The Mobile BI Rat Race

When it comes to updating mobile BI apps, Tableau isn’t leading the race.

Although I rarely use their products, I signed up for the free mobile apps from several major BI vendors. Seeing their updates pop up on my Apple iPhone is one way that I can keep up with what’s going on in the industry.

Unlike on-premise software that requires a project plan and an off-hours maintenance window to push into production, mobile software is nearly as easy to update as cloud-based software because the vendor assumes a majority of the upgrade risks. But it seemed to me that SAP was updating their mobile BI app at a much slower rate than their competitors.

To back up my hunch with facts, I built a quick model in Microsoft Excel using product versions and release dates from the Apple iTunes store and loaded the data into SAP BusinessObjects Lumira.

As you can see in the chart below, Microsoft clearly updates their Power BI mobile app at a frequency greater than SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI or even (gasp!) Tableau Mobile (click images to enlarge).

Mobile BI Release Comparison by Release Date

Microsoft Power BI, a recent entry into the BI marketplace, was introduced on July 24, 2015 and has been on a rapid release schedule ever since. The Apple iTunes store had release history going back to September 5, 2015 and contains 44 releases through February 2017. Oh sure, many of the releases contain only “bug fixes” or “performance enhancements,” but so do many of the releases from Microsoft’s competitors.

Since January 1 of last year, Microsoft has updated their Power BI iOS app a whopping 35 times. Contributing to most SAP users’ Tableau envy, Tableau updated their iOS app 11 times, almost twice as many updates as SAP’s.

Mobile BI Release Comparison Number of Releases

Microsoft releases a new version of Power BI for iOS on an average of every 12 days. SAP actually beats Tableau on this metric, releasing a new iOS version every 39.41 days to Tableau’s 42.58 days.

Mobile BI Release Comparison Average Days between Releases

These are quantitative measurements and one could certainly argue that Microsoft’s numbers are padded with frequent “bug fix” updates that don’t introduce any new functionality. In terms of qualitative measurements, which are a bit more subjective, only Microsoft Power BI has a native interface for the Apple Watch. Not even Tableau can boast that. And only Microsoft Power BI boasts “conversational BI” with the ability to ask questions about data in plain English.

Ironically, none of the three Lumira charts I prepared for this article could be viewed on my Apple iPad, even though I’m using the latest versions of SAP’s BI platform and mobile app.

Unsupported Lumira charts in Mobile BI 6.5

The SAP Mobile BI team is likely hard at work preparing updates to support the forthcoming Lumira 2.0 release. Or perhaps they’ve been reassigned to help roll out a new version of the separate SAP BusinessObjects Cloud mobile app. Or both. But I hope SAP will be able to increase the release frequency and deliver bigger analytic innovations in its core Mobile BI app.

Related articles

Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 10?

It’s tempting to upgrade immediately to iOS 10, but SAP Mobile BI users should wait. If they can control themselves.

Today, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, is the day Apple officially releases its latest mobile OS, iOS 10, to the public. Although SAP’s recently acquired Roambi apps received iOS 10 updates yesterday, we’re still waiting for an iOS 10 compatible update for the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI app, which historically arrives about a week after Apple updates its OS. It’s likely that Apple may have some iOS 10.1 fixes ready by then.

Today is a good day to remind your SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI users that they should avoid updating to iOS 10 until all of your organization’s mission-critical apps support it.

Today is a good day to remind your support staff to confirm the iOS version during any support calls, as there are frequently small glitches that occur until vendors release a fix for the latest Apple mobile OS.

And lastly, if you haven’t yet implemented a mobile BI strategy, it’s time to take a fresh look at both SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI and SAP BusinessObjects Roambi, which are complementary, not competitive solutions from SAP.

UPDATE: SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI version 6.4.13 was released September 16, 2016 with iOS 10 support (see related SCN article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile now supports iOS 10). Assuming your other enterprise mobile apps are ready for iOS 10, feel free to update your iPhones and iPads.

All I want for Christmas is an iPad Air 2

Thoughts on Apple’s latest mobile devices.

Apple released iOS 8.1 yesterday along with a smaller update for the Apple TV. I updated my iPad 2 and iPhone 5, both previously running iOS 8.0.2. Both of my devices have struggled with Apple’s new mobile OS, so my wife’s iPhone 5 and mom’s iPad 2 remain on iOS 7. I’m grateful that iOS 8.1 arrived so quickly after last month’s release of iOS 8. Last year, Apple mobile users had to wait until March- several months after iOS 7.0 was released- for iOS 7.1 (see related article, Still Waiting for iOS 7.1). But this year there was urgency to introduce Apple Pay, Apple’s new mobile payment system. I’m hopeful that iOS 8.1 also contains some performance and battery life improvements.

