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iPad vs. Android for SAP BusinessObjects tools: Q&A with Dr. Berg (transcript)

by Kristine Erickson

How well will your SAP BusinessObjects tools maintain their look and feel on Android devices? Will your iPad users be satisfied with BI reporting performance?

Scott Wallask, editor of BI Expert and BusinessObjects Expert, recently moderated an online forum with BI expert Dr. Bjarne Berg. Dr. Berg took questions on ComeritLabs’ recent in-depth usability testing of SAP BusinessObjects tools for Android and iPad on March 20.

Follow the discussion in the SAP BusinessObjects forum, or read the edited transcript here:

 

Scott Wallask: Hi everybody – Welcome to today’s Forum comparing iPad vs. Android for SAP BusinessObjects tools.

Thanks for joining us – and a special thank you to those who have posted a question already. We’re looking forward to some great discussion today.

And as always, we appreciate Dr. Bjarne Berg of Comerit joining us today and taking your questions about the recent testing by Comerit Labs of SAP BusinessObjects tools.

Just to review, Berg’s team evaluated these tools and rated the user experience (display, usability, and functionality) on the iPad 2 and on the Android-based Toshiba Thrive tablet:

  • BI Launch Pad
  • Web Intelligence
  • Mobile (MobI)
  • Dashboard Designer (Xcelsius)
  • Crystal Reports
  • Analysis for OLAP
  • BI Workspace
  • SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app (on iPad only)

In this Forum, Berg will respond to your posts about using these tools on mobile devices and tablets.

Berg, do you want to briefly summarize the research Comerit did?

Dr. Berg: Hi All,

I and my team of developers at Comerit Labs did a functionality test of SAP Business Objects tools on Android and Apple and published some of the summary findings at SAP Insider Learning network.  For the tests we used:

- Android (operating system Ice Cream 4.0), 1 ghz Dual core, 1 gig of ram, 16 gigs of hard drive

- iPad 2 (operating system iOs 5.1), 1 ghz Dual core A5 chip, 512 gig of ram, 16 gigs of hard drive

You can see the summary of our findings. This testing is the basis for our conversations today. So please take a look and we can dig into more details are the session progresses.

I created a quick demo of what we are talking about today, if you want to see some of the capabilities this quickly made movie is available here. It is not the greatest resolution, but you can see what we are up to at the Lab.

Dr. Berg

Dr. Berg: Xcelsius on Tablets - Some observations:

Pros:

iPad – Though the iPad2 and 3 cannot render Flash objects, there are other vendors out in the market that stream dashboards into an app from the app store that allows dashboards to run on dashboards.  This is a whole different discussion but natively iPads can’t run flash so we didn’t review this area for the iPads.

Android – Our users felt that the more functionality a dashboard has, the slower it operated on the Android device.  Our users also notice that if a dashboard was executed in the Android browser, the tool bars and selector features would work.  We concluded that it could be a possibility that any navigation issues may arised from an older flash engine because in Flash 11 those features were fixed on mobile devices. 

Cons:

iPad – The con here is that anyone who chooses to implement dashboards on an iPad has to go through another vendor to achieve this since the iPad does not support Flash.  There are SAP integration partners out there, such as Antivia, that allow provide an app to allow dashboards to render on an iPad but this is a deeper discussion and changes the architecture of the mobile solution.

Android – The Android device renders the dashboards but it can be very laggy at times. Our users recommend that when building a mobile dashboard for the Android that limited functionality are used so th at the dashboard can render a bit faster.  Our users also recommend that having multiple dashboards in different tabs on the portal worked better than having one big one being launched (memory ‘killer’).

Dr. Berg

 

yemineni: Hi Dr. Berg,

Good day. Our client wants to publish the Xcelsius Dashboards to the iPad. We are on BO XI3.1 SP3.

- Is there any specific architecture or tools required for this integration?

- Flash player limitations with iPad?

- Can users perform the same Xcelsius functionalities in iPad?

Your response is appreciated.

