It is now common for users to want access to enterprise platforms and collaboration tools using Blackberrys, iPads and all manner of smartphones. So how does one of the big platform players, SharePoint 2010, stack up?
SharePoint on Apple Devices
Strictly speaking, there are only two browsers, across all platforms and devices, that are fully supported by SharePoint: IE7 and IE8. And even then, only the 32-bit versions are counted. All Apple mobile devices (the iOS family) use Safari.
The first thing to note here is Safari on the iPad/iPhone isn't the same as Safari on the desktop. It is a cut-down version, and doesn't support one or two specific features -- the most important being the contentEditable attribute.
contentEditable was introduced 10 years ago in IE 5.5. It has now become part of the HTML 5 standard, and basically allows for the rich editing experiences you see all over the web. This attribute is used throughout SharePoint 2010, as well as sites such as Google Docs.
What does this mean in practical use? Well SharePoint 2010 is perfectly usable as a platform to consume information on the move, but less so when used to add and edit data. Until Apple supports contentEditable in mobile Safari, there will be no rich editing natively on the iPad or iPhone.
Unless you use an app, of course. SharePoint apps can vary hugely in quality, and while several exist in the app store, few are regularly updated. SharePlus Office Mobile Client is one of the better ones, and allows you to browse SharePoint content, have access to it offline and sync when you are reunited with your data connection. It bypasses the graphic experience of SharePoint 2010, opting to allow you to browse lists and libraries. While this is fine when using SharePoint as a file storage mechanism, it is less useful when using it as a brochure website.
SharePlus Office Mobile Client
Browser and app access is all very well, but using SharePoint on an iOS device is still a vanilla experience. None of the methods described, or indeed the software itself, take advantages of the unique attributes of the hardware being used. There is no location awareness, and no ability to upload images from the camera. While the market of iOS wielding users is still small, surely there must be a niche attractive enough for developers to look at plugging these gaps?
Editor's Note: Also check out Mobile Entrée for taking SharePoint mobile.
It's Not Just Apple Devices
So are other platforms any better? In short -- not really. As their overall store size would suggest, both Android and Blackberry (see Access Your SharePoint 2010 Sites Through the BlackBerry) have a smaller set of dedicated SharePoint apps, and the native browsers are again only suitable for consuming data.
SharePoint 2010 was developed in a world when social networking and the mobile web were in their infancy. Facebook wasn’t yet the giant it is, and the iPad was just a dream. As a result, mobile access isn’t really at the center of the software. There are light mobile versions of pages, and it generally works on a wider range of devices, but people's expectations have moved on (see How SharePoint 2010 Supports Mobile Access).
Enterprises expect dedicated features, not just compatibility. For SharePoint to be a truly useful mobile collaboration platform, it needs to work harder. Right now, it is acceptable. However, "acceptable" simply won’t do for the next version, where mobile access can be expected to overtake any other form of access to the system.