2014 Apple iPad Air 2

For the second year in a row, I’m on the fence about replacing my aging iPad 2. Last year, I avoided the iPad Air due to its lack of Touch ID sensor and stingy storage capacity (see related article, Why I won’t buy this year’s iPad). This year’s new iPad models add Touch ID, but the storage on the base models is still a puny (by 2014 standards) 16 GB even though the storage has been doubled in the mid-tier and top-tier models, just like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The situation is even more pronounced if you want a smaller iPad Mini 3. While updated with Touch ID, the new Mini has the same A7 processor as last year’s iPad Mini 2, not the new A8 processor available in the iPad Air 2. Three years ago, I spent $499 US on an iPad 2 with 16 GB of storage and am just a tad bitter that today $499 US will get me an iPad Air 2 with- sigh- still a whopping 16 GB of storage. I’ll look for loose coins in my sofa so I can spend an additional $100 US for an iPad Air 2 with 64 GB, but expect me to complain (loudly) about it.

Enterprises should be thrilled that Touch ID is now standard across new iPhone and iPad models. And I’m hopeful that SAP will soon release updated apps like Mobile BI that eschew clunky application passwords in favor of Touch ID authentication. But developers such as Allen Pike have lamented that customers can still buy new products like the iPad Mini and iPod Touch that still use the three-year-old A5 processor designed for the iPad 2 (see his related article, The iPad Zombie). There’s a huge gap in performance between the A5 and A8 that app developers will have to manage for several more years. And I’m personally starting to notice increasingly sluggish performance from the apps I use every day.

Traditionally, Apple keeps older models on the market at lower prices. And this year is no exception. The two-year-old iPad Mini is $249 US to introduce iPad to a larger, more budget conscious set of consumers. But this year is the first that Apple’s new models have been deliberately crippled to encourage customers to upsell to pricier models. Whether it’s the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, or even the new Mac Mini, the low-end models of each product have been designed like an automobile parked in the dealer showroom. You know, the standard model with the attractive price that the salesperson tells you to avoid because it has a lackluster engine or no air conditioning. John Gruber had a similar reaction on his Daring Fireball blog:

16 GB iPads work against the foundation of Apple’s brand, which is that they only make good products. Apple has long used three-tier pricing structures within individual product categories. They often used to label them “Good”, “Better”, and “Best”. Now, with these 16 GB entry-level devices, it’s more like “Are you sure?”, “Better”, and “Best”.

I’m an Apple shareholder and I love hearing about gross margins during quarterly analyst calls. But it seems that this year’s margins will grow not only due to increased sales volume, but due to Apple’s new upsell strategy. Apple Store employees will no doubt be coached to display more tact than “Well, you could buy the 16 GB model. If you’re an idiot.” But regardless of the tone of the messaging, I believe that is the message.

Will you purchase a new iPhone or iPad this year?

Other voices on the new Apple iPads

Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 8?

Still waiting for iOS 8 support for SAP Mobile BI.

Last week, on September 17, 2014, Apple released its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, to the world. The previous week, Rick Costanzio, SAP executive vice president and general manager of Global Mobility Solutions, announced at Super Mobility Week that “SAP is excited to announce day-one support of Apple’s new iOS 8” (see related SAP Newsbyte, SAP Provides iOS 8 Support to Enhance the Mobile Enterprise Experience). Srikanth Rao, product owner for SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI, acknowledged that SAP tested Mobile BI with the iOS 8 gold master and submitted a minor version 6.0.9 update prior to iOS 8’s launch date (see related SAP Community Network article).

It’s been exactly one week since Apple released iOS 8, but SAP Mobile BI users are still waiting for a compatible update. SAP customers have been in this predicament before with last year’s iOS 7 and previous iOS 6 (see related articles, Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 7? and Today is iOS 6 Day, but not for you). The gap between iOS and SAP updates seems to get smaller each year- and we’re grateful- but we’re still not at “day one” availability. With over 45% of Apple iOS users already using iOS 8 (see related MacWorld article, iOS 8 adoption nears 50 percent after just 6 days), it’s still an important target to hit.

As an armchair iPhone developer, I’ll speculate that part of the issue is that SAP waits for the gold master of iOS while other popular business apps like Dropbox, Evernote, and LinkedIn are patched using iOS betas. I think Rick Costanzio has set a fantastic and obtainable goal for SAP and its customers. I say with all seriousness that I hope that they’ll use SAP Lumira to visualize and analyze the entire inventory of SAP mobile apps to determine which apps were truly ready on iOS 8 Day One. Then SAP can apply Design Thinking to create project plans and processes that meet the cadence of Apple’s annual iOS updates.

