Smartphones Call out to Consumers

Carl Weinschenk

Any difference between consumer and business 3G is fading.

 

Indeed, clinging to outmoded delineations between sectors is roughly the equivalent of 40-year-olds thinking about television as the handful of channels that existed in broadcast-only days. We're beginning to have trouble keeping track of the ways in which people can gain access to programming.

 

3G as a business-heavy sector will fade as well. There is an entire generation of smartphones and related portable devices emerging that is highly convergent and aimed squarely at consumers. Some examples are Microsoft's Zune -- a music player with Wi-Fi capabilities -- and smartphones such as the Nokia E62, the Samsung BlackJack and the Palm Treo 680. To top it all off, Apple -- the doyen of hip consumer electronics -- appears to be on the verge of introducing the iPhone which, as the name suggests, will combine the iPod with 3G cellular voice.

 

This means a lot for business convergence, and the news is mostly good. The emergence of a thriving consumer smartphone market means there will be a tremendous amount of research and development money to be had. Of course, the applications will differ -- music and video downloads are not business applications.

 

Whatever the particular applications are, both business and consumer smartphones will require the same stable and reliable underlying structure. A person sitting on a train will use the same device to access IPTV as the person sitting across the aisle who is attending a sales meeting remotely.


 

What may change, however, is step up. An analyst quoted near the end of a TechWeb story makes the important point that what is loaded onto these converged devices will be different. For instance, a smartphone used for business may have a healthy dose of security software absent from a teenager's iPhone.

 

Many people -- especially in small and medium-sized businesses -- use their smartphones for both business and pleasure. What may be different is the security risks of using poorly protected smartphones as a business tool. This will become more common if the consumer electronics sales channel dominates smartphone sales.

 

It's clear that, all things considered, the growth of consumer smartphones is a good thing for the sector. IT departments must be proactive and ensure that devices being used by employees have the business-grade security features and software that is increasingly required for regulatory compliance.

 

The opportunities will continue to grow as smartphones get cheaper and more powerful -- as will the risks of using them.



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