Ah, the day back after a long weekend. It was a great time here in Boston during the Labor Day celebration. I even had my best round of golf ever yesterday….but it’s now time to get back to enterprise mobility. Last night, I found this interesting article at Information Week that asked the question of whether a smartphone is about the hardware or the operating system that runs on it.
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Mr. Rapoza’s article makes some good analogies regarding the pure commoditization of the PC world, where people either say they have a Mac or a Windows machine, with few people saying they have a HP, Dell, etc. He then goes on to say:
“…in the phone world most people haven’t really cared if their phone ran Windows Mobile or a mobile version of Linux or whatever the vendor put on the phone. Their phone was a Razr or a Blackberry or a Palm or an iPhone.”
There’s one fundamental problem in this sentence. The four examples he provides here were all of companies that own both the hardware and operating system layers of the mobile stack. As we know, it’s only in the Android, Windows Mobile/Phone and to a (very) limited extent Symbian that OEMs can cook up their own versions of the OS stack to blend with their unique hardware. Mr. Rapoza goes on to say:
“Of course, if you’re a hardware maker, this is the last thing you want to see. Phone makers don’t want to see their shiny devices relegated to the place that PC hardware has taken over the last twenty years. They’d like to see the device remain the main point of choice.”
Well here’s another problem. People almost never look at their desktop PCs. Typically they’re hidden under the desk and all you’re doing is looking at a shiny monitor. The laptop is somewhat similar, although you might care more about some of the design choices, most notably its weight if you are a road warrior. Your mobile hardware is very different.
It’s in your pocket, or your purse, or somewhere that is instantly accessible most of your waking hours. Heck, it’s probably at your bedside too. I doubt (and hope for your sake) that your laptop is not there with you all the time. However, the mobile – almost by definition – is an extension of your personal and professional life…and this manifests itself through the consumerization of enterprise mobility.
I don’t think that the importance of hardware will go away in mobility will go away any time soon. If you are one to believe that mobiel platforms will come down to iOS and Android, then I’ll argue that the hardware is that much more important. iOS has not aesthetically evolved THAT much since it originally came out, but Steve Jobs & Co. make us drool at the new hardware every year. Samsung has made a big splash with its “Galaxy S” family of Android devices. The big differentiator? The hardware (and the bloatware the carriers slap on).
As I was thinking about this article, I looked back at some similar questions raised on this site:
- The Future of Mobility: Is it Hardware, Software, or Services?
- Mobile Cloud Computing – Do You Need An OS On Your Mobile Device?
And here’s an article that was published on Internetnews.com back in February 2009.
So is the smartphone, and by extension enterprise mobility, about the hardware? Yes. It’s also about the operating system…and it’s also about the software (the apps). But ultimately, all this boils down to what you can do with the combination of the three – the connective tissue if you will…and this is where I’ll make the case again for the “Services.”
It’s not just about IT Services (no matter how often I’ll get on the soap box to talk about management), but it’s all about web services, and software as a service. So here are some questions for you to ask yourself:
- Who in my workforce is currently using or plans on using a mobile device?
- What do they want to do with it?
- What services do we subscribe to (e.g., Salesforce.com) that they will want to have access to?
- Are there any web services we don’t want to allow access to?
- What services do we have to manage this process?
- What services will our carriers provide us to help throughout this lifecycle?
- What are the best 3rd party service providers that can lend some expertise on these matters?
Hmmm…I’m now wondering if the original Information Week article should have been entitled “Is Mobility The OS Or The Hardware?”