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Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Smartphones" For Mobile Enterprise and Consumer UC

October 5, 2008

The Smartphones Are Coming for both Business and Consumer Mobile UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

The expected mobile rat race is taking off, as witness the roundup of handheld device product announcements in Michael Finneran’s article on the UC Strategies website. As he correctly points out, the target of these device offerings that are still tightly coupled to wireless carrier services, are subscribers who are consumers most interested in personal contacts and entertainment. Little if any concessions are being made to subscribers who will be using those same devices for business applications or to the enterprise organizations that must securely control access to those business applications and the information content they use.

In another excellent article in InformationWeek, “Is the Smartphone Your Next Computer,” Alexander Wolfe writes about the mobile “smartphone” becoming the new personalized laptop for mobile access to enterprise applications. I might rephrase that title to something like “Is The Mobile Handheld Computer Going To Become Your Next ‘Smartphone?’”

From a UC perspective, you are damn right it will!

Overcoming Enterprise Concerns About Information Security

As Wolfe reports in his article, while end users may want to have a single, multimodal device for both their business and personal communication activities, enterprise IT management is resistant to loss of control and security, and might only support locked-down devices for business applications.

As I pointed out in my last post about Citrix and it’s new policy of “BYOC” (Bring Your Own Computer) for its employees, the big hang up for enterprise mobility has been security and device support. Handheld communication mobility, however, is where the flexibility of UC really pays off the most, much more so than at the desktop. So, as I see it, the security concerns for mobile devices can be relieved by “virtualizing” enterprise applications, just like they are starting to do for desktop PC use.

“Virtualized” application servers can control secure access to sensitive information in a network service environment, while allowing the enterprise to still manage application usage and access. That is where the new Web network infrastructures of SOA and SaaS are taking business process applications, but we really do need to include mobile device independence and UC flexibility into that mix as well.

Michael Finneran raises the issue of whether mobile devices should store business applications and data like a desktop computer, or just be an access “terminal.” In a recent email, he wrote:

With regard to design, the big issue is should the mobile device be a computer (with on-board storage) or a “terminal” (where all of the data is stored centrally)? The problem with the “Terminal” model is that wireless networks are inherently unreliable, and will be completely unavailable if you’re on an airplane- no network means no work gets done. That model is more secure, but only if we have a hard and fast authentication system.”

My opinion? The handheld or portable laptop device should always function at least as a mobile “terminal.” If you really need to have reliable access, find a wired connection! Otherwise, use any available wireless access. More and more wireless access is becoming available, especially on planes where there is a lot of “dead time.” In the worst case where you have to “work” without a network connection and therefore need to store information in a mobile device, you will then probably want a very secure laptop.

Of course, we still need the wireless carriers to be more supportive of those consumers who are also business users that need device-independent mobile access to and from a variety of enterprise applications. This would include exploiting enterprise Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) and self-service application portals. That same need will apply to any consumer who is a “customer” of a variety of application service providers. But, that’s another debate that isn’t finished.

The big issue that is really shaping up is who will supply those “smartphone” devices, mobile operating systems, and mobile software clients to subscribers of wireless services, and how will enterprise organizations be able to exploit and control those devices in terms of access to proprietary business information by authorized business users. The battle for control is just starting!

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.