Is It Time for Caffeine-Free Web Intelligence?

Are you ready for Java-free Web Intelligence?

Apple_iWork_for_iCloud_600

Last week at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple introduced a product that nobody was really anticipating – iWork for iCloud. iWork is Apple’s productivity suite that includes word processing (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers) and presentation (Keynote) capabilities. Originally designed for the Mac, the apps have also been available on iOS for some time. Later this year, the desktop and mobile apps will be joined by cloud-based siblings, allowing users to access any document from any device (desktop, mobile, web). You can watch the entire WWDC keynote on Apple’s web site.

What was particularly stunning about the WWDC demo were the gorgeous animations and transitions in Keynote, rendered in a web browser without any reliance on plug-ins like Adobe Flash or Oracle Java. iWork for iCloud works on either Macs or PCs with Safari 6.0.3 or later, Chrome 27.0.1 or later, and Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later.

In a similar way, modern browsers have enabled analytics vendors like Tableau to bring browser-based authoring not only to the desktop but to mobile devices as well (see related article, Tableau 8 Roadshow). If the existence of Tableau 8 and Apple iWork for iCloud isn’t enough proof that the time is right for Java-free Web Intelligence, perhaps the existence of SAP KB 1754269 and SAP KB 1868143 is.

In Apple’s Java plug-in for OS X, for reasons related to platform security, Apple has blocked some of the APIs used by the BI 4.0 Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application (Java Applet). We are working with Apple to design and implement a fix. We plan to deliver a fix in H1 2013.

Web Intelligence relies on Java for many of its advanced features (see related article, The Other Web Intelligence Feature Gap). After being criticized for Java-based security holes, Apple has released new Java updates that have the unfortunate side-effect of crippling Web Intelligence. A difficult spot for a company that appears on SAP’s customer list as well as its supported platforms list.

Even Windows PCs think the Web Intelligence Java Report Panel is unsafe (see my related article on EV Technologies blog, Is Web Intelligence Unsafe?).

Web Intelligence is Potentially Unsafe

I am ready for SAP to deliver 100% SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence with zero plug-ins. I have no inside knowledge that SAP is working toward this goal. But I hope that I’ll see a developer labs preview on the upcoming SAP BusinessObjects User Conference keynote stage.

Resources

  • Vote for Jonathan Haun‘s idea to enhance Web Intelligence for HTML (non-Java version) on SAP Idea Place
  • SAP KB 1930493 – When using the Java viewer or Rich Internet Application for web intelligence with Java 7 update 45, a Java warning pop up appears every time you close it
  • SAP KB 1904873 – Web Intelligence Rich Internet Applet loads slower after installing Java 7 Update 25
  • SAP KB 1899825 – Expired Web Intelligence Java Certificates for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0
  • SAP KB 1851792 – In BI 4.x and XI 3.1 when using Java 7 update 21 and Java 6 update 45 when you close the Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application in the browser you will get a prompt to Block unsafe components
  • SAP KB 1754269 – When will Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application support Apple Safari 6 browser?

Are you ready for Java-free Web Intelligence?

Let the Battle Begin!

Data visualization face off, Iron Chef America style?

I was catching up on the latest tech news this afternoon when I noticed the web page I was viewing had a SAP Lumira ad and a Tableau 8 ad.

 

Lumira Let The Battle Begin 600

 

It made me laugh.  I think I’ve seen something similar on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

What do you think about a SAP Lumira data visualization challenge against Tableau, Qlik, and Tibco Spotfire with Wayne Eckerson, Stephen Few, and Cindi Howson as the judges?  And SAP Mentor Jamie Oswald as the chairman?  Could it win an Emmy?

In the words of my uncle, “Allez cuisine!”

Tableau 8 Roadshow

Notes from the Tableau 8 Roadshow

Last week, I attended the Tableau 8 Roadshow in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Having experienced the Tableau Experience a few months ago (see related article The Tableau Experience), I wanted to see first hand what was going on with the latest release. After all, Tableau- as well other data discovery tools like Tibco Spotfire and Qlik- is the raison d’être for SAP Visual Intelligence- now rebranded as SAP Lumira.

After registering and receiving a name badge, I was handed a booklet entitled “Eight great things about Tableau 8”. I took my seat and quickly turned to the first page.

Analyze anywhere with web and mobile authoring.

Wow.

And by web and mobile authoring, Tableau means a single architecture built on HTML 5 that works in “any browser”, be it desktop or mobile. Suddenly, the other seven reasons why somebody should buy the software didn’t matter to me anymore.

Tableau 8 Road Show 400

 

 

Gutting the BusinessObjects sales and pre-sales force shortly after the 2008 acquisition sure seemed like a shrewd cost-cutting move at the time. But in hindsight, it could be more accurately described as a revenue cutting move for SAP, as the ranks of a very energized Tableau organization are filled with “former BusinessObjects” folks. Indeed, the Tableau sales consultant that demoed Tableau 8 last week was part of the team that demoed SAP BusinessObjects XI R1 during the “eXtreme Insight World Tour” in another Cincinnati hotel back in 2005.

