Qlik was particularly interested in the way business users start various everyday tasks on one device and then switch to another.
When tasks are started on a PC, they will more likely than not be continued there if they fall into the categories of planning a trip, viewing dashboards or reports, accessing enterprise apps or information, and working on documents.
Of the others, those more likely to be completed on a phone than a tablet were email, instant messaging, conferencing, searching or browsing the web, social networking, finding information, or managing a schedule or calendar.
Switching to a tablet was more popular than to a phone for planning a trip, watching videos, viewing reports or dashboards, accessing enterprise apps or information, or working on documents.
There's little that's especially surprising there. In most cases, the larger-screened devices were preferred for activities where being able to see more at once is an advantage. But almost two-thirds of web browsing and searching sessions were continued on a mobile device.
It was a very different story when tasks were started on a smartphone. Email, social networking, finding information, planning a trip, viewing reports or dashboards, and working on documents were all more likely to be continued on a PC. No categories were more likely to be completed on a tablet than on the phone.
And for tasks started on a tablet, watching videos were the only category that was more likely to be completed on a tablet, and in most cases, the switch was to a PC rather than a smartphone.(Interestingly, to complete the online survey behind the report 70% of respondents used a computer, 9% used a tablet and 21% used a smartphone.)
The message for software developers is that people do move between devices and that the patterns of use aren't clear, Qlik vice president of innovation and design Donald Farmer told iTWire.
Qlik design strategist Murray Grigo-McMahon said that in the past, companies thought in terms of separate mobile experiences, but what is now required is a consistent experience across all devices. Note the choice of words: consistent experience, not consistent user interface. Designers should use the depth of each environment, balancing the specific requirements against the overall experience.
Farmer said the finding that there are "almost no scenarios where people move to a tablet from some other device" came as a surprise. "The tablet did have its day," but modern laptops are now much more portable, he said. (They are thinner and lighter, and they do start up and wake from sleep a lot more quickly than older models.)
And in a business context, it is still easier to provision a laptop than a tablet, observed Grigo-McMahon.
IT departments should work to ensure that applications and services can be used across multiple devices to the extent that a task can be started on one type of device and finished on another, Grigo-McMahon recommended.
He noted that some of the HR applications at Qlik can only be used on a Windows PC, and "that isn't an acceptable experience anymore." For example, he might start arranging a business trip on his phone, but if things start to get complicated in a way that would be more easily handled on a PC he expects to be able to make that switch without having to start again.
Farmer pointed to the way the Handoff feature in Apple's iOS and OS X lets that happen with certain applications.
Customers are increasingly thinking about everything as a service, with access anywhere, anytime and on any device. Any barriers to a smooth transfer between devices put a brake on productivity.
But "you can't rely on clients [ie, apps] to protect the security," he warned. Rather, data should be protected close to its source.
Farmer said Qlik's next reports would look at decision making and persuasion, and they will include "some really interesting interviews" including some from people in Australia.
Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives, he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honors degree in Management Sciences, a Ph.D. in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.