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Just how irrelevant are devices?

Created: 13 Jun 2011 • Updated: 25 Jun 2013
Symantec Analyst Relations's picture
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The battle for brand loyalty in the mobile space continues to be hard fought, with players such as Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung duking it out on devices, and Google, Microsoft and Apple in terms of operating systems. Understandably so – the consumer in most of us is a follower of fashion, with only a minority buying a device purely on functionality. 

Given amount of noise generated on comparison sites, forums and blogs, not to mention in pubs, cafes and elsewhere, how can Enrique Salem claim that devices are irrelevant? “You don't really care what device you have,” he says. “If you have a BlackBerry device or an Apple device or a Motorola device, that's not what matters.” How does this square with that very human desire to share the experience of what’s current?

Fashion has a short memory. According to Gartner’s latest figures Nokia may remain market leader in terms of units shipped, but it is no longer the darling of the industry; meanwhile, Google’s Android has come from seemingly nowhere to take the number one slot in terms of smartphone operating system shipments. Few analysts would dare make a prediction about what the worldwide market for devices will look like in two years time: there are too many unknowns, not least the increasing impact of tablet devices on both smartphone and netbook sales.

In other words, while individuals may believe they care – quite deeply in some cases – about the device they currently have, this may well change based on the arrival of new form factors, usage models and indeed, what their peers pick up and use. When it comes to security and risk management, starting from the perspective of the device immediately introduces levels of complexity that hinder rather than help.

What matters more than the device is the data that it stores or accesses. Decades ago, bright sparks working at the leading edge of IT recognised that in business, while the mechanisms we use to view and modify data may change dramatically over time, the things we want to do with that data remain relatively slow moving. For example, a doctor will want to see a patient record, or a sales person will want to access product information today, just as they did decades ago and probably in twenty years’ time.

Usage does change according to the device – smart phones enable us to do things with information that were not possible in the past, for example take a photo on the scene of a car accident for insurance purposes. As mobile devices become more powerful and better connected, we will no doubt think of new things to do with them.

At each stage we should be thinking about the risks associated with such activities, in terms of data protection, fraud prevention, leakage, personal privacy and so on. All of these areas will continue to be important, regardless of whether a device is an iPhone, or a pen-shaped capsule with a holographic projector for a screen. In our hearts and minds, devices may be very personal but from a technological perspective we need to see past the shiny screens and logos, and remain focused on what they enable, for better or worse.