Road Show BusinessObjects XI R1 2005 400

And it shows in the demos. At both events that I attended, demos never explicitly begin with “let me show you something BusinessObjects can’t do well that Tableau does with ease”. But that does seem to be the overall theme.

Analyze anywhere with web and mobile authoring… Mmmm… Oh, sorry. I must have been daydreaming…

Tableau is much more than just data discovery software, just as Starbucks is much more than a $4 latte. Tableau, like Starbucks, is an entire experience, built on the foundation of their “Land and Expand” sales strategy. Because Tableau is a single-license desktop tool, it’s easy to install and easy to purchase. Without the blessing of corporate IT. Which, by the way, is never openly mocked but neither is portrayed as a necessary component of the Tableau experience.

At the event, I sat next to a friend who works in the BI Competency Center for a large multinational manufacturer. Although SAP BusinessObjects is their BI standard, Tableau is beginning to appear on corporate desktops. He had this to say.

I like the Tableau tool and it’s usability, but I walked away with an even bigger feeling that SAP is missing the boat. Or maybe SAP is the ship, and the Tableau boat is running circles around the ship? I have to think more on that.

I was really looking forward to the hands on demos, but unfortunately had to leave early and get back to my work responsibilities. But like my friend, I am continuing to think a lot more about Tableau and its effect on the BI landscape.

Resources

Did you attend the Tableau 8 Roadshow? How is data discovery software changing your BI landscape?

The Tableau Experience

My first Tableau Experience.

Tableau: noun ˈta-ˌblō, ta-ˈblō

  1. A striking and vivid representation; a picture.
  2. A vivid graphic scene of a group of people arranged as in a painting.
  3. An analytics software vendor that is driving the established vendors crazy

source: Wiktionary

I have been living the BusinessObjects Experience for the past decade. Last week, I spent a few hours immersed in The Tableau Experience, Tableau Software‘s roadshow. The event was held at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. I have no doubt that the location was chosen carefully to underscore the event’s key message. A hotel designed “to make contemporary art a part of more peoples’ daily lives” was an appropriate venue for a business analytics vendor “on a mission to help people see and understand data.” It was a stark contrast to typically bland vendor presentations at bland corporate hotels. The Tableau Experience was also an interesting juxtaposition to ASUG Developer Tools Day, held the following day at Northern Kentucky University.

The presenter, coincidentally a former sales consultant from SAP, spoke passionately about using data to “tell a story”. It reminded me of Infomersion’s original Xcelsius marketing theme of “stealing the show“. Clearly an analytics vendor on the offensive, there wasn’t much emphasis defending Tableau’s reputation against its bigger rivals or mentioning them by name. Still, I had to chuckle to myself when the presenter quickly demonstrated how easy it was to create customized groupings. You know, like the grouping button in SAP’s retired Desktop Intelligence that still hasn’t been ported to Web Intelligence? The emphasis underpinning all of the demonstrations was that you, regardless of your technical skill, could visualize your data with great speed. Speed was not only a reference to Tableau’s in-memory engine, but a person’s ability to do things themselves. While corporate IT departments were embraced rather than openly mocked, everyone understood that “doing things yourself” meant that you weren’t waiting for corporate IT.

Simplicity was also a key theme of The Tableau Experience. Tableau offers one primary user application: Tableau Desktop. It’s complemented by enterprise (Tableau Server) and cloud (Tableau Public) offerings. In addition, there is a free desktop viewer application and a free mobile application for iOS and Android.

SAP Visual Intelligence (now SAP Lumira), SAP’s new data discovery tool is an interesting tool that combines the visual capabilities of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer with the data engine of Sybase IQ. But it’s best understood as a direct response to Tableau (and other niche BI vendors like Qlik and Tibco) rather than a direct response to the analytic needs of business users. It may be liberating for business users to hear that SAP Visual Intelligence isn’t tied to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 platform. But many of SAP’s existing customers are deeply tied to the platform and its disparate collection of design tools. They need the BI platform to support their existing as well as future business intelligence initiatives. And after five support packs applied to the BI 4.0 platform, many of these customers are still waiting for a functionally cohesive and stable solution.

With native connections to SAP BW, SAP HANA, and SAP Sybase IQ, I’m sure that many of SAP’s traditional ERP customers are looking closely at Tableau. With native connections to a long list of other data sources, I’m sure that many of SAP’s traditional BusinessObjects customers are also looking closely. And IT organizations that have standardized on SAP BusinessObjects may be surprised to learn that their business users are already using Tableau, a testament to Tableau’s “land and expand” sales strategy (see Tableau Thrives in Providing Visual Discovery for Business Analytics by Tony Cosentino, Ventana Research).

As a long-time user of SAP BusinessObjects, I left Tableau’s presentation wondering why SAP thinks yet another tool is the solution to customers’ analytics challenges instead of continuous innovation in existing tools like Web Intelligence.

I doubt that I’m alone.

What are your thoughts on The Tableau Experience?