Modapt

http://www.modapt.com

This is not a product that is relevant to the everyone but certainly relevant to myself and to every company that has a web page (who doesn’t?)

This month’s statistics on smartphone purchases and usage have blown experts’ preconceived ideas about where the Australian marketplace is with mobile browsing. 46% of Australian mobile phone owners now have a smartphone and 79% of handset sales were smartphones this quarter. Apple iPhone’s penetration is growing (40%) and Google Android powered phones are skyrocketing (30%) (Source: IDC Report, May 2011). In the USA mobile app usage has surpassed desktop browsing. The era of “I will deal with mobile later” is gone. Any business that doesn’t provide a mobile presence within the next 12-24 months is going to pay a heavy price.

The problem is most companies simply don’t know what to do or don’t have the budget to do it. There are a bunch of tools that will either help you make mobile websites or convert (mobilise) your pages, one at a time. This approach works ok for the tech savvy or those with a budget (either for the tools or the man-power to use them). But what do you do if your website has thousands of pages? And what about if it is littered with Flash animations and menus?

That’s where Modapt steps in. Modapt claims it can automatically and on-the-fly convert your webpage to support the mobile handset that is reading it. You don’t have to do anything on your website to make it work, other than redirect mobile users away to Modapt. It doesn’t matter how complex your website is, Modapt will render each webpage visited for each handset visiting. Here is an introductory video to explain the process: http://bit.ly/p9hEfm.

My approach to date has been to “make it look ok on the phone” which has bought me a little extra time. But as the mobile device becomes the primary means for browsing that attitude will need to change. There is an ongoing debate over applications (that execute on the phone itself) or web-apps (that are delivered as web services) will win the SaaS war. Currently the quality of applications is far superior to web-apps but HTML5 appears to be shifting that rule. I am betting on web-apps and not spending more than a minimal effort on applications. As long as I am delivering a solid experience for all mobile users, I believe this is the right approach. Your milage may vary.

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EchoSign

http://www.echosign.com

One of the many failures in the paperless world was the fact that we still need to sign many things. From offline credit card payments to mortgage paperwork to contracts. Of course we were promised electronic signatures but nobody trusted them.

My office has recently gone almost completely paperless. But some paperwork can’t be avoided. I scan the papers I do receive and recycle the used paper. But my routine for contracts is to print the document, sign it by hand, scan it back in and email it back. If I have the Word version of the document, then I sign it with a scanned version of my signature and send it as a PDF to my client … who prints it, signs it, scans it and sends it back. Of course if they fax it back, I have to scan it again!

It seems I may be the only one in the world that didn’t know these problems had been resolved by a “trusted third party” named EchoSign. They claim to have 3,000,000 users of their service including Groupon, BT and Delta Airlines. They have a number of sub-products around the basic eSignature service including tracking of documents (i.e. who has signed and who has not), a fax-in service for those that don’t trust the new whizz-bang interweb, and a document archive for long term store-and-recall of signed documents.

I think I might give it a go for my next contract. As all good SaaS offerings, they have a limited free trial. The try-before-you-buy philosophy is one of the greatest things to come out of the software era!

Update 24/Jul/2011: While this is a long way from a replacement for EchoSign (and friends), Apple has added a little tweak to the Preview.app in Mac OSX Lion that will be sufficient for my needs. Preview now allows you to add a digital scan of your signature to any PDF document using the built-in video camera. A simple and fantastic improvement.

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