Oracle adds iPhone support to BI, analytics software

Apple devices are helping spur mobile BI adoption

Oracle has introduced support for Apple's iPad and iPhone as part of a slew of enhancements to its BI (business intelligence) software, the company announced Tuesday.

Business Intelligence Release 11.1.1.5 provides iPhone and iPad users with the software's full range of capabilities, with no need to rewrite existing dashboards and reports, according to Oracle. The integration is two-way, as users can generate actions and kick off workflows from their devices, Oracle added.

Other new features in BI 11.1.1.5 include broader support for data sources, including Oracle's TimesTen in-memory database, SQL Server Analysis Services and SAP Business Information Warehouse.

Oracle also announced new versions of its BI Applications on Tuesday. These are a series of prebuilt modules aimed at various business areas, such as financials, human resources and projects.

The 7.9.6.3 applications release features a refreshed user interface with access to geospatial data, data modeling improvements and a number of tools for system management, testing and patching.

Overall, the releases include "a lot of important tweaks that will be functionally important to end users," said IDC analyst Dan Vesset. "There are all these steps to make [the software] easier to deploy and implement."

What's not currently clear is how Oracle's stated intention to weave BI pervasively throughout its upcoming Fusion Applications will affect customers' existing investments in BI.

Most likely, customers will be able to reuse much of what they have, Vesset said. The process will probably play out fairly slowly as customers begin adopting Fusion modules, he said.

Meanwhile, Oracle's move to support Apple reflects those devices' growing preference among business users, as well as the general trend toward mobile BI.

While mobile BI remains somewhat immature, analysts such as Boris Evelson of Forrester Research predict the rise of larger form-factor devices such as the iPad and other tablets will make a big difference in usability. "Truly analytical BI applications require a certain amount of screen real estate to display, interact, and analyze all relevant information on a single small screen," Evelson said in a recent report.

Oracle's new software will go up against products from rivals such as SAP, IBM and SAS Institute, which control much of the market for BI and analytics.

Analytics' strength as a software category persisted through the global recession, with sales rising slightly even as demand for other types of software fell, according to recent figures from Gartner. Sales jumped 13.4 percent last year to US$10.5 billion, the analyst firm said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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