James Fee wrote an interesting recent blog post entitled Mobile GIS – 2014 Edition. I thought that it raised some discussion worthy points. I wanted here to expand on his article, and widen the focus.
Thoughts on Professional Mobile GIS
I go along with James that professional GIS has failed in the mobile arena – I’m taking it that we are talking about ‘big GIS company’ products. The mostly Windows based products which have been produced are a mixed bag. Most are either poor or, in the case of ArcPad, excellent but complex to use.
So yes, I would say we have been poorly served in the mobile arena.
Windows Based Mobile GIS Today
Windows based mobile GIS. Hmmmmmmm.
Today the large majority of mobile apps are targeted at Apple and Android devices. How many people do you know who own either a Windows phone or Surface tablet?
I know nobody.
That is not to say that Windows will not one day be important in the mobile space (see recent Surface sales). But to date Windows has been largely irrelevant. Spending time today focused on building apps for Windows only mobile devices is hard to justify.
As a company we build Apple and Android mobile GIS apps. We look forward to our first Windows based mobile app request.
A side note here. One of the advantages Microsoft talk about with Windows 8 is use of one application across devices; PC, Windows phone and Surface. In theory a great idea, but in practice …
Running Desktop GIS Apps on our Mobiles
I’m cringing. Truly cringing (sorry James). QGIS or ArcGIS Desktop Basic on your mobile. Mamma mia.
Let’s step back. Smartphones and tablets bring mobility. True. But most importantly they bring simplicity. No more mouse clicks and directories. Mobiles provide computing for all: from the most tech savvy to the least. Everybody. They are beautiful devices. Low priced and wonderfully designed.
The mobile GIS apps we build should follow that same paradigm. Simple, well designed and easy to use.
Most organizations are still evolving their mobile GIS strategy. But it has to be around focused mobile GIS apps which require little or no training.
GIS for all is how we hope the mobile GIS future evolves. Please no more thoughts on desktop GIS software ported to our mobiles.
What if we need we need more than just simple GIS workflows on our Mobiles?
I still (strongly) argue that mobiles are not designed for complex GIS apps. But if that is what you need ArcPad is still in production. Failing that maybe a mobile version of QGIS (which by the way we love on the desktop) is what you need.