The new smartphone barrage started earlier this week with Google's announcement that it was releasing the Nexus One, an Android phone being manufactured by HTC for the company, which it has already started selling through its Web site. This has been followed in quick succession by a series of Android and non-Android phones.
HTC is keeping the pipeline full with its new HTC Smart, which is designed to be a low-cost smartphone aimed primarily at European and Asian users. The company is also launching the HD2, which is a Windows Mobile device to be sold by T-Mobile. Samsung and Motorola are announcing new Android phones, and Texas Instruments and Samsung are teaming up to produce a new projector smartphone that will let you beam images to your wall so you can look at them more easily. At last, an end for the required reading glasses to use your phone.
The good news is that you'll have a lot of your employees who are willing to pay for their own smartphones, if only so they can have the latest and coolest device in the office. The bad news is that you have to deal with more complexity. And there's more bad news. While there are a few new Windows Mobile phones, Blackberries and iPhones, which are relatively easy to integrate into your enterprise and which can be made to meet compliance and security regulations, there are many more that are not.
As I've mentioned before, the burgeoning crop of Android devices will surely start showing up at your doorstep with owners eager to bring their phones to work. Now that Android has enterprise quality e-mail it can be tempting to give in. After all, you can use a secure connection to your Exchange e-mail and Android can use that. You can also start using the new Android client from Good Technology, which provides encrypted e-mail.
But the problem goes beyond encrypting the e-mail transmission. The rest of the platform has to be as secure as any other computer on your network, and for the most part, the new crop of smartphones isn't. While Android will likely get an enterprise-quality security solution from the open source community, with some smartphones, it's by no means a sure thing.
What this means is that you're going to have to make some decisions. First, you have to decide whether the time has come to allow employees to use their own smartphones in the enterprise. Many companies are already allowing this, as long as the employees agree to use the required security and to allow their devices to be inspected for compliance. Then you have to decide what level of customer support you're willing to provide.
The problem of customer support isn't trivial. Even for devices with the same operating system, there are differences in how they're configured, how their e-mail and internet access are set up, and differences in how they're secured.
Finally, you have to decide what you're going to do when employees lose their smartphones. And, yes, they will lose them. Will you institute a mandatory reporting requirement? Will you cut off the employee's access to the enterprise? You may find yourself willing to approve only devices that can be locked or wiped remotely.