Just a quick note. There is a new version of the iPad app for Cognos 10 available. As expected, the new version contains a few fixes and enhancements. The biggest improvement, however, is the ability to open up Active Reports directly from email attachments.
In case you have not noticed, you can also enter a default server address in the app settings.
Mobile BI is hot. No wonder that the new IBM Cognos iPad app has been getting a lot attention. My initial review from a few days ago was quite popular (Thanks for spreading the word!). The same is true for the quick report about Cognos 10 on the iPhone. It’s been pretty hectic since then, but I finally had some time to sit down and play with the app a bit more over the past two days. In particular, I wanted to check out the online capabilities. One of the great things about the app is that you can use it offline and online – truly a mobile BI solution.
COGNOS iPAD APP ONLINE
Connecting to my Cognos 10 server was straight forward. I just entered the regular server URL, user ID and password. The app connected without a glitch. All my folders were immediately accessible and I was able to browse through the content using the regular iOS gestures. Instead of browsing you can also perform a search: Click on the magnifying glass, enter a search term and the app will return the relevant objects.
DASHBOARDS IN ACTION
The server I was working with is used to run the extremely popular IBM Business Analytics Experience workshop. I chose a bunch of reports and dashboards that were developed to run on a regular PC. The iPad app loaded them without hesitation and they looked just as beautiful if not better than on a regular laptop screen.
Reviewing the charts and tables is a lot of fun on the iPad. What I enjoyed best though, is the ability to interact: put your finger on a certain data point in a chart and the app will provide the according value in a small bubble. If you want some additional info, just click on the little i icon in the bubble and you will get additional context.
DRILL DOWN/ UP
Drilling up and down is just as simple as well. Put your finger on a data point and select drill down/ up. It’s easy and intuitive. Much better than a mouse click.
Getting connected to the Cognos server was easy. All I need was the standard URL, user name and password. It didn’t take any time at all. My regular desktop content worked well on the iPad just like on the iPhone. We did not have to do any kind of re-coding or re-formatting for the iPad (I ran 11 different dashboards). Navigation was intuitive and working with the mobile BI content is a lot of fun. There is something cool and magic about touching your data – a phenomenon that many of us have noticed – let’s call it the “iPad goggles”…
If you have not had a chance to see the app, make sure to download it from the iTunes app store.
The recent release of the new IBM Cognos Mobile for iPad app has created many excited discussions. I will post a more extensive review in a few days from now. Today I realized that most people have stopped talking about the iPhone. It seems that the iPad is getting all the attention these days. But to be fair, most people probably carry their iPhones with them more often than the iPad. But the good news is that Cognos 10 also runs on the iPhone. There is no dedicated app, but Cognos 10 runs in Safari. While waiting in the airline lounge to board another flight, I logged onto one of my servers to test the new 10.1.1 functionality.
Logging into Cognos 10 is easy. I plugged in the regular server address, entered my user name and password. You can see that I was on the normal 3G network.
After logging in, I was able to browse through my content. Everything was there that I expected and navigation follows the regular iPhone gestures: You swipe to scroll through your content and you point to access folders or reporting objects.
REPORTS AND DASHBOARDS
I selected a few of the reports and dashboards. Everything worked nicely – Business Insight dashboards as well as standard Report Studio content. The great thing about Cognos 10 is the principle of author once and consume anywhere: There is no re-coding required to make the content run on the iPhone. At this point I switched to the horizontal view as it was easier to review the dashboard below:
Of course, it is possible to zoom in and out using gestures. By pointing at data elements, you can bring up a small header that provides additional context (precise values, dimensions etc.). If available, you can also drill up/ down or through.
Response time on this dashboard was very decent given the 3G connection. The drill-down took less than 3-5 seconds.
PROMPTS AND MORE
Prompts work as well. It is also possible to build reports with location-awareness prompts that pull the data from the iPhone GPS coordinates. I was not able to test that – maybe in the near future. But the possibilities are awesome if you think about it. And there are some additional features such as the ability to set favorite reports, select a home screen dashboard etc..
Cognos 10 on the iPhone works pretty well. Dashboards and reports do look nice on the small screen. It is easy to review numbers & trends on the go. This is ideal for mobile workers wanting to stay connected with their business no matter where they are. However, the iPad and the laptop are definitely better suited for getting your tough work done. The screen is just not big enough on the iPhone. But that’s no surprise. The iPhone is a phone and not a full-fledged PC after all.
