(photo cc attrib. pntphoto thanks!)

 

I have seen several keynotes from software executives lately. I recollect that all of them had iPads in them.  Seasoned software executives have been getting positively giddy about the iPad.

It has given Steve Jobs a sales force that he didn’t know he had. It seems without really planning for it, the iPad has become the must have enterprise device.

But what I’ve not yet seen is the must have enterprise application on the iPad. Yes, I’ve seen some neat repurposed reports and simple entry screens  but I’ve not yet seen an application that makes me sit up and say wow, that is a new and fundamentally better process enabled by the device.  So far the innovation is all about Apple.

If the iPad  means that enterprise software companies build executive dashboards and actually get executives engaging with the software, then fine, okay, that is an improvement from where we are today, but it misses the big opportunity.

Just  fixing the executive user experience has a whiff of the Potemkin about it. It would be a whole lot better if the iPad helped to prompt a rethink of how everyone interacts with enterprise software. Today the iPad merely illustrates the chasm between the typical enterprise software user experience and delightful design.

Cross posted on my Gartner blog.

My colleagues, Ray, Allen, Mike, Mark, Andrew, Mark and Van,  are all over the iPad.  Ray’s posts are particularly thought provoking, as he looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the device. There is also lots of commentary on the web, and the consumer electronics bloggers have discussed its every detail.  I’m not going to talk about how cool or not the device is, how naff the name is or what impact it will have on the media industry, or how Steve Jobs dresses. Yet again, Apple created a Great Expectation, and managed it profoundly well.

I was thinking this morning about what impact this device could and should have on UI design. Most enterprise applications are bound by keyboard centric design thinking, basically what I call  navigation donuts. Almost every enterprise application I see is trapped in the amber of the table layouts that haven’t really fundamentally changed since the first screens appeared over 40 years ago.

Andy Bitterer commented in a recent note. (Gartner clients click here)

What would happen if Apple built a BI product? Users would probably love it and actually use it. There is hardly another company in any IT market that is considered a synonym for great design and usability. While Apple has not been known for going after the enterprise software market and rather focuses on consumer products, Apple could still easily use its visualization know-how to create an “iDecide,” “iReport” or “iAnalyze” product that was at least as attractive as those from the best-in-class vendors today. In fact, other BI vendors could learn from Apple how to build end-user-friendly and intuitive applications.

For all the talk from enterprise application vendors about user centric design and building engaging applications, the enterprise software world could really do with an Apple moment.

Many of the applications I see would not be out of place in Miss Havisham’s Mansion. The Enterprise UI design clocks stopped some time ago, and the usability wedding cake continues to rot.

So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped Time in that mysterious place, and while I and everything else outside it grew older, it stood still….It bewildered me, and under its influence I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.

image

image from http://chantalpowell.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/miss-havishams-table/  a fascinating blog.

“I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped like the watch and the clock, a long time ago.” “Everything within my view which ought to be white had been white a long time ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow.”

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