According to SAP KB 2069700, SAP Mobile BI 6.0.9 will be released tomorrow.

UPDATE: SAP Mobile BI 6.0.9 appeared in the Apple iTunes Store on September 27, 2014- 10 days after the launch of iOS 8 and 2 days after iOS 8.0.2 was released.

How is SAP’s iOS support policies affecting your Mobile BI initiatives?

Additional Reading

Still Waiting for Apple iOS 7.1

Apple iOS 7.0.6 is here, but I was hoping for iOS 7.1.

UPDATE: Apple released Apple iOS 7.1 on March 10, 2014.

Today Apple released iOS 7.0.6 for its line of iPads and iPhones with a security update for SSL connection verification.


Like many, I’ve been waiting for iOS 7.1 to correct some minor problems. Last month, MG Siegler wrote an article entitled I Got Bugscritical of the quality of Apple iOS 7.

I remain convinced that in just about every way, iOS 7 is a huge upgrade over the previous iterations. Except one. And it’s a big one. The software is so inexplicably and inexcusably buggy.

My biggest gripe is my iPhone 5 can’t decide if the battery is charged or not, especially once the battery level falls below 50%. iOS 7.1 is currently in beta and currently expected in mid-March. I hope that the release of today’s minor (albeit security related) bug fix isn’t an early warning that we’re going to have to wait even longer.

Apple is expected to soon unveil the next chapter of its television strategy, which is assumed to be a revised Apple TV. Apple TV has its own variant of iOS and the new model most likely has dependencies on the upcoming iOS 7.1. It’s rumored that the next Apple TV may be integrated with an Airport Express, Apple’s entry-level wi-fi router that is due for its own upgrade (see related 9-to-5 Mac article, Apple TV graduates from hobby/accessory to product line ahead of major changes). Another item overdue for a product refresh is the Apple Mac Mini, last updated in October 2012. Because it has found a home in many living rooms as a media device, it’s plausible that the Mac Mini could be refreshed alongside the Apple TV as part of a broader array of offerings for the living room.

For now, I’ll be keeping an eye on my iPhone 5 battery indicator.

The Price of Early Adoption

There’s always a price to be paid for early adoption of technology.

Earlier this week, MG Siegler wrote an article entitled I Got Bugscritical of the quality of Apple iOS 7.

I remain convinced that in just about every way, iOS 7 is a huge upgrade over the previous iterations. Except one. And it’s a big one. The software is so inexplicably and inexcusably buggy.

I experience some minor issues with iOS 7 on both my iPhone 5 and iPad 2. But the experience has been largely positive. Besides, like everyone else I really wanted to be an early adopter to start using new features, assuming Apple would fix anything “critical”. They have – we’re on 7.0.4. We haven’t seen iOS 7.1 yet (although it’s now in beta) because it’s a more substantial release. And like most companies, Apple slows down for the US holidays in November and December. We don’t hear as much about Android bugs because so few Android devices are running the latest Android 4.4 OS (aka KitKat). And there’s not enough users of Microsoft Windows Phone, Microsoft Windows RT tablets, or Blackberry 10 devices to bother writing about.

Apple iOS 7 Adoption Is Unprecedented

But we hear about Apple iOS 7 not only because of the volume of users but also because of the velocity of their adoption of the new OS.

Apple iOS 7 Adoption

Apple’s own statistics, posted on the Apple developers web site, show that iOS 7 adoption is at 78% as of the end of December 2013. That’s very impressive for an operating system that was only released in mid-September. Although there is criticism of iOS 7 and the new versions of iWork applications, Apple is to be commended for how much hardware, software, and iCloud services were shipped last September. Due to their tight integration, everything from iOS 7 to OS X Mavericks‎ to Safari to iTunes and iWork apps had to be released simultaneously. I’m sure there are many in Cupertino grateful that no “antennagate” (see related Daring Fireball article, Antennagate Bottom Line) or iOS 6 Maps fiasco (see related Daring Fireball article, Pogue on iOS 6 Maps) has emerged from this year’s updates (I’m not sure iWork frustration counts as a fiasco). Although adoption is very high, it’s still not 100%, with 18% of users still on iOS 6 and 4% on an even earlier version (the latter most likely due to device incompatibility, such as the original iPad).

