Microsoft Improves Mobile BI Reporting for the iPad
Microsoft's mobile business intelligence (BI) support strategy for the Apple iPad inched forward slightly for those using SharePoint 2010.
Microsoft announced this week that some scorecards and reports now can be viewed via iPads that use Apple iOS 5 and the Safari browser. To get that capability using SharePoint 2010, organizations have to apply a Cumulative Update to SharePoint 2010 that was last refreshed on Dec. 13.
However, Microsoft's TechNet library article on the topic offers a cautionary tale, fraught with pitfalls and lots of tinkering for IT pros wanting to use SharePoint 2010 to bring business intelligence to iPad client devices. Up front, the article flatly states that "SharePoint Server 2010 is not fully supported for viewing on Apple iPad devices." What Microsoft means by "unsupported" is that testing hasn't been done, according to this Microsoft Support glossary.
The TechNet library article indicates that Microsoft has performed "limited testing" on using an iPad to display BI. With the Cumulative Update in place, users presently can see "PerformancePoint scorecards, analytic charts and grids," as well as "Excel Services reports" using the Safari Web browser. However, they can't see "Visio Services reports or PerformancePoint strategy maps because of client-side requirements that iPad devices cannot support."
Using slicers to filter data in Excel Services reports might not display correctly on an iPad, especially when using multiple slicers. Instead, Microsoft recommends using the older dashboard filters technology via the Dashboard Designer.
The reports that do work on the iPad should be sized to fit the device's smaller screen size, according to the article. The Safari browser only supports scalable vector graphics fonts. Microsoft recommends using ArialMT and Verdana fonts. Any unsupported fonts will default to Times New Roman.
Microsoft outlined its mobile BI roadmap during the October SQL PASS event. In the first half of 2012, Microsoft said that it planned to enable support for SharePoint BI on different browsers, including those that run on Apple's iOS mobile operating system. The targeted components to be optimized include PerformancePoint, Excel and SQL Server Reporting Services' operational report, according to this blog account.
In the second half of 2012, Microsoft indicated that it plans to improve the touch experience for various devices when viewing BI reports. Those devices will include Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, as well as the Apple iPad and Android-based devices. The improved touch capability will be enabled for BI functions found in SQL Server 2012, but the details weren't spelled out in Microsoft's blog post.
Microsoft also indicated that it will work to deliver an "immersive experience" with regard to mobile BI on Windows 8 devices, when those devices appear. The timeline for that improvement was not disclosed.
Organizations that love the iPad, but that aren't willing to put up with the limited support for BI via SharePoint 2010, apparently can turn to Microsoft's partners for a solution. About five partners currently offer products, according to Microsoft's blog.
Microsoft partner DSPanel offers an application that enables data visualization in Apple iPads. Extended Results makes an HTML 5-based BI solution that it claims can work on "any mobile device." InstallFree produces a solution that will enable Microsoft Office to work on iPads. MobiWeave offers a report viewer product for Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services that supports the iPad and iPhone. RoamBI offers a service that creates interactive visualizations on iPads and iPhones from Excel data.
For those wanting to go it alone and use SharePoint 2010 to deliver BI reports on the iPad, Microsoft offers some best practices in this blog. For instance, the iPad lacks support for Silverlight and Flash, so some PowerPivot Excel gallery selections won't work. Navigation won't be the same since the iPad lacks right-mouse-button command support. Finally, the Excel toolbar can be removed to gain additional screen real estate on an iPad.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.