The proliferation of wireless devices and core business applications within companies has many IT managers wondering how they'll be able to manage an array of devices and applications that run on different operating systems and servers.
A recent Gartner report says that "enterprises need to support a multitude of wireless devices (phones, pagers, PDAs), many of which workers will purchase individually." Since last year, wireless infrastructure providers and application vendors have been scrambling to offer companies more extensive device and platform support.
"A year ago vendors were only focused on developing products for Palm, but now vendors like Antenna Software, EveryPath, and AlterEgo are touting platforms and applications that are device agnostic," Summit Strategies analyst Jennifer DiMarzio says.
Companies also are looking for enhanced management capabilities to deal with the complexities of managing a plethora of servers for applications running on a variety of wireless devices. Employees want to be able to choose the kinds of devices they're going to use, says Neil Parker, product manager at Infowave Software Inc. "When you're strolling through a concourse in an airport, it's easier to use a cell phone to access small bits of information that could be essential for a big meeting. But to access your company's customer-relationship management system or download large files while on the road, you might want to use something else."
In an attempt to satisfy the needs of business users who want to be able to support an array of devices on a single hardware platform, Infowave last week added support for Research In Motion's BlackBerry 950 and 957 wireless pagers, the Palm OS, and Lotus Notes to its Wireless Business Engine application, which is designed for companies looking to extend back-end applications and information to wireless devices.
Mentor Graphics Corp., a leader in electronic hardware and software design products, is using Infowave's Wireless Business Engine internally so its IT department can have access to Outlook and the company's intranet via notebook PCs, Compaq iPaq devices, and Web-enabled phones. By the end of next year, the Wilsonville, Ore., company plans to roll out the application to about 300 other employees who travel frequently. "The fact that it works across multiple platforms was a very attractive feature to us," says messaging engineer Robert Klohr. "We want to be able to support any standards-based devices that our employees choose to use."
Even so, DiMarzio says, many companies are beginning to set standards and make lists of the types of devices employees can use in-house. Getting on those product lists may be key to the success of major handset makers.