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#2: How to Start Modernizing your Mobile Computing Applications

Aug 6, 2019
7 min read
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In this session, we answer the question: where do you start when moving to Android in the enterprise? Since Windows CE applications are not compatible with Android applications, everything will need to be rewritten or replaced—here’s how you start the process. 


Greg Henry, Vice President of Client Services, Barcoding, Inc. (Host)Martin Jack, CIO, Barcoding, Inc.Levi Lynch, Systems Engineer, Barcoding, Inc.

  • Greg Henry, Vice President of Client Services, Barcoding, Inc. (Host)
  • Martin Jack, CIO, Barcoding, Inc.
  • Levi Lynch, Systems Engineer, Barcoding, Inc.

Greg Henry:
[00:00:00] Hello, this is Greg Henry, vice president of Client Solutions for Barcoding, Inc. and welcome to our second session in a five-part series called Android in the Enterprise. Joining me today is Martin Jack, CIO of Barcoding, Inc. and Levi Lynch, a systems engineer with Barcoding.

[00:00:18] Today's focus is: where do you start when moving to Android in the Enterprise? What we've discovered from folks is that one of the big topics that everyone needs to consider when moving to Android is a review of their mobile applications for the simple fact that a hundred percent of your Windows CE applications will need to be replaced when you move to Android. That's right: Windows CE applications are not compatible with Android and will all need to be rewritten or replaced.

[00:00:48] Martin, I have a question for you. So, Windows CE has been with us for a really long time—many of our larger customers have done multiple upgrades of devices over the years, and for the most part, they were able to bring those Windows CE or Windows mobile applications along with them. With Android, that's no longer possible. What should new Android users be thinking about before they make that hardware investment as it relates to applications?

Martin Jack: [00:01:17] Thanks, Greg. So, when I think about this, one of the things I recommend is that customers’ users should identify which CE applications are currently in use and which ones actually need to be migrated. With Android, there's an opportunity to start from scratch, which means that simply migrating your Windows CE applications over to Android is a short-term gain. This is an opportunity to actually start from scratch, whiteboard your applications, and take full advantage of what Android has to offer.

[00:01:50] When we look at Android development, writing code in general is pretty expensive. As we look at developing new Android applications, there's a cost involved, but there is also cost involved in maintaining those Windows CE codes. Windows CE development will actually cost you more than an Android developer today because there are more developers that are actually willing to work on Android applications. So, my advice to everyone that's out there is to take the time—take the opportunity right now to really sit back and give yourself some runway.

[00:02:23] It may be a year’s worth of thinking about this before you actually go into deployment—maybe two years. Give yourself enough runway to take a look at your Window CE applications. Start from scratch, focus on what Android has to offer the new platform, and start with a fresh look at your applications.

Greg Henry: [00:02:41] You know Martin, I really like that idea—that makes a lot of sense. My initial inclination was yeah, you just replace what you’ve got, but you're rightyour business may have changed in the years, and rather than replace what you’ve got, look at it with a clean slate and make sure you build for today and the future.

Martin Jack: [00:03:01] Greg, if I can add to that. So, obviously, you know development is expensive, so there is another option: you can certainly go out and purchase a commercial off-the-shelf application.

[00:03:13] So, I think as you migrate your existing Windows CE to Android, you should consider purchasing something that's off the shelf as well. There are more applications out there today for Android than there ever has been for Windows CE, so, that's something that everyone should look at—there may be a solution out there that is a good fit for your company.

[00:03:32] So, you should consider the purchase for this, but build options as well and see which one works for you.

Greg Henry: [00:03:38] Great point: make versus buy is always a good thing to consider. Thank you. Okay, so, let’s move on to our next question. In the last session, we talked about how fast the Android OS and security updates are being released in the Android environments and different ways to manage those updates. When we look at applications in this space, should users expect the same the same kind of rapid releases and iterations with Android applications? And if so, how should customers really get prepared to consume these changes?

