Air Pressure: Why IT Must Sort Out App Mobilization Challenges
Equipping mobile employees with the feature-rich applications and highly functional devices they need to maximize productivity has never been easy. But if you wait for market forces to impose a clearer road map, you risk falling behind competitors.
The path to application mobilization is more confusing than ever. Today's smartphones are powerful computers with substantial processing power and storage. They represent the cutting edge of the computing industry, incorporating innovations in form factors, user interfaces, applications, and operating systems.
And therein lies the problem: Intense innovation has led us to multiple smartphone platforms, more than 100,000 applications for the iPhone alone, mobile support from enterprise application vendors, a variety of 3GL and 4GL development environments, powerful browser technologies, and various mobile middleware platforms. It's one thing to deploy wireless e-mail to your workers. It's quite another to do so in combination with real-time access to enterprise applications such as CRM. Throw in the need for device management and security, and it's no wonder that IT architects can feel overwhelmed. While every situation is unique, we can provide some guiding principles to streamline the number of options you have to examine. We'll focus particularly on the choice of Web vs. native development.The latter is becoming reasonable even when multiple platforms must be supported, and write once, run anywhere development environments are increasingly mature.
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One course that's probably not an option: sitting tight until the calculation gets easier. The number of platforms and approaches isn't about to decline. And your best and brightest employees aren't likely to wait patiently.
One survey respondent, the CTO of advertising agency 22squared, sums up why we need to figure this out: "People do not wait to sit at their desks to think, have ideas, contact customers," says Robert Isherwood. "Work is a verb."
Of the 695 business technology pros responding to our November 2009 InformationWeek Analytics Application Mobilization Survey, 42% say their organizations will deploy mobile applications on smartphones within the next 12 months, with an additional 11% saying they will do so in 12 to 24 months. Only 21% of these respondents, however, indicate enterprise-wide adoption, with 42% pointing to department-specific deployments. In some cases, the economy is to blame for delays.
"The cost of PC phones/smartphones and unlimited services is still too high to allow everyone who can benefit from the devices" to have one, says one public-sector IT director. "It's hard to justify with the budget being so tight."
As for the market leaders, BlackBerry continues to dominate in business settings, with 61% of the respondents who are deploying smartphone applications citing widespread BlackBerry usage. What shocked us, however, is how quickly the iPhone has penetrated enterprises: 27% say the iPhone has widespread use. Windows Mobile (which we expected to be in second place) is at 24%, and Google Android is at 6%. Symbian, the world's leading smartphone OS, continues to struggle to get U.S. business attention, accounting for only 3%, with Palm Pre doing marginally better at 5%.
E-mail has long been the most popular smartphone app, and that's still the case, with 85% of the survey respondents who are deploying smartphone applications citing widespread e-mail use, followed by general-purpose Internet access at 54%, instant messaging at 44%, PIM functions at 33%, and CRM at 23%.