Count my mom among the iPad users still using iOS 6. Although I updated her MacBook Air to Mavericks 10.9.1 over the Christmas holiday, I’m keeping her iPad 2 on iOS 6 until iOS 7.1 is released. My mom will appreciate the automatic app update feature, but I’m waiting for a more stable version before having to explain to her the nuances of the revised multitasking, notification center, and command center features.

Consumer Adoption vs. Enterprise Adoption

There are no parallels for the rate of user adoption seen with iOS. Consumers largely remained on Windows XP, avoiding Vista in favor of Windows 7. But many users are staying on the 12-year-old OS even though it will be officially retired in April. Enterprise adoption tends to be even more conservative than consumer adoption. “Dot-zero” releases are routinely shunned until not only the “dot-one” release appears, but enough early adopters have taken the plunge and given their blessing. (Although most Microsoft users are sticking with Windows 7 even though Windows 8 recently received a “dot-one” 8.1 update).

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Adoption

Consider SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the first major release of the platform since SAP’s 2008 acquisition of BusinessObjects. The product went through a lengthier than usual ramp-up period during 2011 before becoming generally available on September 16, 2011. The product received a lot of new features with the introduction of Feature Pack 3 on June 15, 2012. Originally intended to be called BI 4.1, I’m still unsure if the release was renamed “Feature Pack 3” to increase adoption or to suppress it until the more stable BI 4.1 was released on August 29, 2013.

As a consultant, I’ve been grateful to work on several BI 4.0 projects instead of being stuck on XI R2 or XI 3.1. But there have been adoption hurdles. And although any customer is frustrated when a project is delayed due to software bugs, most adopters of BI 4.0 understood the risk and perceived enough benefits from upgrading to take that risk.

But the “dot-one” release isn’t always a panacea for user adoption. Although BI 4.1 has both more stability and features than it’s now two-year-old predecessor, it isn’t without issues. After releasing a glowing endorsement of the new Support Pack 2 on Monday (see related article on the EV Technologies blog, State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Upgrade, January 2014), I discovered on Tuesday that even the most basic of publications using the sample eFashion universe won’t work properly, let alone mission-critical publications (see related article on the SAP Community Network, Publications Fail). And no scheduled documents, publications or otherwise, can be sent to the Mobile BI Inbox (see related SAP KB 1967424- Reports scheduled to BI inbox not visible in SAP BI app for iOS in BI 4.1). Ouch!

Should customers kicking off BI 4.1 migration projects apply the brakes? Absolutely not. There’s a lot of work to be done regressing testing existing content on a BI 4.1 development platform, which will most likely be patched between project kickoff and go-live anyway. And administrators, developers, and power users need at least a BI 4.1 sandbox to start exploring the new platform’s features. But unfortunately, BI 4.1 is starting to show more in common with Windows 8.1 instead of iOS 7.1.

The introduction of iOS 7 brings an extra adoption wrinkle for both SAP and the organizations that deploy SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.1 for iOS). Because iOS 7 can automatically update a user’s apps, mobile app quality has to be guaranteed on day one of its release. And the product documentation should be ready, too.

There’s Always a Price for Early Adoption

Bottom line, there’s always a price to be paid for early adoption. In many cases, it’s a price worth paying. But always be prepared for the risks, seen and unseen.

Are you an Apple user on the iOS 7 bandwagon? Or a SAP BusinessObjects user on the BI 4.0 or BI 4.1 bandwagon? Would love to hear your comments, as always.

Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 7?

Are the SAP Mobile BI apps ready for Apple’s iOS 7?

Is “yes and no” a good answer?

This week, on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, Apple will release its latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, to millions of users around the world. Its predecessor, iOS 6, experienced a rapid rate of adoption in the days immediately following its release. And according to Chitika Insights, currently 92% of all iOS users are running iOS 6, which is required for SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI (see related Cult of Mac article, One Year Later, 92% Of iDevice Owners Are Running iOS 6).

What about SAP Mobile BI for iOS?

When I returned from last week’s 2013 ASUG BusinessObjects User Group in Anaheim, California, iTunes was waiting with dozens of app updates that either mentioned “minor bug fixes” or specific fixes for iOS 7 compatibility. Unfortunately, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile was not one of them. Thankfully, SAP has confirmed that there are no functional issues using the current Mobile BI 5.0.6 with iOS 7; however, there are a few UI issues that will appear until SAP releases a minor patch at the end of the month.

UPDATE (09/19/2013): SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 5.0.7 addressing iOS7 compatibility is now in the Apple iTunes Store.

What about SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iOS?