 

Dr. Berg: Hi Yemineni,

I currently do not have many Xcelsius dashboards running on iPads at Comerit Labs, except the app demos that I downloaded from vendors like Exxova and Antivia. Exxova’s product is called MyBI and Antivia’s is called XWIS Anywhere. These vendors “stream” the dashboards to your tablet through their servers. Therefore, their servers do all the heavy lifting that the iPad cannot do to display the dashboards.  This is all done through a secure connection without having to change the dashboards. 

If your organization is heavily focused on using the iPad than this is more than likely the route you will encounter with using a different vendor to display the dashboards.

I sort of believe that all tablets are still in their early infancy stage just like how computers and laptops once were.  For example, later on this year in 2012, Samsung plans to release a windows 8 tablet that has a quad core I5 processor with 4 gigs of ram and 64 gigs of solid state hard drive. Wind ows 8 is a fully operational operating system that has some tablet features and would require no extra development at all to dashboards, WebI reports or Crystal Reports. 

You can see the demo of the windows 8 tablet here (skip to 1:20 in video):

Dr. Berg

 

Dr. Berg:  About Flash….

Flash is really not 'dead', but Adobe has announced that they will not continue developing new releases of mobile flash. Instead, they will focus on HTML5. There are many reasons for this, HTML5 has better security, better compression, less memory consumption and smaller ‘footprint’ on handheld devices. This includes less battery drain, less processing power requirement which allows rendering on increasingly smaller devices. Nor, did it help that Apple did not support Flash on any of its tablets. So for Adobe it is all about HTML5 and the Adobe Integrated Runtime applications (AIR) for non-browser based interfaces.

There is something positive in this. First, in the previous version 10 there were issues with navigation and drill-down selectors, and we often had to create a PC and a tablet version of the Xcelsius dashboard. Now it seems to work much better in Flash version 11. Actually, my developers tell me that the new release of Flash allows us to use the existing Xcelsius dashboards on tablets such as Toshiba, Samsung and other Android devices with no further changes. Also, the announcement is only for mobile devices. Flash may still be a component in other software. Adobe has said it will “continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations”.

 

Matt Cohen: Given the “Infancy of Tablets” as you mentioned above, and the clearly suboptimal feedback both the Android and iOS experiences received from your testers; what is the viable argument at this stage for pursuing a mobile solution with BusinessObjects?

 

Dr. Berg: The trick is to selectively pick the tolls and methods on how to deploy the mobile solution. For example the WebI and CR tools seem to work great on the iPads when used through the downloaded app. The dashboard works fine when going though 3rd party tools etc.

Also, the newly announced 3rd generation of iPad has 400% more pixels (3.1 million) and you can zoom down to much more details. This opens new opportunities. But how SAP, or apps developers will take advantage of this is still not clear (will we ‘see’ monster dashboards with zoom instead of page shifts in the future :-)? Or more likely just better graphing and deep imaging and interaction? Naturally it also supports the 4G LTE network (access may depend where you live in the US).

So, don't hold off, just be sober when you decide what to do and what tools to deploy, some works rather well...

 

Matt Cohen: As a quick follow-up question to this. Has SAP made any indication that they will transition BusinessObjects to an HTML5 based product as opposed to continuing down the flash based path?

Dr. Berg: I have not seen any official announcement, but heard lotes of rumors. Perhaps someone on this forum has an update?

Scott Wallask: RE: BusinessObjects on HTML 5, Steve Lucas of SAP wrote on his blog last earlier this year that SAP plans to deliver an HTML 5 version of BusinessObjects Dashboards in 2012. The blog is here: tinyurl.com/7mc772p

Donaldmac: Chaps,

Good set of questions and answers. A couple of points:

1) You mention that our XWIS Anywhere solution "streams" the flash content through our servers. The XWIS Anywhere solution deos indeed have specialized servers which do this, however they are not an on-demand solution rather they are installed alongside the BusinessObjects servers, wherever these may be. So there is no risk to hosting your dashboards in the cloud, it is all on-premise if that is how your BOE system is deployed.

