Oracle has released a new design tool it claims will allow office workers to “easily create” highly interactive analytics applications. Oracle BI Mobile App Designer includes a drag-and-drop interface that allows users to merge visual data (graphs and tables, for example) with datasets and images to create custom apps. The software features a simulator for testing out in-development apps on mobile devices; in a nod to the increasing prevalence of touch-screens, the apps can be enabled for tapping and swiping. As with so many other platforms, Oracle’s also thrown in an App Library, a repository for both apps and updates. In theory, that can allow everyone within a particular organization to stay up-to-date on the latest custom-app iterations. Any apps created using Oracle’s software run via HTML5 on Apple iOS, Google Android, and, according to Oracle, Windows Mobile—by which they probably mean Windows Phone, since Windows Mobile is an ancient operating system no longer in active production. (If they really mean Windows Mobile, it suggests there’s still an audience for software that saw its best days when George W. Bush was still president, which is a little terrifying.) Of course, the term “easy to use” means radically different things to different people, depending on their tech background and training. “A point-and-click and drag-and-drop graphical user interface (GUI) may be a nirvana of intuitiveness to an information management pro who started his computer career working with punch cards or green-screen terminals,” Forrester analyst Boris Evelson wrote in an email to PC World, “but to a younger generation of knowledge workers brought up on search GUI from Google and social media GUI from Facebook, a point-and-click GUI may not be as obvious or natural.” Oracle also envisions its app designer as a component of its larger Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite, and ideal for filtering data from Oracle’s data-analytics platforms. That leaves open the question of whether, in a data-analytics landscape filled with disparate platforms and functionalities (many of them totally incompatible with each other), this is a platform that can play well with others, so to speak. In any case, Oracle faces a good deal of competition in this particular endeavor, as any number of IT vendors in the space are working to make data apps more intuitive and customizable. That gives more options to workers worldwide, but it also raises some very big questions about what “ease of use” truly means.   Image: Odua Images/