As the divide between personal and work mobile devices erodes, let's take some time to explore some companies and ideas that may drive changes in the mobile world for the rest of 2012.
A few months back, some interesting tidbits were provided from RIM’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, in an analyst call.
Notably, the Canadian mobile device and messaging company appears to be exploring a potential sale (nothing new) and is clearly focusing on its business customers -- not the consumer market -- for which it has no real offering until 2013 at best. Heins also revealed to have pushed back against the wishes of RIM co-founder Jim Balsille to open the Blackberry Messenger service to other devices.
As opposed to beating up on RIM (which is all a bit unfair at this point and I think that Balsille was in the right), I want to examine the concept of focusing purely on the business as opposed to consumers as with regards to mobility. Does it make sense in 2012 to have a mobile platform play that ignores the driving force behind IT purchases -- the consumer?
Gone are the days where we use separate mobile technology for our work and personal lives unless of course we are talking about very specialized integrated devices (logistics, medicine, engineering, science).
Standout services that used to drive enterprise mobile device sales, like the “direct connect” service that built Nextel into a major presence, are being rapidly eroded by cross-platform communications apps such as Lync, Voxer and Tango.
A few companies / concepts that come to mind (other than Apple, RIM and Google-related terms) that may help shape mobility in the rest of 2012 are:
- Near Field Communication
In comes technology that will see itself in more and more devices this year -- Near Field Communication (NFC). Among other uses, NFC is allowing shoppers (just like myself) to purchase items instantly using their mobile devices.
The largest hurdle for NFC to clear in order to be part of a “mobile wallet” solution has been the US telecoms. Entrenched players like Verizon have long viewed mobile payments as an offering that would easily integrate into existing cellular billing paradigms. Instead, offerings directly from payment processors and third parties (Google) have cut the cellular provider out of the mobile commerce equation.
This direction may be an organic result of consumers not wanting to trust their service provider to also be the provider of mobile payment services. It also may be the result of platform providers such as Google being much more adept and agile in the mobile space.
We should also not lose sight of other benefits to NFC technology, namely rapid, ad-hoc sharing between consumers and businesses alike.
Cisco is clearly headed down in the corporate-driven mobile sales cycle with its Cius offering, but Cisco already has inroads with enterprise hardware buyers and channel partners around the world for a large catalog of products and services, so they may be a rare exception in the mobile device market. There is an opportunity for Cisco to take control of a bulk of the modern slab-based integrated device market simply because they are already there.
Interestingly enough though, Cisco is at the forefront of corporate Bring Your Own Device initiatives, deploying nearly 55,000 employee-owned, corporate-managed smartphones and tablets to date where they have realized around 20 percent cost reductions according to their own CIO.
As IT becomes more and more commoditized, a basic transparency is evolving where educated buyers may begin to question why a company doesn’t practice what they preach.
As a result of SAP’s stewardship of Sybase, they have already been at the forefront of the Enterprise software players when it comes to mobility. With the Unwired and Afaria platforms, SAP has infrastructure options in place. They have a large marketing push with the Mobility Manifesto (kudos to Eric Lai and his team on the great work).
Whereas all of that makes sense, where I see SAP truly setting the bar is with their embrace of a Hybrid Application / HTML5 model to mobile applications development.
SAP has recently announced partnerships with Adobe, Sencha and Appcelerator. All three are major players in the mobile framework arena and creating a level of legitimacy to the Enterprise crowd to adopt these development technologies (PhoneGap, Sencha Touch and Titanium SDK) will do wonders for the approach to Enterprise Mobility within many organizations.
IBM and Microsoft are both trying to position themselves similarly, but SAP is doing quite well to stay one step ahead of the game.
Recently, SAP released a demo of a new sales application running on the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which clearly indicates that they are aligning themselves with whoever could possibly be a player in mobility for some time to come. They are too large a company to not hedge their bets.
Thoughts for the Rest of 2012
Mobile technology has grown in “dog years,” so who knows what else may come into play by fourth quarter. We will all have to wait and see.
Title image courtesy of SVLuma (Shutterstock).
Editor's Note: To read more of Dan Lewis's articles: