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Smartphones As Laptop Killers: GM CIO Ralph Szygenda Opines

Want to hear some good news about General Motors in these troubled economic times? For one thing, it's a thought leader in enterprise mobility. GM CIO Ralph Szygenda talked to me for the InformationWeek cover story, "Is The Smartphone Your Next Computer?" "Our senior executives are demanding more capabilities on their smartphones," he says in the piece. Here's an expanded dive
Want to hear some good news about General Motors in these troubled economic times? For one thing, it's a thought leader in enterprise mobility. GM CIO Ralph Szygenda talked to me for the InformationWeek cover story, "Is The Smartphone Your Next Computer?" "Our senior executives are demanding more capabilities on their smartphones," he says in the piece. Here's an expanded dive into his thoughts.Wolfe: Are you using, or considering using, any ready-made mobile enterprise apps?

Szygenda: Yes. Our senior executives are demanding more capability on their smartphones. Specifically, we're looking at business intelligence and how we provide more real-time dashboards and reporting on smartphones.

We're also looking at enhancing the access and bandwidth to the Web from mobile devices. This means not only supporting a wider variety of mobile devices (e.g., iPhone) running on 3G networks, but also ensuring that these devices seamlessly access our corporate wireless network using Wi-Fi technology. This will then allow us to expose some key Web-enabled Web apps to users' smartphones.

Wolfe: Do you foresee doing more stuff on smartphones in the future?

Szygenda: Yes -- things like richer mobile collaborative applications (e.g., streaming video) as well as location-based services. Also, I think we'll continue to see more business intelligence applications for mobile devices that provide real-time visibility to key business metrics.

Wolfe: What about other people in your organization? Are they embracing smartphones as occasional laptop replacements?

Szygenda: Absolutely -- consumer trends always get reflected to the enterprise as well, so we're hearing people asking about the iPhone or Windows Mobile; whether they can use their own device, and so on. We're putting together a comprehensive mobility strategy to address these holistically, working with our strategic partners and IT suppliers, rather than address them in an ad hoc way. Wolfe: Any other observations?

Szygenda: Mobility as a phenomenon is here to stay and should be on every CIO's agenda. My advice is to not ignore it but to approach it with an enterprise strategy that addresses key issues like security, device diversity, cost, etc.

Anyway, those are some of Szygenda's thoughts, from the outtakes of an extensive e-mail interview conducted last month. True, Ralph admits he doesn't yet leave his laptop at home when he travels on business. Then again, neither do most of the people I spoke with for the story, except when you're talking day trips. Still, we're all on a learning curve here. As smartphones are able to do more and more, and as we all get more comfortable with the idea that there's a life untethered from one's laptop, we will all become more mobile, in a real and serious way.

So what's your smartphone strategy? Leave a comment below, or shoot me an e-mail directly at [email protected].

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