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Managing Mobility

Mobile innovation is moving from hardware to software – are organisations ready?

Created: 03 Jan 2013 • Updated: 25 Jun 2013
Will Redfield's picture
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Mobility is arriving at a plateau. The very fact that the iPhone 5 was met with more of a mixed reaction than previous iterations is testament to the fact that it is not enough for a device to simply be a smartphone. Indeed, it is ironic that most of the criticisms stemmed from its absence of ‘innovative’ features – NFC communications, for example.

No doubt the debate will rage on about who has stolen what feature from whom. Behind the rhetoric however is a fundamental point – that advanced mobile devices have arrived, in all shapes and sizes. Until the next major innovation in form factors, the hardware conversation is largely complete. It’s not just Apple – Samsung, Microsoft and all other players are in the same boat.

Almost inevitably, attention moves away from the platform to the applications, as the opportunity to innovate and differentiate moves up the stack. We’re not seeing any loss of appetite here, nor a slow-down in new app releases. Indeed, the model is totally different: rather than leaving innovation with a small number of very large companies, the app landscape is far more diverse and dynamic.

As attention moves from hardware to software, so do the challenges of management and security. We know from Symantec’s recent Global State of Mobility survey that 71% of organisations are now looking at custom applications for themselves. Couple this with outside forces, such as the quite natural desire for an employee to hunt out and download an app, and the end result is a whole set of new challenges – from increased help desk calls to the occasional loss of data.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that management and security features are also moving from the device to software. What we know of as Mobile Device Management is now largely commoditized through the standardization efforts of industry organisations such as the Open Mobile Alliance. Attention is shifting to the applications, through initiatives around (the inevitably named) Mobile Application Management, which focuses more on individual applications and the data they control.

Used right, mobile technologies make us more effective in our working lives and nobody would want to put a restriction on innovation, which is the life blood of business. But even as the curve starts to level off in terms of mobile hardware, the momentum in applications shows no signs of dissipating. This is not a problem in itself, as long as IT decision makers recognize it and put enabling strategies and indeed, tools for management and security in place early on. Otherwise, they could be faced with all of the cost and none of the benefit, to the advantage of nobody.