The recent proliferation of mobile devices and their use in workplaces has become an important and integral part in every business strategy. From just voice-centric communication devices, today’s complex devices have become an important tool for business enterprise. All this happened due to changes in the lifestyle and attitude of consumers. By matching and combining consumers’ wants and needs, manufacturers have brought different mobile platforms to the forefront. Organizations which have adopted most of these devices are gaining over their competitors. With the entrance of different mobile platforms in the market, enterprise mobility is experiencing both a revolution and a dilemma from deciding which platform will be beneficial for them.
All platforms have different characteristics. Thus, the million-dollar question is which mobile platform will suit particular enterprise IT leaders or corporations in their business ventures.
The ruling mobile platforms whose capabilities have impressed corporate to date include iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian. As the number of mobile platforms shoots through the roof, enterprises need to put in place a robust strategy to evaluate the one which will serve their needs for a long period of time.
The Open OS
By Open OS, we mean the ability to be able to control and manage devices without OEM intervention.
From a software perspective, an Open OS is important as it allows developers to build applications which can interact with other applications running on the device. From a hardware perspective, Open OS is important as it allows integration with third-party hardware such as a BT printer, bar code scanner and so on, to meet specific business needs. Here are some of the parameters on which we evaluated the openness of a mobile platform from hardware and software perspectives:
As you can see, most of the mobile platforms fail on some and pass on some. The key is to pick the OS which meets most of the future needs of your enterprise.
Moving from iPhone to iPad
Corporations or individuals who are loyal to the Apple brand swear by it and would not like to relocate to any other platform, even though they’d be sacrificing core enterprise apps like SharePoint, Office and Exchange, available in Windows platform. According to Bill French, Co-founder of MyST Technology Partners Inc., “Apple products increase the productivity and are rich in features”.
Email. Apple's iPhone and iPad carry Yahoo! push e-mail, Gmail push e-mail (via Google Sync) and Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync platforms, and help in synchronizing e-mail, calendars and contacts with a Microsoft Exchange Server, Zimbra, NuevaSync or Kerio Connect. Apple also offers its indigenous MobileMe subscription service for push email, contacts, and calendars.
AppStore. The Apple Appstore launched in July 2008 and already has more than 150,000 applications, with more than 3 billion downloads so far. It still ranks highest among consumers. Some apps offer 3D support which can be leveraged to allow customers to interact with your business via your desktop. The task of apps developers has become challenging as the competition to create useful devices heats up.
Security features. As soon as particular mobile platforms get recognition, they become the easy target of worldwide criminals, thus malware, viruses, phishing and spam become common problems. iPhone 3G’s security is reportedly too weak and can be cracked easily with some free software, though security has been ramped up with the new iPhone 4.0 OS. Some of its noteworthy security features include Geo location, used to trace your phone’s location if you lose it; Auto-erase, to help you erase the contents in your phone if you lose it, and Data encryption, to help you password-protect important business data.
Battery. Random studies have shown that iPhone users are satisfied with the performance of their battery life. According to Apple, after 300 or 400 charges its battery starts losing capacity, something to be considered while making up your mind whether to go with iPhone.
iPad. Some analysts have predicted that, like iPhones, iPad is going to convince the corporate slowly and steadily via the consumer door, as iPad has been labeled a consumer device. But some analysts are of the view that iPads are going to replace notebooks in the near future. But when we glance at the number of features offered by iPad and even iPhone—they do not support the use of flash, have low battery capacity of around 2.5 hours and can store only 64 GB of data—we can say that it will be difficult for them to replace notebooks.
RIM’s Blackberry, coupled with Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES), is a complete business mobile phone providing IT managers adequate control to manage these devices, a key factor in Enterprise Mobility. RIM’s continued growth is much ahead of its competitors at 35.7% year after year, as reported by IDC, and 40.8% as reported by Canalys. Though its stronghold is North America, RIM has shown significant improvement internationally.
Email. RIM's BlackBerry utilizes wireless Mail User Agent devices and a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which is attached to a traditional e-mail system and is perhaps the feature which almost all enterprises want. RIM's BES has been the preferred solution for managing these devices and for providing secure access to corporate email.
AppWorld. The Blackberry Appworld was launched in April 2009 and has around 3,000 applications. Though this might sound low, the fact that Blackberry allows direct publishing of applications on their devices infers that a lot of applications get deployed on the mobile devices without going to AppWorld. Enterprise apps such as Documents To Go, Empower InstaSpell, eOffice 4.6, Mobile Office Suite and File Manager Pro ensure that enterprises get all that they need.
