[CoMoDev] Streamlining large corporate Palm app deployment

  • From: David Beers <david@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <comodev@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2004 14:40:40 -0600

Handling large mobile app deployment issues would be a great topic for one of 
our meetings all by itself, but that's not why I'm posting. I've been asked to 
ping the group for ideas about a large (1000+) deployment that involves Palm OS 
devices in a far-flung corporate setting.  Below is the conversation I've been 
having with Peter Wilson, Senior Sales Consultant at Intellisync that describes 
the problem.  In a nutshell, Peter is concerned with the number and complexity 
of steps that end users have to take to get his company's software installed on 
the Palms and the potential support headaches.  Some salient points I've 
gleaned about the particulars of this deployment:

1.  Many of the Palms may be new or never-been-synced with an office PC, so 
part of the problem is the steps of creating a new HotSync user on the PC.
2.  Palms are brought into the workplace by employees, so there's no chance for 
the IT department to get their hands on them before they come into the office.
3.  Palm Desktop itself (aside from HotSync Manager) will not be used--they are 
interested in getting the Intellisync client app installed so that it can deal 
with synchronizing all the PIM and application data.

I've changed the name of the client to protect the innocent! ;-)


--- Original Message ---
From: "Peter Wilson" <pwilson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: David Beers <david@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tue, 5 Oct 2004 05:31:41 -0400
Subject: RE: BigClient, Inc. Palm deployment

