Business Analytics on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Earlier this week, I had a quick chance to use the new Samsung Galaxy Tab — the first serious tablet rival to the iPad — and check out its analytic / business intelligence capabilities.

The device runs Android 2.2, which supports Adobe Flash, so the first thing I tried was a couple of dashboards suitable for executives on the run, built using BusinessObjects Dashboard (formerly Xcelsius). First, the same Formula 1 example that I previously tried out on my Google Nexus One phone.

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Then I loaded up a dashboard from Donald MacCormick, that uses his flashy Globe component:

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I also would have liked to get the chance to try out the brand-new mobile dashboards functionality provided by Antivia, that makes it easy to provide a single Xcelsius dashboard that automatically adapts to a mobile interface – but Antivia CEO Mark Hudson has promised to post a video of the experience at some point.

Overall, the experience was generally very similar to the Nexus phone. The dashboards felt a little sluggish, especially when I was using the graphics-intensive transitions, but basic navigation worked fine.

There were a few differences compared to the Google Phone:

  • Unlike with the Nexus, you couldn’t hold your finger down on the dashboard in the browser in order to maximize it to full screen size (and get rid of the top bar) – but you could pinch to zoom, and pan with your finger, which isn’t possible with my Nexus phone.
  • imageThe zooming and panning seemed a little tricky to use in the dashboard context (i.e. when you’re trying to avoid clicking on one of the buttons at the same time) – for example, I could zoom in on Donald’s Globe, but once I’d done so, I could no longer use a slide gesture to turn the globe – it was interpreted as a gesture to pan the whole dashboard instead. This would probably have been easier to use with a bit more practice, but it underlines that Flash isn’t yet really optimized for touch devices.
  • Because of the larger screen size, it was much easier to click in the right place, making it feasible to use the same dashboard for the screen and for the mobile device.

Next, I tried out SAP BusinessObjects OnDemand. Since it uses a mixture of HTML and Flash, it worked very well – here’s the list of available reports once I logged on:

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imageAnd here’s an example of a formatted report. Using a web-based reporting tool like Web Intelligence or Crystal Reports on a mobile device browser is a joy: the pinch and panning gestures work perfectly, making it easy to move around a big report and zoom in on the important details.

Overall, the size and form factor of the Galaxy Tab seemed like a good business compromise – much lighter and easier to stick in a pocket than the iPad, but with much more useable screen space than a mobile phone. It already works well for analytic interfaces that use HTML, and while the useability of the Flash-based dashboards isn’t perfect, it’s at least possible, unlike the iPad.

Personally, I chafe at the restrictions imposed by Apple on their devices (for example, it’s deliberately awkward to create and distribute prototypes of applications without signing their license agreements), and I hate every second I’m forced to use iTunes (I don’t have a Mac, and it’s a horrible, slow, bug-ridden experience using my PC).

So overall, I’m a strong candidate for Android-power devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and I’m sure I would use it more for business than the iPad, which I tend to find too underpowered and annoying for real work (e.g. the infuriating keyboard that forces you to go to a second screen just to type an apostrophe), and yet too bulky to put in a pocket to use on the move.

However, Android 2.2 doesn’t really seem to get the most out of the device. I’m looking forward to the next version of Android (“Gingerbread”), due out very shortly, which will be more optimized for tablet devices. With the new OS, Android-powered tablets like the Galaxy Tab should take their rightful place as serious business competitors to the iPad.

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12 Comments
  1. Regarding your statement that ‘and I’m sure I would use it more for business than the iPad, which I tend to find too underpowered and annoying’, please take a look at one of your competitior’s offering on iPhone/Ipad – Microstrategy for Mobile. I am a long time Business Objects user/consultant and (ex-employee),but I am impressed with Microstrategy’s mobile offering. It’s easy to implement and does full justice to platform. They have a product for BB and very soon deply it on Android also. Xcelsius needs to come out of clutches of Flash and also its dependence on Excel makes it ‘uninviting’. It should ‘DIRECTLY’ use ‘BO Infrastructre’ like Universe and webi reports.