2) On the SAP/HTML5 thing I wrote up a blog post from Scott Leaver's presentation at BI2012 giving more details on this. It is at www.antivia.com/blog/?p=1182

Donald

Dr. Berg: Hi Donald,

You are correct. By 'their servers', I did not mean your physical hardware, but rather your product. Also, great blog post referenced above!

Thanks,

Dr. Berg


Vamsi Chitluri: Hi,

We are planning to set up Alerts for mobile users, so please help us with:

1.CR for Enterprise is having alerting mechanism. Does it work properly with Mobile like a new Message based on some condition? Are there any experiences around this? 

2.What about WebI ? Does this have any alerting mechanism at least via BI4 Inbox?

3.Any 3rd party components provide this kind of functionality with Xcelsius dashboards? Here, I am looking at a kind of Message alert rather than just color coding the data.

- Vamsi

 

Dr. Berg: Hi Vamsi,

For most alerting within BOBJ, I would wait until the next release. That is not to say that regular CR reporting does not work when going directly (not through BI 4.0). There are some issues for rendering though. For example:

Crystal Reports

Pros: iPad 2 & Android – Our users felt that majority of the Crystal Report functionality worked very well. The iPad did render a bit faster than our Android tablet but it was not as noticeable.

Cons: iPad – The iPad does not allow horizontal scrolling in Crystal either, so if the report was too wide, then it would get cut off, so be careful when writing these reports.

Dr. Berg

 

MarkusMichler: I thought SAP Business Object Mobile App is just available on IPad?! Or did you use another app?

 

Dr. Berg: The app is only for iPad, the other was through the BI 4.0 Lauchpad.

Almost forgot the 'meat'. You can obtain SAP BusinessObjects mobile app from the Apple app store for free. This connects to your BI platform through the web server.

The admin and installation guide for the BI platform guide to set up the backend can be found at help.sap.com . Minimum requirements are iPad, BI 4.0 or XI 3.1 SP 4 platform with Mobile option installed, app server (at the labs we use TOMCAT), and a web server.

You will have to open up a network port to expose the BI Platform port so that the iPad can connect to the CMC via internet. You will also need the mobile installation installed for the MobileBIService.war file. Our lab MobileBIService.war file is placed in the webapps folder to make our mobile solution work. 

 

Matt Strehlow: Hi Dr. Berg,

Did you or your team look at the MoBI iPad App? If yes, how do you feel it compares to using WebI on the iPad (guessing your review was WebI through a browser)?

Thanks,
~Matt 

 

Dr. Berg: Hi Matt,

Yes, we used WebI through the app for the iPad and through the BI Launchpad in 4.0 for the Android device. The findings were:

WebI Pros:

iPad – Our lab users rated that the iPad was more responsive when interacting with the WebI tool bars and that the display on the canvas looked a lot better than the Android one.

Android – Our lab users liked the fact that the android device allowed them to scroll horizontally and vertically on the report and on the interface. 

WebI Cons:

iPad – The iPad did not allow the users to scroll horizontally and vertically.  This was a big limitation because some reports were cut off of the screen.  Also, users could not use the features read and design mode from WebI because it was not displayed on the screen. 

Android – Many of the testers felt that the Android device came unresponsive at times when selecting options in the tool bar. Users would make a selection and wait for minutes for the tablet to respond back even when on really fast networks and with the high-end server in the same room (they were the only users). Users would also experience older selections that they thought timed out, come back and respond minutes later.  The limitation here is that the device only has 1 gig of ram and this may be helped by going 2-4GB devices (don’t be cheap when buying Android tablets).

Dr. Berg

Elena Manova: Dr Berg,

What type or categories of KPIs did you evaluate each of the BO tools against? And how did you measure them? Was there a certain Volume and Stress Testing done? What content did use to push to BO Mobile app other than WebI docs?

