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Mobile OS Proliferation Continues

IT departments need to reset their attitudes about the variety of personal mobile devices showing up in the workplace, panel tells Interop 2012 audience.

The Best of Interop 2012
The Best of Interop 2012
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Employees will be bringing an increasing variety and style of mobile devices to work in the coming years and IT organizations need to learn to manage the invasion rather than resisting it, a group of experts said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Interop show in Las Vegas.

"There will be pressure to use business apps on any device, that's a big mind shift for IT," said Adam Blum, CEO of Rhomobile, which offers a cross-platform app development framework called Rhodes. "You should assume a world of greater device diversity."

Indeed, Blum and other panelists noted that multiple operating systems are emerging even from the same vendors. Google has several versions of Android, and Microsoft appears still committed to Windows Embedded Handheld even as it develops Windows Phone 8 with the enterprise in mind while pitching Windows Phone 7 at consumers.

"If we come back here a year from now there will be at least 15 OSes that IT may need to support," said Blum.

[ Mobile is growing in importance. Read 10% Of Web Traffic Now From Mobile Devices. ]

While this proliferation may tempt IT departments to try and dictate which devices and platforms employees can use, panelists said that's a mistake in the age of BYOD (bring your own device). "Employees don't want to deal with IT as it is," said Forrester analyst Christian Kane. "They will start looking on their own for ways to meet needs that IT is not meeting."

Andrew Braunberg, an analyst at Current Analysis, said the fact that employees are increasingly looking to use their personal smartphones and tablets while in the office or on the road means that IT will need to develop a more open approach to device management. "IT's relationship with employees needs a reset because they now have all these options," said Braunberg.

"Even the warehouse workers want to use their iPhones on the job," added Frost & Sullivan analyst Michael Brandenburg.

But while the panel said mobile heterogeneity in the workplace is inevitable, one attendee said businesses need to find a happy medium between accommodating workers' choices and ensuring security and compliance. "It's called managed BYOD," said Brian Katz, director of mobility engineering at Sanofi. Katz said employees at the pharmaceutical company can use whatever device they like, "as long as we can put a secure container on it."

Katz also said IT departments can steer employees toward certain mobile platforms by making more resources available for them. "If you tell them what they can get access to, they'll buy the device you want."

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