If there is one feature that everyone can agree upon in the Social Enterprise market, it’s mobile computing. IT professionals think it’s an important part of the Social Enterprise landscape and vendors fervently concur. As always, the devil is in the details.

Although everyone agrees on the importance of providing for mobile endpoints, mobile platform support from social collaboration software vendors varies greatly.

Support Plays Favorites

The good news is that mobile is considered a basic function of social software. The bad news is that there are “haves” and “have-nots.” While almost every vendor supports Apple’s iPhone, Android implementations are spottier. This variance is surprising given the increase in Android endpoints over the past few years.

Tablet support is emerging but, again, iPad support is more common than Android tablet implementations. Support for RIM’s Blackberry devices is a hit-or-miss affair as well. Blackberry implementations of social collaboration software are more likely to come from ISVs with established enterprise applications, such as IBM or SAP, rather than from newer companies. As RIM’s problems have increased, the Blackberry is clearly being pushed to the end of the list for social collaboration vendors. Overall, mobile support is inconsistent among vendors.

Spotty Solutions

The mobile and tablet user experiences are, arguably, different from the desktop or laptop experience. The user interface (UI) of mobile and tablet products differ, often dramatically, from the desktop UI. Smaller screen sizes, lower bandwidth, a plethora of platforms and a different set of needs by on-the-go end-users drives user interface design choices. For some vendors though, these choices amount to limiting features rather than reimagining the UI in terms of the mobile or tablet environment.

The unfortunate result of inconsistent support for mobile platforms is that many mobile users still cannot access their social software on the go or can do so only in a very limited manner. Some vendors are looking for solutions that can supplement or supplant their native mobile platform applications.

HTML5 has emerged as the lowest common denominator for reaching all end-points -- including desktop/laptop platforms -- in the absence of native applications. While native mobile applications have a number of advantages including offline operation and integration with special features of the mobile device, HTML5 brings a rich user experience to any platform that supports a compliant browser, albeit at a higher need for bandwidth.

As the Social Enterprise market evolves, mobile computing is evolving with it. Support for current and new platforms as well as HTML5 will be on the rise and will be a core part of the Social Enterprise feature set.

Editor's Note: Another article by Tom Petrocelli you might enjoy is:
-- Microsoft SharePoint Powers Social Applications