Mobile // Mobile Devices
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4/8/2010
12:50 PM
Art Wittmann
Art Wittmann
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Practical Analysis: Why There's No Enterprise 'App For That'

Smartphones won't take off as true enterprise devices (beyond e-mail) until companies start investing in security.

A lot happens in two years, particularly in the world of smartphones and mobile applications, or at least it seems that way with all the noise about upgraded networks and fancier handsets. When we did our first survey on mobile device management two years ago, the iPhone 3G was barely out and the BlackBerry Curve was all the rage. Enterprise deployment of smartphones was in full swing: 56% of survey respondents had supplied smartphones to up to 25% of their employees, 27% had given them to 26% to 50% of employees, 11% had them out to 51% to 75%, and 6% had equipped every employee with smartphones. The vast majority of those devices were BlackBerrys, and they were used mainly for e-mail and calendar management.

Now two years later (full report to come later this summer), with widely available 3G networks, you'd think that the devices would be more widely used and that the applications would be richer and more varied. You'd be dead wrong. Within the accuracy of our survey, which is within five percentage points, the extent of deployment and the applications in use on smartphones are practically identical to what they were in 2008. E-mail is still the main use by a large margin, and whereas just 30% used a smartphone for job-specific applications in 2008, 31% now report such use. The fraction of employees with smartphones remains the same; they still use mostly BlackBerrys.

It could be that there's limited call for job-specific applications, and that over the past two years those applications have grown from rudimentary designs to more robust enterprise tools. But it seems highly unlikely that everyone who wanted to start down the mobile app path had done so before 2008.

So why do we see such stagnation? Device management is still a work in progress by any measure, even though it's clear that you see the need for it. Whereas in 2008, 52% of you said security was the reason to deploy mobile device management, that's now up to 73%, with the next highest response coming in at 10%. And therein lies the problem.

While the vast majority of you say that unmanaged devices are a security risk, 61% of those not implementing device management identify staffing resources as an issue, up from 46% in 2008; and 32% of you now see mobile device management as too expensive, up from 26%. Simply put, for many organizations IT budgets have been too tight over the past two years to allow them to tackle mobile device security, and until those issues are addressed, few shops are likely to step step up their development or deployment of job-specific applications beyond e-mail and the basic productivity tools that come with the BlackBerry.

This is just one of many examples that have played out in our research recently. It's becoming clearer and clearer that through the depths of this recession, the lack of staff and money to do security right has (correctly) led many organizations to shelve projects that would otherwise be highly beneficial to the business. As the economy improves, however, those same organizations must understand that if the lack of security could stop key business initiatives, then its presence should now be seen just as much as an enabling technology. The days when the value of security was viewed as too difficult to quantify should be behind us.

Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports.

To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.

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