One of the big stories here at 3GSM is the return of the mobile enterprise as an industry-wide priority. I have seen more mobile enterprise devices and services at this show than at any wireless show since 2002.The wireless industry has long had a love/hate relationship with enterprise IT. In the 1990s, everyone wanted to sell to the enterprise. Then the industry shifted to consumers in the late 1990s when digital cell phones became affordable. After the dot-com and telecom bubbles burst in the early 2000s, the wireless industry went back to the enterprise IT market, but thanks to the downturn, IT managers weren't in a mood to spend. Meanwhile, wireless remained hot with consumers, even through the recession and downturn.
So, how did mobile enterprise return to the wireless spotlight? Unlike the 1990s or early 2000s, enterprise customers now know what app they want: Push e-mail. And mobile enterprise 2.0 (did I just coin that or was it the zeitgeist here in Barcelona?) is a mishmash of both enterprise and consumer applications.
In addition to e-mail, another factor prompting the return of mobile enterprise is the smartphone. Smartphones are cheaper than they used to be and they're easier to use. There are now smartphones on the market available for under $250 and there are even smartphones that cost less than $100 (with carrier rebates). This means more professionals, not just senior executives, can afford mobile technology. Smartphones have migrated down from the C-suite into office cubicles and out to other professionals, including accountants, doctors, and real estate agents.
The third factor pushing mobile enterprise 2.0 is the availability of faster wireless networks. 3G (third-generation wireless networks, for you nonwireless readers) means professionals can use their smartphones to rapidly download e-mail, surf the Web, and download music.
The final factor is obvious if you think about it. Professionals are consumers, too. They want to be able to access apps like music and games when they're on the go. Now that these applications are approaching maturity -- and the smartphones themselves are available and affordable -- users are happy to read their office e-mails and listen to music on the same device.
So, welcome back, mobile enterprise. And this time, let's all mix a little fun with our business apps.