Thanks

Dr. Berg: Hi Elena,

We compared only the functionality, no performance benchmarks. You can see the summary of our findings at: www.insiderlearningnetwork.com/dr_berg/b...

There are some performance changes in the new Android 4.0. So while the most popular non-Apple devices today runs on the Android 3.x “honeycomb” system,  I have to say that I really like the new Android 4.0 (also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich”). It blends the operating system functions from phone, tablets and other devices into a unified platform. 

One great feature is the ability to interact and share information into rich media such as social networks, digital photo books, movies and more.  The media also looks much richer like iPads with better animations and select buttons and deep vector graphic s.

The increased memory of the devices are also being taken advantage of by improved multi-tasking capabilities and there is also support for managing network usage (can be an issue as many will use their devices for streaming movies instead of your dashboards and BusinessObjects reports).

Finally Android 4 is also much faster when interacting with web sites. For example, the Javascript compilers are much quicker (a much touted V8 benchmark places it upto 550% faster), and that is not counting 4G network speeds (depends on the providers).

Dr. Berg

 

PamDraheim: Dr. Berg,

Are there any good options available for delivering Xcelsius Dashboards to the iPad?

Thanks, Pam

Dr. Berg: Hi Pam,

As note earlier, vendors like Exxova and Antivia provides some options. Exxova’s product is called MyBI and Antivia’s is called XWIS Anywhere. These vendors “stream” the dashboards to your tablet through their servers. Therefore, their servers do all the heavy lifting that the iPad cannot do to display the dashboards.  This is all done through a secure connection without having to change the dashboards.  If your organization is heavily focused on using the iPad than this is more than likely the route you will encounter with using a different vendor to display the dashboards.

Dr. Berg

 

Paul Matthewman: Dr Berg,

In my organisation we are deploying SUP for mobile device management and security.  Our intention is to integrate BOBI4 and SUP, to render Webi reports to iOS via the Mobile BI App.  Do you have any information on how to configure the integration between BO BI4 and SUP?

Regards

Paul

Dr. Berg: Hi Paul,

I have seen little documentation of the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) and the mobile features of BOBJ, however, there is much 'hype' around version 2.1+ and there is a lot of interest in the community for mobile developers and applications (beyond SAP BI). You can read an interesting summary at:

www.zdnet.com/blog/sybase/sap-sup-next-g...

And keep you ears to the ground for more details. But SUP is more than BI, it is a mobile development platform, so I would look to 'old' Sybase experts for more on that integration if you want to build applications and not merely render BOBJ reports and queries.

Here is a link to a webinar for the SUP and BOBJ intgration: scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-22473

 

Elena Manova: Do you think usability and functionality for iPad devices can be improved by channeling BO content through SUPlatform (ignoring the limitations of the iPad in terms if flash support)? Have you performed any such tests?

Dr. Berg: Hi Elena, We have an initiative around this at Comeritlabs, the lead is Kong Yang, but the testing is still in progress and his team will publish this later when completed (I will include some in my blog in late April – promise)! However, for now, I have no test results on this (but the SAP demos at TechEd looked great!)

 

Dr. Berg:  BI Launch Pad ove rview

Pros

iPad – In my experience, I believe that the iPad displayof the Launch Pad is much better than the Android’s display. For example, the iPad sizes the screen correctly to allow typing into the interface easier than the Android so there is no scrolling.  Also, the touch of the iPad renders quicker than the Android’s interface when it comes to switching between report tabs and back to the Launch Pad home.

Android – Our lab employees like the fact that the Android allows horizontal and vertical scrolling on majority of reports launched from the Launch Pad.  Being able to scroll both ways allowed the user to focus on sections of a report. 

Cons

iPad – my lab employees experienced that the iPad did not execute the reports with one touch on the screen.  The work around is to highlight the report, then click view from the tool bar, and then click view again to execute it. We felt that the reports should execute with one click. 

Android – The Android device did not resize the screen when entering manual input.  For example, when entering credentials to log into the Launch Pad, the keyboard layers on top of the text box so the user cannot see what they are typing, therefore, you always have to scroll around to find the text box while typing in the credentials to login. 

