Just as we do when we look back at old pictures of switchboard operators and manual typewriters, future generations are going to view our world as rather quaint and full of inefficiencies. Sitting in the old rocking chair, remembering the days of laptops and cell phones, we'll have to endure a younger generation's incredulity: "You mean you actually had to dial a phone number? Whoa, it must've been so, like stupid to carry around a big heavy computer everywhere you went. Wow, I bet life was soooo boring before everybody had screens they could fold out of their pockets to watch whatever movie they wanted, or call up the telepresence network to 'be' with friends while they trek through the Andes! I really feel sorry for you!"
Beam me up, Scotty. Here on planet Earth in 2004, IT still has a lot of work to do to accommodate mobile users. Richard Hoffman, in our cover story, considers the evolutionary stages of how IT has responded and should in the future to the explosion in use of personal digital assistants (PDAs). And in a guest Strategic Knowledge column, Frank Bernhard provides insight into the mobile worker productivity debate, and what the CIO can do to enable the business to match technology with objectives.
Have It Your Way
Mobile technology's evolution reminds us that change in distributed systems is nothing if not driven by demand. To serve independent, "no strings attached" users, the IT architecture must be flexible or risk becoming an expensive white elephant. As both Hoffman and Bernhard point out, IT's desire to control risk must be measured against the productivity potential of "actionable" technology.
As nanotechnology accelerates, mobile devices will continue to become smaller, faster, embedded in everything we touch and ever more vital. They will enable real-time interaction with customers, participation in collaborative projects, and access to a global network of intelligence. Breakthroughs in computing form factors will continue to blur distinctions between communication and computing, with exciting products that will attract customers, employees, and executives like bees to honey.
Intelligent Enterprise readers' minds naturally ruminate on how IT will manage all the data to be produced, analyzed, and consumed by mobile devices. This is clearly an opening for vendors. Sybase, with its iAnywhere solutions, immediately comes to mind. Pervasive Software and other embedded database providers have a key role, as well as middleware experts such as Pumatech (after its December 2003 Synchrologic acquisition).
A Word About the Reviews
We've received great feedback about Cindi Howson's ongoing "BI Scorecard" review series. We've also heard from a few vendors and fans of BI suites not included in the comparisons. Howson's series adds tremendous depth to our coverage of how leading products address important functional areas. I would like to remind readers to take advantage of the whole library of Intelligent Enterprise BI product reviews, which includes coverage of some of those not part of this series. You'll find a listing of links to those reviews at our Web site. Plus, as new releases appear, look for coverage of as much of the BI product spectrum as we can muster to help you choose products that best fit your objectives.