Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dissecting Saba's New "Anywhere" Product for Mobile Learning

I happened upon a tweet last week while trolling my Twitter in-box that heralded a product announcement from Saba for their new "Saba Anywhere" offering which they described as follows: "Saba Anywhere is a mobile platform that lets people take their learning on the go." The press release continues with details on how flexible, capable and secure the new offering is so I read on with great interest. Instinctively, I reasoned another one of the "Big 10" LMS/Talent Management platform players was finally joining the mLearning party introducing their own well conceived and highly polished solution for the creation, packaging, delivery and tracking on mobile-friendly content to on-the-go workers via their omnipresent smartphone devices. If you're thinking this announcement/product branding meant the same thing, a little further investigation would prove you wrong too!  The marketing post outlines the following:

At first blush, this all sounds great!  But peeling back the onion a bit reveals the plain fact the supported mobile device all this "mobile-accessible" content is delivered to and consumed on is a standard Windows-based laptop or desktop computer. Thump!

Okay, that's interesting news on a few levels but the likelihood today's typical enterprise mobile employee/executive traveling around for business doesn't have an enterprise smartphone in their pocket/purse in addition to their enterprise laptop computer taking up space and adding heft in their briefcase is increasingly slim-to-none. Furthermore, a recent Mobile Workforce Report conducted by iPass on "Employee Device Preference" revealed that 63% of respondents preferred to whip out their smartphone for work-related tasks versus cranking up their laptop computer to conduct those same biz chores. If booting my laptop takes me 2+ minutes and acquiring a suitable wireless signal takes another 1-2 minutes in some appropriate hot spot, by the time I'm finally ready to get down to learning something I may have already missed the window of opportunity. Contrast that experience/hardship to using your at-the-ready smartphone that enables true "Anywhere" and anytime learning and we begin to question the potential of this strategy.  Not to mention that smartphone-based learning can happen whether I'm seated patiently in a lobby waiting to see a customer/prospect, or standing in a queue ordering lunch or smashed into a commuter train heading home after a long day -- try opening your laptop and taking your course in those environments!  

Agreed, the desktop/laptop course experience is richer (more Flashy) today versus the mobile experience and considered by many to be easier to view and consume compared to some mobile content, but true engagement and learning are not only possible but highly achievable on the current crop of next generation mobile devices like the BlackBerry, Apple iPhone/iPod touch and iPad, Google Android and Windows Mobile smartphones that now proliferate across the enterprise. Yesterday's desktop/laptop-optimized content may need to be rethought and re-factored as well but the set of available tools and methods to accomplish these tasks improves daily...the rate of change is accelerating like nothing I've witnessed before and the mobile device (READ: smartphone) will soon be the dominate platform for content delivery (and training delivery) globally.  

Much of what the Saba team gleaned in designing and bringing their new Anywhere offer to market can likely serve as foundational knowledge for the next anticipated step in their evolution towards true mobile learning. They can even re-purpose their adopted product tag line too when that time comes ("...Complete your training anywhere, anytime, regardless of network connectivity.").

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