Gartner Predictions for 2012 – Counterpoint

And this is where I take slight issue, although of course making predictions is a mug’s game at the best of times.  In my view, the idea that most people will consume their Exchange email via OWA is wrong. The more probable outcome is a client/cloud model – where the device you use (notebook, tablet, mobile) defines the client and the client simply interacts with the cloud service.

The Rise of the Client/Cloud Paradigm and the Age of the Cloud App.

Gartner has just published its predictions for ‘2012 and beyond’ and, as usual, there’s plenty of good content.  The overall focus is on IT relinquishing the traditional notion of ‘control’ as the big macro trends of consumerization of technology and cloud take hold.  Nothing particularly earth shattering there, but Gartner goes on to dig beneath the surface and look at how these things might manifest themselves over the next year or two, and this is where it gets interesting.

Matt Cain’s section on Social Software and Collaboration points to the move away from the ‘traditional desktop client’, prompted by the proliferation of mobile devices and a ‘richer mix of email clients and access mechanisms.’  All good so far.  But he then goes on to suggest that we’ll see a big shift in favour of browser-based access to email, with HTML 5 acting as the catalyst in closing the functionality gap between browser email and desktop clients like Outlook.

Even Gmail now has clients for iOS as opposed to stubbornly insisting that users use their HTML5 rendering. Taking this further, most Gmail users have pointed out that they see no need for an app or for using the HTML5 because they can simply set up their Gmail account on the iOS native email app and that gives them the best experience.

Facebook also realised this and eventually produced dedicated client/cloud apps for both iPhone and iPad after insisting – for years – that HTML5 was good enough.  The fact is, HTML5 is there as a catch-all for client app gaps, but it's not the panacea we might have thought it would be.

Instead, the panacea is a consistent user experience – but not in the way people tend to think. The consistency of UX is device-dependent, not application specific. People want an iPhone email app to work in the way that works best on an iPhone, same with WP7 and Android. UI mechanics, look and feel, application switching, local settings and so on need to work the way apps for that particular device work;  otherwise it's an annoyance.

Mobile notebook users running Windows will, I suspect, continue to use Outlook above OWA because it’s a Windows app with a rich experience and works the way Windows works. This leaves “bolted to the desktop” users with little to do in terms of remote access. They’ll use Outlook at work, and won’t use OWA at home or elsewhere – simply because they would have been given a notebook if they needed remote access anyway. So I see limited OWA use cases.

It's all about client/cloud.

The rise of the app and the sophistication of touch UI means that you can't dumb down the experience to a one size fits all anymore. Unfortunately, this also doesn't mean that you don't have to build HTML5 "clients" for end users – you'll simply have to do all of the above, which is no mean feat for a service provider.  But the fact is, this approach makes perfect sense to the end user – and the end user is king in our future and just about everyone else's.

Gartner's Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2012 and Beyond: Control Slips Away, November 23rd