In our mobility lab, we are teasing out the differences in cloud-based software functionality and performance across multiple mobile devices and platforms.
In this project, we compared aspects of the Google Apps user experience across the following mobile devices:
Dell XPS 12 (Intel processor and Windows 8)
Microsoft Surface RT (ARM architecture and Windows RT)
Apple iPad 4 (ARM-based architecture and iOS 6)
Lenovo IdeaTab (ARM architecture and Android 4.2.2)
Google Apps Access
Desktop browser (IE & Chrome)
Google Drive app
Desktop browser (IE)
Google Drive app for iPad
Google Drive app for Android
Our findings in this project and similar ones confirm my suspicion that the assumptions informing some tablet and mobile app design are unfounded.
For example, small screens and the lack of a keyboard reveal the assumption that mobile devices are meant primarily to consume content, not produce it.
Another example: When software or platforms do not support local file storage, this design decision reflects assumptions about how users collaborate—always with a cloud service between colleagues.
But people want to create content on tablets, not just consume it. And effective collaboration requires more than just letting two or more people see the same content.
We put the assumptions to the test with Google Apps and found that the client does indeed matter a great deal with this cloud service. Of the devices we tested, it’s clears that users can only enjoy the full functionality of Google Apps on a mobile device powered by Intel and Windows. These platforms also support the most productive collaboration and user experience.
The secret sauce is the full desktop Chrome browser, which delivers all available Google Apps functionality. Only Intel and Windows tablets or convertibles support the full browser. The mobile browser and apps offer a reduced feature set that could inhibit collaboration.