Back in July, I asserted that Your Next PC Just May Be a Smartphone. While that's a little heavy on the hyperbole, there's no question that both consumers and companies are showing strong interest in smartphones and other handhelds.
About a month-and-a-half ago, IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk predicted that the smartphone will really take off in 2008, thanks to market forces like the iPhone and Google's Android mobile development platform.
In fact, it seems that nothing can hold back the mobility market -- unless it's the bewildering array of devices, networks, applications and (Android notwithstanding) operating systems. While this is confusing enough for consumers, it can be downright daunting for companies that want to outfit large workforces.
Some, like restaurant chain Au Bon Pain, are outsourcing their mobility projects to specialists. As detailed in an InfoWorld article, a startup called Enterprise Mobile is selecting the devices, handling contract negotiations with vendors, and helping Au Bon Pain's internal development team port applications from the desktop to the mobile environment.
Says the chain's senior vice president of IT:
There's only so much we can do with almost unlimited demand on IT resources. Some projects you simply have to outsource. This is very nascent technology; we believe it will be very powerful for us in the long run, but we don't have the same level of access to carriers or Microsoft that a dedicated outsourcing partner could offer.
The CEO of Enterprise Mobile says more enterprises will turn to companies like his as strategies for mobility mature and prove to be more time- and labor-intensive than internal IT departments may have realized.
Dan Shey, an ABI Research analyst, agrees with the Enterprise Mobile exec in his recent interview with IT Business Edge. He notes that few companies are even taking advantage of such seemingly obvious strategies as reducing their mobility costs through shared-minutes plans.
The increasing complexity of mobile devices makes outsourcing an attractive option, says Shey, though some IT departments may resist because of their desire to "have more control over all the systems and the devices that are under their purview." A question mark is the still-developing relationship between mobile device management platform providers and mobility service providers. Shey says:
There are mobile device management platforms out there already but also other vendors creating mobile device management platforms that are service-specific. It will be interesting to see how all those different players position themselves as platforms to help manage mobile service within the enterprise. It will be interesting to see how the mobile device management platform providers and the mobility service providers work together in a cooperative manner to manage the services within the enterprise.