Security. Its security features include: IBM Lotus Notes Email Encryption Support, and the BlackBerry Signing Authority Tool can help protect access to the functionality and data of third-party applications. Depending on corporate security requirements, BlackBerry smartphones support HTTPS communication via Proxy and End to End mode.
Battery. BlackBerry use a Lithium-ion battery which, after every 30 charges, exhausts 10-15% of its capacity.
Android mobile platform
Google Android has been able to match the excitement first seen with the iPhone launch and has, in fact, beaten Apple to the first $1M sales figure. Android is a developer-friendly platform, allowing them to build rich and interactive apps due to the presence of rich C/C++ libraries which can be used readily by developers. The Android, however, is primarily a consumer device first, due to limited backend support for IT managers.
Email. Push e-mail support is based on Microsoft's ActiveSync platform, including push GMail through a freeware K-9 (an open source email client), and supports IMAP idle.
Android Market. The Android Market launched in November 2008 and has more than 38,000 applications and continues to be the fastest-growing marketplace after Apple’s Appstore.
Security. Google’s Android has a long way to go to become secure. Security researcher Charlie Miller confirms that repeated hacks are a sign that Google's relatively new software is "a little immature" from a security standpoint, compared to others, such as Windows or Mac OS, that have been field-tested for years by security firms.
Battery. Users report that within three hours’ time it sucks 68% of its capacity.
Nokia's Symbian is now an open source software designed specifically for mobile devices and smartphones. It runs solely on ARM processors and is a descendant of Psion's EPOC. Around 46.9% of Smartphones still run on Symbian OS. One interesting factor which keeps this platform apart from its competitors is that Symbian devices can be programmed by using Flashlite, JAVA ME, Python, .NET, Web Runtime (WRT) widgets and C++. Such is the flexibility of Symbian. Given the market penetration of Symbian, it has significant interest for enterprises in the form of a second platform.
Email. Symbian’s platform is based on Exchange ActiveSync technology, which is licensed directly from Microsoft. RoadSync offers secure, wireless and direct push synchronization of corporate e-mail, contacts, calendar, tasks and attachments - all in one affordable, scalable and easy-to-manage package.
Ovi Store. This platform was launched in May 2009 and has not gained much traction, with slightly more than 1000 applications.
Security. Symbian OS 9.X uses a UNIX-style capability model which is far superior from its previous versions, where viruses used to land in smartphones through Bluetooth devices.
Windows 7 platform (yet to be launched)
Windows 7 mobile platform is going to be released by the end of this year. Various analysts have said that it has the feel of an iPhone or a Google Android. Being a Windows mobile phone, it is surely going to have Microsoft Sharepoint and Windows integration, which are musts for most enterprises. The other important feature of this platform would be the presence of Office Hub, offering the ability to create and edit Microsoft Office documents like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The presence of Microsoft Office One Note 2007 would help users gather, search, type and quickly create digitally handwritten notes along with text, pictures, audio and video recordings. These facilities and apps are not present in iPhone, iPad and Android platforms, and could be a big advantage for Windows Phone 7.
We expect this device to find its way quite comfortably into enterprise through top executives, as it will help them toggle between their personal interests and work. The only flaw this platform could have is its incompatibility with various Windows Mobile 6.x programs and apps that organizations are already using. One more point to ponder before switching to this platform: This interface has been built on Silverlight and XNA, which are touted as gaming platforms.
As of now there is no word about its battery performance.
By far this is the only platform that was complete enough to be called Open but unfortunately, its usability/ user experience, due to hardware constraints, could not take it to the desired heights. Even after having all the great features in the OS/ device, it will do well only if it is liked by the end users/ consumers, but that too looks remote, given the huge problems that Palm is facing.
All in all it can’t be said who the real winner is in this crowd of mobility platforms, though Blackberry does have a lead, amongst others.
It all depends on organizations to adopt the platform which suits them the most and through which their organization’s productivity could be enhanced. However, the chosen platform should be secure and open, so that it could be easily adapted as per their requirements.
The perfect combination of consumerability and enterprisability would win.
We at Technology Consulting Group (TCG) at Endeavour – the mobility company, continuously research emergent mobile technologies and key mobility trends to provide reliable solutions and strategic advice to organizations looking to leverage mobility. The TCG evaluates business, IT, Mobile complexities and provides specific advice on the choice of mobile platforms and mobile applications – complete product lifecycle, the ROI and the common pitfalls.