  2. DD, you miss my point, and it sounds like you may not be up to speed with the latest products — BusinessObjects Explorer for iPad is a native interface for the iPad that leverages the BusinessObjects infrastructure, there’s a native interface available for the Blackberry, and Xcelsius no longer has (and never really did) have a dependence on Excel. But that’s beside the point — I was just trying to say that for me personally, I couldn’t use the iPad for real work, outside of analytics.

    As for Microstrategy, all of the main BI vendors now have some sort of mobile offer. I know Microstrategy tried — and failed — with advanced mobile alerting offer a few years ago, and I’ve now seen rumors that it’s now “betting the farm” on mobile — it will be interesting to see how that works out, since I’m a much bigger believer in providing the same experience, as much as possible, on-premise, on-demand, and on-device…

  3. Hello DD,

    As Timo mentions, Xcelsius no longer has a dependency on Excel. We’ve been working with Xcelsius customers to show them how to re-use the WebI reports and Universes to build their dashboards, without the need to bind data to the spreadsheet.

  4. If they let me get my hands on it again, I will! Otherwise, as I said, it was similar to the Google Nexus phone, so if you take a look at that video, you’ll get the idea… as I say, felt sluggish — I might try again with a “cleaner” dashboard and see if it’s any better…

  5. Andrew,
    Are you talking about BO 4.0 or this functionality is available with current version(without the use of SDK). This should be available with XCELSIUS out-of-the-box.
    Timo,
    You suggested that the dashboard felt sluggish and that supports my point that you can not develop for one type of consumption and consume on another platform. The native functionality of touch medium should be used effectively to consume data for smartphone/tablet.

  6. Hello DD,

    I am not talking about BO 4.0. You can use various web services to connect the current version of Xcelsius to WebI, or you can use a tool like our XWIS solution.

    You can develop for one platform and consume on another without sacrificing performance as our mobile solution has proven.

    I don’t want to use Timo’s blog as a forum for our products, so if you want to discuss further, just email me at andrew dot smith at antivia.com.

  7. Pingback: La petite Revue de Presse du Décisionnel | www.LeGrandBI.com

  8. Hi Timo,

    Great review. I would agree that the Samsung Galaxy Tab is certainly a very good alternative to the iPad from a business perspective.

    Xcelsius dashboards worked well. Flash will need a slight update to handle some of the touch gestures a little better. Xcelsius dashboards powered with data from XWIS, Web Services or other online content seemed to work better than ones with the data inputted direct in the spreadsheet.

    Interestingly as you will see in the demonstration video I have recorded, XWIS offline dashboards react very quickly even when using the XWIS Slice and Dice Panel to help answer questions of the data within the dashboard.

    XWIS Anywhere is beta. It is developed on Burrito (Beta Flash Builder 4.x) and delivered on AIR 2.5.1. It connects to Xcelsius dashboards via XWIS and other SAP content such as Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports.

    You can view the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF0OUzQTYy4 and if you still have access to the Samsung Tab (if the labs guys have not taken it from you!) then drop me a line as we will send you the APK file so you can have a play yourself.

    We are planning a release Q1 with support for Android 2.2 (ARM based) tablets/mobile phones and also the Blackberry Playbook.

    Cheers
    Mark

  9. We are trying to process results of SAP/BI on a new Android Xoom (3.0 Honeycomb). Good and bad news.

    When I link to your formula1 demo.swf it runs and looks fantastic. Fast, crisp, just dynamic.

    One of our developers send me a .swf file via email. When I launced it – the device said “file type not found”. I tried to open the . swf file in the browser and still no luck,

    So linkting to SAP/BO generated flash files seems to work flawlessly – accessing the native file on my device – nope.

    Why? Because when in the field this allows users to process predefined queries without logging in or linking to an external website.

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