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Evolution of mobile devices

When it comes to handsets, the range of views we received suggested the existence of many disjoints in the complicated mix of manufacturers, service providers, sales channels, and business needs.

Even the companies that have worked through this and have formed a mobile device strategy still say it's a challenge having to contend with rapidly evolving handsets and peripherals that are rarely backwards compatible, and which often seem to have been developed in a vacuum devoid of business user input. There's also the suspicion that features trumpeted by manufacturers are oversold, appealing to vanity rather than a business requirement.

This doesn't help companies that want to adopt a best practice approach to procurement. Some people are clearly happy with the BlackBerry's thumb keyboard and click wheel, and don't care that some of the other applications beyond email are not felt to be as good as those on a Windows Mobile PDA; others would like a workhorse handset like the Nokia 6110i to have mobile email support (there was significant support for this idea during a poll).

Because the expectation is that a mobile device is carried around all the time, businesses and suppliers need to come up with a balance of function and form that satisfies the business requirements but which doesn't embarrass the person carrying the device around.

There's clearly some work to done here, and it is still a challenge coming up with the right mix of devices for the workforce. Regardless of the outcome here, though, many will undoubtedly end up agreeing with the view of the reader that said:

"Yes, we will soon carry two devices. One for the boss and one for the rest of the world."

Fixed/mobile convergence

Our last topic was converged services, particularly those that are emerging as a way of bridging the gap between fixed and mobile access.

There was some interesting feedback both in the form of comments and poll votes that suggested cost savings and convenience of billing would be a driver for many. Comments such as this one sum up some of the issues here that convergence might address:

"Managing multiple bills and networks and suppliers is becoming one of the biggest pains in my life – and we're only a 50 man company. I must spend a month a year on this and it really is laughable."

Beyond cost and billing consolidation, quite a few others (over half in our poll) said converged services would need to deliver a more convenient and effective experience to be attractive, with coherent mechanisms of access across fixed and various forms of mobile for both telephony and data.

From the feedback received overall, it is clear there is a lot of interest in converged services, but the feeling by many is that things still need to settle down and become better defined before they will be ready to commit to converged offerings for serious business use.

Perhaps there is a call to action here for service providers to make sure propositions are clearly presented to the business audience so they understand the practicalities as well as the top line vision.

Conclusion

Mobile technologies are clearly moving forward at a rapid rate and the arrival of wireless email and data solutions for accessing other types of application is already adding real value to many businesses.

There are some challenges in moving forward with the technology, not least caused by the rapid development that is taking place in the industry, the disjoints that are resulting from this, and the fact that the channels often used for mobile delivery outside the largest enterprise accounts are not really skilled at selling mobile data solutions.

The issue of security remains a concern, but the emphasis seems to be shifting from the technology to the softer issues of user training and responsibility. This reflects a certain amount of maturing of attitudes that has come from early experiences over the past few years.

Against this background, it is clear that the same discipline and due diligence must be employed when rolling out mobile technology as we are used to with other IT solutions that are critical to the business. This includes business case development, informed and controlled selection of equipment and services, sound technical planning and proper user training.

According to our readers, these seem to be the keys to success – easy really! ®

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