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The practitioner's view of wireless

Just don't forget basic IT principles

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Mobile workshop Our recent wireless workshop has demonstrated yet again that the genuine experts in any area are the people out there doing it for real. Indeed, we saw a number of examples of pragmatic “non trendy” opinions coming back from experienced Reg Readers that don’t necessarily tally with some of the more idealistic views we often hear from the pundits and the press (Reg journalists excluded, of course).

On the topic of what’s important in a business class handheld device, for example, battery life and decent voice support were top of the list, with the more “newsworthy” stuff like cameras, GPS and Voice over WiFi coming towards the bottom. The big message to the mobile industry here is that business customers would much prefer vendors and service providers to get the basics right before messing around with bells and whistles.

This very pragmatic view is also reflected in the way in which those living in the real world deal with the opposing pulls of users wanting the latest, sexiest kit, while IT people want everything to be properly secured, managed and supported. Too often we hear the romantic view from analysts that modern mobile devices are breaking down the barriers between personal and business interests and that IT people have to accept the way this is changing user expectations of freedom of choice.

No romantics

All very well and philosophically “right on”, until your internal helpdesk and user satisfaction are crippled by users wanting assistance with a myriad of different devices that support technicians can’t possibly keep up with, and the development guys complain about the impossibility of designing, building and testing applications cost effectively when they have no idea of the spec and form factor of the target environment. It’s no surprise then that we were consistently told by those with more than a handful of mobile users that while it is important to take user wants and needs on board, the only practical approach is to stick to a pre-defined range of devices that IT is happy can be properly secured, managed and supported.

And the need to deal with IT realities such as these brings us onto another of the areas we looked at in the workshop - the question of BlackBerry versus Windows Mobile-based email architectures. Again, pragmatics came through strongly, and given the depth and volume of feedback received from readers with experience of these environments (often both of them), there can be little doubt that the BlackBerry solution wins hands down when it comes to management and control in a production environment.

Mixed emotions were clearly evident here, however, with some implying they wished things were otherwise because they perceived the Microsoft client platform to be more open, capable and flexible (now there’s a turn up for the books!). But when push comes to shove, you have to be able to manage stuff effectively, so for the time being, at least, BlackBerry remains the platform of choice for most IT professionals when considering serious deployments.

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