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NetSuite goes pocket-sized

PDAs could have a real use after all

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Though "BlackBerry Man" is a common sight these days, there is still some doubt about the real usefulness of such mobile devices to business users. They are certainly fine for functions such as calendars and keeping an eye on email, but they still have some way to go as a real replacement for laptop PCs.

Part of the reason comes from the fact that the form factor means many business applications need severe surgery to get them to fit onto the screen, and even then they often ended up almost unusable. The other part comes from the fact that many vendors of business applications have not even bothered to attempt the necessary surgery, so the supply of useful apps is a bit thin on the ground anyway.

Given all that, it will therefore be interesting to see how NetSuite fairs with the introduction of client implementations of its online business management service for the BlackBerry, the Palm Treo, and the Windows Mobile platform.

Three of NetSuite's partners have contributed applications to help make this possible. Antenna Software has provided AMPower for real-time customer and order update tasks, Explore Mobile's Explore Order Entry allows for taking and updating orders, and iEnterprises' Mobile Edge links to the NetSuite CRM and ERP capabilities. Each has extended the capabilities of NetSuite's SuiteFlex applications development and integration platform to provide the mobile UI extensions. This means users can develop applications once in SuiteFlex and then configure the UI to match whichever mobile device is selected.

According to Craig Sullivan, NetSuite VP of international products, the company has put in considerable effort in developing the UI to the online applications and services so it is possible to get a good degree of commonality in both look and feel, and in functionality between the UI available on a PC and the mobile UI.

"This way, users will be able to connect directly to the system without having to access a browser or the internet. With many of the network service providers moving to an all-you-can-eat bandwidth model, mobile users can get the same level of access to their applications and services as they would at their desk. And because the UI is based around pre-configured templates, the data transfer is small and the transfer speeds high," he said.

One advantage of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model offered by NetSuite is that the mobile devices will usually only need to operate as data collection and delivery vehicles, with no real requirement for extensive processing capabilities. The most they will be required to do is sometimes work offline with subsequent synchronisation if used in a situation where there is no signal available. This could make for a combination that works to the advantage of both market sectors. ®

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