> David,
> Actually the problem BigClient, Inc. is facing is not really with the double
> hotsync or need to tap the hardware button.  It's far more than
> just an annoyance.  The problem has to do with all the steps
> involved in installing a piece of software to a device via the
> cradle.  We have solved the problem for wireless devices by
> providing an over-the-air install package; unfortunately BigClient, Inc. has
> thousands of legacy, non-wireless devices.  Average users don't
> understand install directories, proxy desktop connections, etc.
> They run into too many pitfalls.  With Palm, the install process
> for every device is as follows:
> 1.  HotSync and create a userid with hotsync manager. a.  This
> creates the USERID\Install directory.  If this directory does not
> exist then the rest of the steps will fail. 2.  Run the Intellisync
> desktop install package. a.  Installs/reinstalls the hotsync
> conduits
> b.  Prompts user for their hotsync userid.  Hopefully user selects
> the right ID.
> c.  Copies necessary Palm files to the USER\Install directory. 3.
> Hotsync again to get the files copied over to the palm. 4.  Hotsync
> again to get the first Intellisync sync.
> With ActiveSync there's no need to establish a partnership, a guest
> connection is fine.  If the device does not have the Intellisync
> client installed then all the user has to do is click Tools->Add
> Programs, select Intellisync and click OK.  The client
> automatically installs and initiates the first sync session.  No
> need to run the desktop install program over and over again just to
> put the install files in the right hotsync userid's install file.
> What BigClient, Inc. needs is a solution that eliminates the need for steps 1
> and 2 above.  There are many sub-steps in there and too many
> possibilities for the user to make mistakes or get confused.
> Tapping Hotsync twice is no big deal so long as the client will
> automatically install on a device that needs it.  The desktop
> install process should only need to be run once for each desktop
> then install to however many Palms get synced to that desktop (as
> with ActiveSync).
> There's a tool called SyncWizard
> (http://www.envicon.com/SyncWizard/) which almost accomplishes
> BigClient, Inc.'s needs but it's designed for programmers with Visual Studio
> installed on the desktop; not end users.
> Could you send my e-mail to the COMODEV group please?  I don't have
> the group's e-mail address on file.  I don't want anyone to spend a
> lot of time researching the issue.  Just curious to see if anyone
> else has run into similar challenges or has some suggestions off
> the top of their heads.
> Very many thanks,
> Peter J. Wilson
> Senior Sales Consultant
> Intellisync Corporation
> 200 North Point Center East, Suite 600
> Alpharetta, GA 30005
> Office: (678) 802-1216
> Mobile: (770) 906-1403
> Fax: (770) 619-5612
> pwilson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> www.intellisync.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Beers [mailto:david@xxxxxxxxxxxx]
> Sent: Monday, October 04, 2004 7:19 PM
> To: Peter Wilson
> Subject: BigClient, Inc. Palm deployment
> Hi Peter,
> I've been thinking about the deployment question w/regard to your
> BigClient, Inc. client.  While in general most users find HotSync to be a much
> more stable and reliable transport mechanism than ActiveSync it's
> true that it's not by nature as streamlined for deployments.  Most
> of the difference just has to do with the fact that with HotSync
> you have a button to push each time you need to sync whereas
> ActiveSync moves data between handheld and PC without this
> deliberate action.  If you're accustomed to PocketPC you find
> having to hit the HotSync button twice--once to establish the
> HotSync ID on a never-synced device, once to install--a bit of a
> pain.  If you're accustomed to Palm you're annoyed by having to
> dismiss ActiveSync dialogs everytime you put your device back in
> the cradle!  In my personal opinion the extra steps in getting a
> Palm device set up are worth the months or years of trouble-free
> use--especially if you're the one running the helpdesk. Also keep
> in mind that the installation of Palm Desktop really does a lot of
> hand-holding to get the user through the first sync.  I've never
> known anyone to have much trouble with it.
> But if you really want "no-touch" deployment from a clean Palm and
> PC--without even Palm Desktop installed there are a couple of
> things you can consider:
> 1)  You can basically "ghost" a completely configured Palm onto an
> SD card.  The user installs the card, a dialog pops up, they tap OK
> and it's done.  If you've bundled Palm Desktop with the Intellisync
> conduit installer and they've completed that installation, they can
> cradle the device and run the sync client immediately.  Small
> capacity SD cards are cheap now and this might streamline the
> installation a bit.  Here's a company that sells a solution like
> this:
> http://www.grantstreetsoftware.com/Products/SDDeploy/Index.html.
> Haven't tried it, but it they have a good reputation.
> 2)  If I were BigClient, Inc. what I'd really want is not to install Palm
> Desktop at all--not the desktop application, not the conduits for
> the build-in apps, not even the Install Tool or backup conduit--so
> that users (a) can't ask for support on stuff the company didn't
> want them using anyway, (b) can't install stuff they don't need--at
> least not from work, and (c) don't have things on their PC that the
> company doesn't need there.  To do this--and to save the user an
> extra sync session--Intellisync might consider developing their own
> replacement for HotSync Manager.  It would emulate HSM for the
> purpose of running conduits--but be crippled to run *only* the
> Intellisync conduits. And it would add a feature that would
> recognize a new device and push the client software out to it
> automatically the first time the user tried to sync that device.
> Depending on how badly BigClient, Inc. wants the deployment process
> simplified, they might be willing to pay you guys enough to develop
> this for distribution to other clients.  It probably wouldn't be
> too hard.
> There are some other neat deployment options, like over-the-air
> installations whereby the user could browse to a site on the built-
> in browser in their cradled Palm and install everything they need
> on both the Palm and PC (see this for example:
> http://www.palmsource.com/press/2004/092804_installer.html) but as
> slick as this is, I don't think it addresses your basic issue,
> which is how to install your software on a clean, never-been-synced
> device without having to sync it twice.  They'd have to have
> already installed Palm Desktop and performed at least one sync
> before the PalmSource Installer would work, I think.
> If I come up with anything else I'll let you know.
> David

[Note: the following is my response to the message from Peter that starts at 
the top of this email.]

--- Original Message ---
From: "David Beers" <david@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: Peter Wilson <pwilson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tue, 5 Oct 2004 08:29:46 -0600
Subject: RE: BigClient, Inc. Palm deployment

