Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobility enables workforces to have access to their Dynamics CRM/ERP data through mobile devices any time, any where. This program also enables an enterprise to leverage mobile communications to stay connected with your employees and customers.
So what mobile platforms we are talking about? Let's take a look at two latest reports from Gartner and ABI Research:
We should also consider Nokia's strategic alliance with Microsoft on Windows Phone 7, and the retirement of Symbian. All facts taken together, the target mobile platforms are:
What are your solution options?
In general, there are two approaches to get the proper mobile solutions for Dynamics:
1. ISV solutions
2. Custom solutions
If we are talking about the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobility solution, there are two major ISV providers on the market, TENdigits and CWR Mobility. Both of these ISVs provide an advanced level mobility solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. And Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has an out-of-box Mobile Express version which works on the target devices but lacks some functionalities such as no offline mode (yet).
To develop a custom solution on mobile device, let's take a look at the different types of mobile application first. There are two kinds of mobile application:
• Native app
• Web app
Native Apps, the good and the bad
On the bright side of native app, it provides native API support for the mobile device. But you have to build applications using mobile OS-specific language. In other words, you need to develop different applications for different devices. In our target mobile platform, you would need to develop 4 applications for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices. As you can probably imagine, that would require some effort, especially when upgrading and maintaining the application.
Web Apps to the rescue
Web app are browser based application that run on mobile devices. Generally speaking, mobile app provides the Cross-Platform support; one web app can suit different mobile platforms. The blind side for web app can be in performance and some limitations based on API-specific access.
So if you want to build a unified cross-platform mobile application, prepare for the future and develop for the future, the mobile app is a good choice. But before making the choice, make sure that you have a clear goal such as building a CRM mobile application to allow salesperson access CRM data using their iPhone and iPad in an offline mode. Then find out whether the web app can do the work on various aspects (local storage, security, performance etc.)
HTML5 is the choice for web app
HTML 5 web app is the perfect choice for web-based applications that are designed for mobile devices. HTML5 is quickly becoming the new standard for HTML, XHTML and HTML DOM. Note that HTML5 is not yet an official standard and no browsers have full HTML5 support at this time. All major browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer) continue to add new HTML5 features to their latest versions, as well as the mobile browsers.
Now, should you build HTML5 web app starting from scratch? No, you don't have to. There are some frameworks you can choose to use right now:
jQuery Mobile is currently the most broadly compatible HTML5 library for building web sites and apps. JQuery mobile framework takes the "write less, do more" mantra to the next level—instead of writing unique apps for each mobile device or OS, the jQuery mobile framework will allow you to design a single highly branded and customized web application that will work on all popular smartphone and tablet platforms.
The following diagram shows how PhoneGap works:
Both jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap are under the MIT license.
So, are you ready for the HTML5 front-end web app of Microsoft Dynamics? 🙂