Just a quick post for today. It’s been a super busy week with stops in Barcelona, Munich and London. While sitting in the lounge in Munich, I was delighted to see that the IBM Cognos MobileiPad app had been approved for the Apple iTunes store. A perfect opportunity to download it and test the offline capabilities at 33000ft cruising altitude. (I cannot wait to take the the app online this weekend!)
CLEAN AND SIMPLE
Once our plane had taken off, I pulled out my iPad and launched the app. European flights do not have WIFI, yet. But the app does support offline content. And so I was sitting there in seat 5D somewhere above Frankfurt and was able to test some of the dashboards and reports. Being able to work offline is a huge advantage, from my point of view. I have personally encountered so many situations where the wireless network was either poor or simply not accessible. But back to the Cognos app: The initial impression is excellent. The interface is nice and clean. It does not take any time at all to get up and running. Navigation is intuitive and all the usual finger movements (swiping, pointing etc.) work flawlessly.
About a year ago I discovered a true treasure: Blogs. No, I didn’t find out about them a year ago. Just like everybody else, I had been reading some of them here and there. Sure, I had a few bookmarks on my work & personal laptop. But I never really got into the habit of actively leveraging the awesome, inspiring and educational content many blogs offer us today. I never systematically participated in highly valuable discussions around certain posts that cover topics that are important to my job and personal life. And that is really too bad. Many of my friends and colleagues are running into the same issues. But the iPad and some awesome apps changed that. Here are some ideas for you to get started with enjoying the valuable content.
“The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.” Shawn Achor
The biggest hurdle for me to really enjoy blogs was the process of sourcing the content. Bookmarks here and there didn’t do it for me. I tried loading a few RSS Feeds into my mail program but that didn’t work either. Google Reader did a somewhat decent job for a while but I do not usually enjoy reading on my laptop. Plus, I spend so much time on the road. But the iPad started offering some amazing Blog Readers. These apps allow you to easily subscribe to your favorite blogs and to take the content with you. Even offline. The apps basically automate the sourcing process. Suddenly I had access to valuable blog content even while sitting on an airplane. And that is what did it for me. Today, I read a ton of blogs on a daily basis. What apps are there? Well, I use three different ones. And I am not quite sure yet, which app is my favorite.
The Early Edition looks and handles like a regular newspaper. You can literally sit down every morning with your coffee and read your personal blog and newsfeed paper. New blog posts and news are easily identified. Navigation is intuitive. The layout is very simple but effective from my point of view. All synchronized content is available offline (except for photos and graphics). The app is pretty fast overall. However, subscribing to new blogs is a bit tedious: You have to know the feed address and copy it into the app. This app currently costs USD 4.99 making it one of the more expensive readers.
Pulse is one of the most popular readers (it’s currently free!) But I am still warming up to it. The interface looks sophisticated but it is a bit too loud for my taste. There is a lot going on which impacts the reading experience. On the other hand, subscribing to new blogs and newsfeeds is super easy: there is a catalogue and you can search for specific blogs. The original setup process is therefore a lot easier than with the Early Edition. You can also add Facebook updates to the reader. Content is available offline but without pictures and graphics.
Blogshelf is an app that I just recently added. I was a bit frustrated with the fact that Early Edition and Pulse do not synchronize photos and graphics for offline use. Blogshelf fixes that issue and even allows you to save certain pictures to your photo collection. The app has a clean interface that looks and feels like iBooks. Searching for new blogs and other feeds is extremely easy and pleasant. It took me under five minutes to get the app up and running with my content. But organizing blogs is abysmal. The other two readers are much better at that. Identifying new blog posts requires you to scan through your entire bookshelf and to look for little orange triangles on the different subscriptions.
If you own an iPad or a smartphone, take a look at these iPad Blog Readers. My personal favorite is still Early Paper but I am slowly migrating towards Blogshelf because of the ability to view the entire post (with graphics) in offline mode. All apps have definitely made a huge difference for me. There are some excellent blogs out there and it would be a shame to miss engaging with the content and/ or the authors. These apps lower the hurdle towards actively reading and following the blogs. And of course: Make sure to subscribe to this blog! 😉 Let me know if you have other iPad Blog Readers and experiences to share.