Martin Jack: [00:04:11] So, that's a good point: on any given day, your apps on your Android and iPhone devices are being updated behind the scenes, or it's prompting you to apply an update. This is due to new features and bug fixes from the software manufacturer, but is also due to OS upgrades that require applications to be in compliance with the OS.

[00:04:35] So, for Enterprise applications, we don't see those updates presented as frequently to the customers, but at the same time, they do exist because we have to fix bugs, we have to add new features, and we have to comply with the ongoing OS upgrade. So, using EMM and MDM tools, we can manage updates and push these updates out to devices. Luckily for us, it is easier than ever today to actually train users on these new updates that are being pushed out. When we look at these updates being pushed out, typically they are new features being added, or as I said, bug fixes. For the new features, they are now built-in features within these Android applications that we can actually prompt and train the user within the application. Many of you have experienced this before you download a new app that has been pushed to your phone and the new features are presented to you almost in a slide-like fashion.

[00:05:35] We can also apply that in the Enterprise World. In addition to that, we still have the option to do remote training for many of these users. We don't have to bring users in like we used to. We can actually push training out for your videos, or we can do webinars to get these users up-to-date, but the important thing to remember is that for every deployment of major new features, we should accompany that with some type of training process, whether it's something built into the app, or whether it's something that we're doing remotely.

Greg Henry: [00:06:06] Again, great input—you're right. Not only do we worry about getting those applications updated on the device, but also, what those changes mean to the users and how we effectively train users on these changes—so, really good points.

[00:06:22] While we're talking about applications, a very common mobile application that is still in wide use today is terminal emulation.

[00:06:29] Often referred to as green screen terminal emulation, it's been around for about 20 years and is a really effective way to get mobile applications to be able to access legacy ERP applications that supported different host interfaces, such as VT 220, IBM 3270, and 5250. You know, these applications have been migrated to Android with some really powerful new capabilities.

[00:06:58] The most intriguing capability is often referred to today as modernization, which is used to describe the emulators ability now to convert the traditional character-based legacy green screens into a modern graphical user interface (GUI).

[00:07:14] Levi, you've got a lot of experience with both terminal emulation products. Can you share some of the benefits you see when customers deploy modernized versions of their legacy screens?

Levi Lynch: [00:07:27] The main benefit of Smart TV and velocity modernization is that they simplify the user experience through implementing UI elements, as well as streamlining the information and options available on the screen.

[00:07:40] This reduces the time necessary to train new employees by creating a familiar app-like environment that users are already accustomed to and reduces the number of actions necessary to perform tasks by eliminating unnecessary data and unnecessary input.

Greg Henry: [00:07:56] Great insight. Love the fact that you know what makes the users’ ability to adapt to new applications much quicker and gives you that smartphone-like interface you're accustomed to in your personal world.

[00:08:10] So, now I think the big question is; how do these things work? I don't want you to go into the super details, but high-level, how do these products work and what are they all about?

Levi Lynch: [00:08:21] These products work by adding a new application and presentation layer to the existing WMS system. This allows you to make changes and customizations.

[00:08:31] So, that's the functionality of the underlying application without making changes to the existing WMS. They work by using existing data present on the telnet screen as a trigger to display UI elements, graphical buttons, input fields, graphics, etc. They allow you to customize the available on-screen keyboards in both layout and functionality.

Greg Henry: [00:08:52] Very cool. So, the key takeaway there for me was you don't have to change your host code, which you know in legacy systems has always been IT's nightmare. Being able to just modify the presentation layer and provide a new look to these legacy applications is really what the big benefit is in moving to Android-based terminal emulation.

[00:09:15] This concludes session 2 of our series. Want to thank Martin and Levi for their input and real-world experience. In our next session will be discussing Mobile Device Management: What, Why, and How. Again, thank you for listening, and looking forward to our next session.

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