I was unable to find any SAP Notes about the stand-alone Explorer app and iOS 7, so we’ll just have to wait and see. SAP has posted article entitled SAP BusinessObjects Explorer: What to expect from iOS7 upgrade on the SAP Community Network blog. Looks like the Explorer for iOS app will work if it was installed before iOS7 but not after.

UPDATE (10/03/2013): SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.1.10 for iOS is now in iTunes Store.

UPDATE (9/27/2013): SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.1.9 for iOS pulled from iTunes Store.

UPDATE (9/25/2013): SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.1.9 for iOS is now in iTunes Store.

Remember that Explorer functionality in the Mobile BI 5.0 app only works with the BI 4.1 platform so customers using Explorer on the XI 3.1 or BI 4.0 platform will continue to rely on the stand-alone app.

iPhone 5s and Touch ID

If- like me- you were at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference last week, you may have missed the details of the new iPhone 5c and 5s announced last week. Although I can’t wait for SAP to take advantage of 64-bit processing available in the iPhone 5s (and most likely in a new iPad model that will be announced before the end of the year), the big news for enterprise customers has to be the Touch ID sensor in the iPhone 5s. I’m looking forward to seeing SAP integrate its application password functionality (which as a user I find a bit annoying) with Touch ID.

The Bottom Line

If your mobile users are gadget freaks that are likely to install the update on Wednesday, you should send them a short email today asking them to wait patiently for a couple of weeks. Gently remind them that if they update their mobile devices before SAP introduces patches, you are not responsible for any application issues with either Mobile BI or Explorer for iOS.

Thankfully, I am working from home over the next few weeks and won’t need to show Mobile BI to customers. So unlike last year (see related article, Today is iOS 6 Day, but not for you), I am installing iOS 7 on Wednesday for both my iPhone 5 and iPad 2. I think I can manage a couple of minor UI issues.

To be fair, I have not seen mobile updates for any of the other BI vendors (IBM Cognos, Oracle, SAS, Tableau, Tibco, etc.) prior to the introduction of iOS 7.  But if Words with Friends can be iOS7-ready before Wednesday, surely SAP’s Business Intelligence with Friends apps can be ready as well. Next year, let’s hope that SAP will join the long list of other vendors who update their apps for iOS 8 before the operating system goes live.

What are your plans for Apple iOS 7?


SAP BusinessObjects Mobile: What to expect from iOS7 upgrade on SAP Community Network (SCN)

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer: What to expect from iOS7 upgrade on SAP Community Network (SCN)

SAP Note 1910923 – SAP BusinessObjects Mobile: What to expect from iOS7 upgrade (S-ID required)


Exploring your SAP Mobile BI License

On the eve of SAP folding Explorer into Mobile BI, customers should review their mobile licensing.

Last week, SAP released SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 4.4.27 to the Apple iTunes Store.  I cannot find a release notes document and iTunes only reveals that the new release contains unspecified “technical improvements”.  This release is not the one that will integrate SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iOS (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.0), so I can only assume that the new 4.4.27 release fixes some important issues that couldn’t wait until the unified app is released, sometime in the second quarter of 2013.

The SAP BusinessObjects Explorer app, currently at version 4.1.7, allows iPhone and iPad users to connect to the BI Platform in two ways: either directly to the Explorer application or via the Mobile BI server components.  Back in April 2011, SAP released Explorer for iOS 1.0.1 which introduced the Mobile BI connection and removed the direct connection, requiring customers to license the redesigned Mobile BI server components. This action was disruptive to many customers who were using mobile Explorer (which existed long before Mobile BI started mobilizing the rest of the BI suite, beginning with Web Intelligence). The direct-to-Explorer connection option was quickly restored in Explorer for iOS 1.0.2 the following month.

However, when the unified SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app arrives in the next few weeks, I believe two things will happen:

  • SAP BusinessObjects Explorer as a stand-alone app will quietly disappear from the Apple iTunes store
  • SAP account executives will quietly appear on customer doorsteps to make sure they are paying for mobile BI server licenses

Hopefully your account exec will also bring a SAP HANA stress ball or some other cool swag.

UPDATE 06/27/2013: Mobile BI 5.0 Explorer functionality requires the BI 4.1 platform (see SAP KB 1870806), so SAP will have to keep the standalone Explorer app in the iTunes store a bit longer to support XI 3.1 and BI 4.0 customers.

UPDATE 10/08/2014: Mobile BI 5.1.6 and higher now support Explorer on BI 4.0 SP8 and higher (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iOS 5.1 or SAP KB 1958296), although there’s a lot of compelling reasons for BI 4.0 customers to upgrade to BI 4.1.