I was having another conversation about my thoughts on adding Windows 7 Phone to the MIS curriculum with some friends of mine whom specialize in entrepreneurship. When I mentioned that USA Today had reported that mobile business applications will be the #1 type of software being developed by 2010, they seemed skeptical. “They don’t have the processing power required to run meaningful business apps,” was the comment that I received. That caused me to really think. Is the mobile device the next paradigm shift in computing? I mean, these guys are very intelligent, they understand new innovations, and they are far from being Luddites.
I was feeling a little less secure in my convictions when, in the midst of a conversation with another faculty member on Imagine Cup projects we are involved with, the answer became evident. It was all reminiscent of the shift to client-server computing from mainframe computing. Clients had no where near the processing power of a mainframe, but they had some processing power and could connect to more powerful servers when they needed more resources for processing or storage. In other words, mobile devices didn’t need to be powerful enough to run meaningful business apps, they just needed to be able to connect to something that could. That something, in my mind, is Windows Azure.
In my opinion, Windows Phone 7 + Windows Azure applications may be indicative of not just a shift to mobility, but rather a shift to the next generation client-server architecture. Windows Azure can provide an powerful, scalable platform for the parts of mobile business applications that need to do the heavy lifting, and the mobile apps can provide the processing that is needed to localize and personalize the application or to locally manipulate whatever data have been retrieved from the cloud. Windows Azure also, via SQL Azure, provides tremendous storage capacity and analysis services not currently available in mobile devices.
The really funny part of all this is that my students are already doing something to this effect in our Imagine Cup project. I just didn’t see it from the client-server perspective. The end result of all of this was that my faith was restored that mobility is something that MIS (as well as CS and IT) programs can’t afford to ignore, but also that a shift to mobility is going to open a lot of other possibilities for businesses to leverage IT for competitive advantage. I even felt better about my Imagine Cup team’s project to boot…and that, my friends, is a good thing.