> Peter,
> I don't think you're quite correct about this.  Technically, you
> are right about step 1: the user must create a user ID during the
> first sync.  But after that they will never be prompted to enter or
> to select one again unless that PC was last synced with another
> Palm.  So aside from the creation of the HotSync ID during
> installation it's only the two button presses that are "added
> steps."  I haven't used Intellisync's Palm client, but if I
> understand correctly it may actually eliminate a step or two since
> the user doesn't need to find an unfamiliar icon on their Palm,
> launch the client app, and find a link on an unfamiliar screen that
> will initiate the sync--they just push the hardware button again.
> I agree that ActiveSync is still cleaner to work with initially and
> I know that with a deployment the size of BigClient, Inc.'s investing in a
> simplified process may be worthwhile.  The real experts on this
> stuff are on the Palm Entrepreneurs Forum, where I've spoken with
> the guys from Beiks, Grant Street Software, Corsoft, Marietta
> Systems (a competitor of Intellisync, BTW) and PalmSource.  Two
> people have recommended the SD card option I described, which seems
> to be the most applicable to your situation since it can be done by
> users themselves.  That enables the client software to go directly
> onto the device without HotSync or even cradling, but they'll still
> need to create a user the first time they HotSync.  The
> installation process would be: insert card, tap OK, run Intellisync
> installer, cradle-n-sync once and you're done.  The device should
> sync with the server on that very first sync.
> OTA actually is an option and doesn't require a new or wireless
> connection since the Palm can be made to piggy-back off the
> connected PC just like the PocketPC does. However, while that can
> eliminate some steps (for example the user would never even have to
> run the Intellisync installer--even to install the conduits on the
> PC!) it doesn't eliminate the need for that first sync to create
> the HotSync ID and the Intellisync installer would be replaced by a
> different installer to enable the Palm to use the PC's Internet.
> No good, IMO.
> It's hard to get these Palm developers to wrap their heads around
> not establishing a HotSync ID just because there's so much that
> happens in a sync session that depends on that.  If you eliminate
> that step completely you break the ability of HotSync to keep
> backups, install software that isn't managed by Intellisync, or
> manage any data outside of Intellisync, since all of that will be
> user-specific.  I explained that those may be seen as *advantages*
> in a corporate setting but you need to ask yourself and BigClient, Inc.: do
> they want to enforce that users can't do anything with
> synchronizing their Palms outside of Mobile Suite?  No applications
> for personal use?  If so, then I think there isn't yet a ready-made
> solution out there: one will have to be built that emulates the
> minimal features of HotSync but eliminates the identification of
> the user, the backup conduit, Palm Desktop, and the conduits for
> the built-in PIM applications.  If this is what you want I can
> point you to a company that may be able to do this for you:
> http://www.beiks.com .  I've spoken with Bobby Kolev who heads up
> their US operation and he seemed to think he could help. He's a
> very good developer and a shrewd businessman: he'll understand that
> Intellisync will likely be able to use this for clients besides
> BigClient, Inc..
> You wrote:
>> Tapping Hotsync twice is no big deal so long as the client will
>> automatically install on a device that needs it.  The desktop
>> install process should only need to be run once for each desktop
>> then install to however many Palms get synced to that desktop (as
>> with ActiveSync).
> Palm Desktop has the ability to create profiles that ensure that
> certain software is installed on the Palm of every user that syncs
> with that PC.  If BigClient, Inc.'s IT has remote access to all the PCs their
> users will sync with they can create a profile that includes the
> Intellisync client on each one.  If that's really the problem I
> don't think you need any special software at all.  But users will
> still be faced with a dialog for creating their HotSync ID the
> first time they sync (or any time HotSync Manager recognizes a
> different user is synchronizing from the last one it synced with).
> If that dialog is the source of concern this won't help in that
> area.
>> There's a tool called SyncWizard
>> (http://www.envicon.com/SyncWizard/) which almost accomplishes
>> BigClient, Inc.'s needs but it's designed for programmers with Visual Studio
>> installed on the desktop; not end users.
> I haven't used SyncWizard, but it doesn't look like a developer
> tool to me.  I don't see anywhere in the requirements where it says
> you need Visual Studio and can't think how you could need it.  On
> the other hand, I'm not sure how SyncWizard addresses the problem.
> I don't think you want users to have to copy files over to the Palm
> using Windows Explorer, do you?
> David
> =========================
> David Beers
> Pikesoft Mobile Computing
> www.pikesoft.com
> 719-963-2319

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