The "App Phone" Predicted

Wayne Rash

There's no question that we're seeing an explosion in the role that smartphones are taking in mobility. BlackBerry devices have grown far beyond the corporate e-mail tethers they once were, to the point that the company says more than half of all BlackBerries are being used by consumers. The Apple iPhone has redefined what many people see as the new paradigm for smartphones. And Google's Android phones are taking up where the iPhone left off to prove that a company besides Apple can produce a sleek, usable phone that does a lot more than make phone calls.

With all of these changes happening at once, there's also no question that all of this is probably driving the IT staff at many companies nuts. After seeing what's already happened over the past year, even in the teeth of a recession, just imagine what's going to happen next year with the economy recovering, smartphones taking on a bigger role, and with new types of smart phones hitting the market on a daily basis.

Well, I talked with one person who does imagine such things, mainly because it's his job. Dan Dearing is vice president of marketing and product management for Trust Digital, a company that makes software for managing enterprise data systems, including the wireless devices that employees use with those data systems. It's Trust Digital's job to find out what the trends are so that the company and its customers can be ready.

Dearing said that he's been talking with his customers to learn about their concerns, and from that he's developed both a set of criteria to determine what trends are important to enterprise customers and he's learned what's taking shape in the world of smartphones. Dearing did note, however, that the transformative forces of the iPhone, the Android phones, and the spreading availability of applications for the smartphones that can support them are changing the way enterprises need to think of them.

Dearing's findings shouldn't surprise anyone that works with smartphones in the enterprise. But that doesn't mean they're not important. Here are his five predictions:

  1. New platforms and devices will change what's required from the IT industry - Dearing said that this centers on the fact that these devices will become less "smartphones" and more what he calls 'app phones,' meaning that you can download and run applications on them as you can on computers. He said that you'll see more IT vendors extend the services that they've developed for laptops to smartphones or app phones.
  2. The Android mobile operating system will take off - Dearing said that Google's hot new operating system will start with consumers, and that will bring it into the enterprise. He said that the IT organization will have its doubts about Android because of the lack of security, but he added that's a 'point in time' issue. He said that he thinks the open source community will produce the encryption required by enterprise users, and that handset vendors may provide hardware encryption as Apple does now.
  3. Mobile application stores will continue to balloon - The availability of applications seems to be the real driver for the adoption of these devices within the enterprise, according to Dearing. He said that enterprises are looking for similar capabilities for their users with a mix of enterprise and consumer applications.
  4. Mobile devices are on a path to eclipse the PC - Dearing quoted an IDC report that said the number of smart mobile devices accessing the Internet is very close to being more than more than the number of laptops and PCs. He notes that the mobile devices accessing the Internet are almost always smartphones.
  5. Increased smartphone use within the enterprise-Dearing said that more and more mobile users want to use their own smartphones where they work, instead of using one that's provided by the company. 'More and more companies are starting to cater to a younger more mobile workforce' Dearing said. 'Now they're moving to a mixed environment so they can use their personal device for e-mail.' He said that IT departments are starting to let users choose their own smart phones and carriers which improves morale and saves the company money.

Dearing noted that the greater use of smartphones instead of laptop computers also means that some of the woes of laptop computers will move to smartphones. Those woes include dealing with lost or stolen devices containing critical company information. In addition, he said that the rapid growth of some devices such as the iPhone is certain to attract the attention of malware distributors.

So the answer to next year's smart phone challenge is to be ready to significantly expand your company's support capabilities. This is a trend you're not going to be able to stop.

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