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Wireless Challenges: What Mobile Users Really Think

While moderating a Birds of a Feather Session (BOFS) at the InformationWeek Spring Conference in Amelia Island, Fla., this week, I presented the attendees with a list of wireless challenges in hopes of shining a light of realism on hype around mobile applications, dual-mode handsets, WiMax, and municipal Wi-Fi. But apparently the challenges don't stop there.
While moderating a Birds of a Feather Session (BOFS) at the InformationWeek Spring Conference in Amelia Island, Fla., this week, I presented the attendees with a list of wireless challenges in hopes of shining a light of realism on hype around mobile applications, dual-mode handsets, WiMax, and municipal Wi-Fi. But apparently the challenges don't stop there.Several people that sat in on the session expressed their frustration with putting applications on mobile devices. It's expensive to custom-develop a mobile application, and off-the-shelf applications often don't integrate with back-end systems. As if that weren't enough, manufacturers are rolling out new devices every couple of months. That means companies not only have to keep buying new devices, but they also have to keep tailoring their applications to work on these devices.

Then there's the prosumer problem. It's not uncommon nowadays to use a smart phone or PDA for both personal and work purposes. Who wants to carry multiple devices? Not many people I know. Life would be a lot easier if every device, regardless of carrier, manufacturer, or operating system, could integrate with people's personal and business contact lists and calendars. It's the simple things that can make a difference. At least that's the vibe I got from the attendees.

One thing that still remains at the top of the challenges list is security. Only now, people have to get a better grip on the personal and work data that resides on their mobile devices. A lost BlackBerry or a stolen Treo can spell disaster, especially if they're not protected by passwords or encryption keys. One solution is to design security policies around applications as opposed to the devices themselves. So for example, a person would have to type in a password before accessing their E-mail on a PDA. Having remote device data-wipe capabilities is also a good idea.

One attendee was convinced that people will start demanding wireless in the near future--kind of like how E-mail addresses and Internet connections are demanded today. Sure, a lot of technology is already out there to meet the demand, but IT departments may not be ready to support it.

My former colleague, Andy Dornan, and I further tackle a lot these issues in our wireless challenges feature story. Check it out in next week's issue (Monday, April 10). A reality check is good every once in a while. I know I got one when we wrote that story.