UPDATE – September 2012
Things have changed since the original post. Blogshelf is no longer available in the app store. It still works on iOS 6, although it does crash often. The Early Edition has received a major make-over and looks better than ever. You can also export all your feeds and import them easily to Google Reader. This app is by far my favorite. Pulse has improved dramatically as well. However, it only allows 60 feeds. I do follow a ton of blogs and this is not enough for my only personal taste.
This device is almost as polarizing as American politics. Crazy! I spend close to 200 days on the road per year and to me, this thing is the best thing since sliced bread…well…almost. I am talking about the Kindle – Amazon.com’s eBook reader. We are in the middle of the holiday season and many of us still hunting for presents. Many of us have to read a ton to stay current with business practices and we also travel. As a result, I wanted to share some thoughts about the Kindle. I have had one for a long time. Since the very first version. It is an amazing, yet extremely boring piece of technology. I do recommend it to anybody who likes to read and travel.
This Kindle is amazing because it allows you to read books on an electronic device that doesn’t feel like one. The Kindle is as light as a small paper back and the screen looks and feels like a real book. When you first read something on the Kindle it feels almost fake. Yes, the screen does look that real. Start reading something on a Kindle and you will notice that it ‘disappears’ within a few seconds of reading. You just become one with the content. Just like with a real book. And you can read it anywhere. The screen is just as good as any book. Event at the beach.
The Kindle is extremely light. You can hold it easily. It is actually a lot easier to hold than many books. I have read books on a plane (less space needed), on a train, on a ship, in a car, in a bed, at the coffee machine and on the beach. It simply feels really good in your hands. Much easier to handle than a book. Seriously.
And then there is the capacity. I used to travel with a bunch of books. No more. Books are heavy. eBooks typically don’t require much storage and the Kindle can easily hold 100s of books. Perfect. Think about going on vacation. One tiny device instead of 5 hard-covers.
You see a book and you want it. The Kindle allows you to download books instantaneously. Once again…great for traveling. And they are typically pretty cheap.
NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
One of the best things about the Kindle is the ability to highlight sections, to annotate them and to bookmark pages. The kicker is that you can download the highlights and annotations to a PC or MAC. Extremely useful for business books. I love having a txt file with all my highlighted and annotated sections. It is perfect for sharing with friends & colleagues or to use stuff for presentations.
Some people thought that the iPad would kill the Kindle. Not really. The Kindle is like a real book. The iPad is icing on the cake. The Kindle App works extremely well. Books synchronize with the Kindle so you can read books on both devices. In terms of actual reading, I do not like the weight of the iPad. It is quite heavy. And the screen is not suited for reading outside. There is too much glare. BUT the iPad works extremely well for certain graphics-intensive books. Reading business or photography books on the Kindle is a real pleasure. So the combination between both is great. But the iPad is definitely not a Kindle killer to me. On the contrary: it really enhances the Kindle experience.
THE BORING STUFF
Did I mention that the Kindle is extremely boring. Perfect. It looks a bit dull and there isn’t much you can do with it. Sure. You can browse the web but it is a poor experience. There are some games, but they suck. Really boring. Some bloggers have called that the biggest flaw of the device. One magazine was disappointed that the Kindle wouldn’t support Voice over IP. Hmm. Not really. When is the last time, we placed a call using a book? The Kindle’s lack of functionality is its greatest asset: it retains the real character of a book. I sometimes read on the iPad at night. But guess what: I end up checking email, looking at Twitter, surfing…it is just too tempting. That doesn’t happen with the Kindle. It is a real eBook! And that is awesome.
The 3G version of the Kindle allows you to go online pretty much anywhere around the world. That means you can access social websites like Facebook and Twitter. There are some countries on this planet that do not like social media and they block access. Not with the Kindle, apparently. When I traveled to China I noticed that I could get my tweets. At first I thought that it must have been a mistake. But when I returned from the trip, I found some reports that confirmed my suspicion. (see…the Kindle is revolutionary!)
Honestly, there isn’t anything worth writing about. The Kindle is that great. Sure. It could look a bit nicer. I certainly do not like the fact that I have to turn it off during take-off and landing. But I honestly don’t care. The Kindle has allowed me to read a lot more than I used to. And it is really fun and extremely comfortable. Hope you are enjoying your eBook readers as well!