Oracle is latching on to the self-service BI (business intelligence) trend with a new tool for creating HTML5-based mobile applications.

BI Mobile App Designer, which was announced yesterday, runs in a browser and has a drag-and-drop design format. Users can mash together graphs, tables and other types of data "to create mobile analytical apps tailor-made to their lines of business," Oracle said.

The experience is "as easy as working with common office productivity tools," Oracle claimed.

Oracle's use of HTML5 means the applications can run across iOS, Android and Windows Mobile devices. Users are able to share mobile applications through a catalog called App Library, according to the announcement.

BI Mobile App Designer is part of Oracle's Business Intelligence Foundation Suite, which lists for $300,000 per processor licence, and uses the same security model. The company said that it's also included with the BI Mobile option for Oracle BI Enterprise Edition.

Oracle is positioning BI Mobile App Designer as a self-service product that end-users can work with without the ongoing help of IT. But Forrester analyst Boris Evelson said that there are a number of caveats to consider.

"The self-service' term has many interpretations, it's not just yes or no," Evelson said. "There are many shades of grey."

For one thing, "'intuitive and 'user friendly' are subjective terms, Evelson explained in a Forrester Report on self-service BI released last year: "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, 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."

Forrester breaks out more than 20 criteria for self-service BI, such as whether the tool includes automatic data modelling, collaboration capabilities and data virtualisation for tying together multiple data sources, rather than forcing users to wait until IT creates a new data mart within a central data warehouse.

Overall, in most self-service BI cases, IT still has to set up the infrastructure to source and extract data, as well as integrate and model the information before users can start working with a self-service tool, Evelson said.

However, data-exploration and discovery tools are separate from this, in that they don't need to work with clean, integrated and modeled data, Evelson added.