So a great first start, but we are looking forward to Android 4 and iPad 3 generation for better functionality and more memory (not storage), as well as faster processing.


Dr. Berg: Oops, forgot to include the BI Workspace functionality testing:

Pros

Android – The Android can render dashboards in the BI Wo rkspaces (if 'detached' flash objects) while the iPad 2 and 3 can’t. 

– The iPad displays the canvas of the Android faster but this could be due to the fact that it does not display any flash object so all the resources are allocated to different objects. 

Cons

Android – The Android device can only display one or two dashboards at a time on the work space (again only as 'detached' flash objects,).  From our experience, it also struggles to display 3 or more work space objects (i.e. CR, WebI or Analysis) reports at a time. This is a memory issue and newer tablets with more memory may alivate this problem.

iPad – The iPad cannot display dashboards, and Xcelsius in BI Launchpad in 4.0 is also limited until next release of BI (not an Apple issue). Also, using a 3rd party vendor software for iPads does not allow workspaces with dashboard to be displayed here either.  But basic workpaces without Xcelsius seemed to work fine on the iPads. 

 

Dr. Berg: We have not covered the BOBJ OLAP tool called "Analysis" so far.

The web version called Analysis for OLAP worked rather well on mobile devices in our test.

For example, iPad 2 & Android – Our users found that majority of the functionality worked on the iPad and Android, but the drag and drop ability was not available.  Since the drag and drop was not available, users could not remove key figures or objects from the canvas.  That could be an issue for people making changes, instead of merely executing reports. But overall for execution of web OLAP reports, the device worked nicely. 

 

Dr. Berg: For the BI Launch Pad, there are some pros and some limitations.

Pros

- iPad – In my experience, I believe that the iPad display of the Launch Pad is much better than the Android’s display. For example, the iPad sizes the screen correctly to allow typing into the interface easier than the Android so there is no scrolling.  Also, the touch of the iPad renders quicker than the Android’s interface when it comes to switching between report tabs and back to the Launch Pad home.

- Android – Our lab employees like the fact that the Android allows horizontal and vertical scrolling on majority of reports launched from the Launch Pad.  Being able to scroll both ways allowed the user to focus on sections of a report. 

Cons

- iPad – My lab employees experienced that the iPad did not execute the reports with one touch on the screen.  The workaround is to highlight the report, then click view from the tool bar, and then click view again to execute it. We felt that the reports should execute with one click. 

- Android – The Android device did not resize the screen when entering manual input.  For example, when entering credentials to log into the Launch Pad, the keyboard layers on top of the text box so the user cannot see what they are typing, therefore, you always have to scroll around to find the text box while typing in the credentials to login. 

 

So a great first start, but we are looking forward to Android 4 and iPad 3 generation for better functionality and more memory (not storage), as well as faster processing.

 

Heraldo Marciano: Hi Mr. Berg,

Currently in my company there is a dashbord developed in Web Application Designer.

What is necessary to became these reports available in an Mobile device (Android)?

Is necessary develop then again with a BO tool?

 

Dr. Berg: Hi Heraldo,

The WAD (JSP) templates can be accessed as-is in Android and iPad through the web browser. How well it looks and functions will depend on the objects you have included and how you managed the 'real-estate' to make it readable. The only way to know for certain is to try it and make changes if you need to.

Dr. Berg

Scott Wallask: For more advice, check Dr. Berg’s regular blog on Insider Learning Network covering BI and SAP BusinessObjects.   

If you haven’t seen our publications, please check out BI Expert (NetWeaver and BusinessObjects topics for SAP shops) and BusinessObjects Expert (BI front-end topics from a platform-independent perspective).

Also, the SAP BusinessObjects Forum archives past Q&As from Berg and others on BI and SAP BusinessObjects.  If you have a specific technical BI question, you can also post it for the entire community by selecting "New Thread" in the Forum.

Thanks again, everyone, for a great discussion.

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