nod to the mobile computing trend. Oracle's own involvement in mobile computing seems limited to the Oracle Mobile Field Service, which is designed to support field service personnel. That is hardly a mainstream product for a company known for its large database, core business systems such as its ERP suites. SAP, in contrast, did discuss elements of a mobile strategy at Saphire 2011 last spring. Oracle combines ownership of the central data with the best platform for mobile computing development – Java. And it wants to lead, not come in second. With Oracle OpenWorld nearly over, will it be another year before Oracle announces its mobile computing initiative?
Perhaps Oracle's developers do not consider tablets to be a serious business platform. If so, they are making a mistake. Tablets are here to stay, and while they are not going to replace laptops, they are going to become important tools for business executives and sales personnel in meetings whenever they are away from their desks, and particularly in meetings. Tablets are much better than laptops for sharing information or ideas – you just hold up the tablet displaying the critical chart for all to see. And it lets executives move out from behind the computer screen while still having their graphics and data close at hand when they need them.
Or perhaps Oracle thinks the present generation of tablets does not have the power to do real work. Again a mistake, actually a misunderstanding of what tablets are. Tablets are not really computers. They are consumers of media and computer services provided over the network – either the public cloud or private clouds and internal networks. As such they have a lot of potential. Monday, while Oracle OpenWorld was kicking off, Adobe Systems Inc. was announcing its new SaaS/software combination, the Adobe Creative Cloud, which will deliver all the functionality of Adobe's core design systems, which are the tools of choice for design of everything from art books to new products of all kinds. And an integral part of that was the announcement of a tablet client that will deliver all that power to iOS and Android tablets. If architects can design new buildings on an iPad, why can't senior executives graph the latest performance figures from PeopleSoft Enterprise on one? What Adobe has done, Oracle can do.
And Oracle has another potentially important role to play in mobile computing. Thanks to the Sun acquisition, it owns Java. So far the only thing it has done with that in the mobile market is sue Google. Java should be the preferred development platform for mobile app development. The big problem mobile app developers face is device fragmentation, with iOS iPads, Android tablets in a variety of sizes and OS versions, the RIM Blackberry Playbook, and potentially Windows 8 tablets as early as a year from now to support. Java doesn't completely solve the complex problems of supporting all that, but JVM ports are much less complex than full rewrites of applications for each platform. Oracle should support that actively with tools for developing mobile apps.
Of course Oracle may have some great mobile apps in development at this moment that will let executives tap their Oracle databases, build sophisticated 3D graphs from the data, and in general make it easier for users to actually use all that data in the data warehouse. But if it does not, then it is missing the boat. And that will be a great disservice to its many customers who depend on Oracle to not just capture but provide access to their core data.
Action Item: If you are an Oracle customer, push your Oracle sales rep hard on just when Oracle will announce a full mobile strategy to support your business executives. If enough customers do that, Larry Ellison must pay attention.