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Operating System Management: The Enterprise Mobility Perspective

There’s a lot of buzz these days around mobile operating systems.  Apple recently announced the much anticipated upgrade of iOS 4 to 4.2 which now supports the iPad (yay!!!), and just today, financial advisory firm Jefferies upgraded its position on RIMM from Hold to Buy based upon the company’s new QNX based operating system.  Obvisouly, Microsoft recently launched its new Windows Phone 7 platform (with a “massive” update rumored to be coming out in January).  Not to be left out in the cold, HP recently launched webOS 2 and of course Nokia is working on Meego…oh ya, and Google is talking up Gingerbread, a.k.a., Android 2.3.

It’s a great time obviously to be in the mobility space, but as we here are solely focused on the enterprise perspectives, we also have to take all this excitement with a grain of salt.  Just the other day, I came across an article discussing a new-found vulnerability in ALL versions of Android that leaves the platform susceptible to data theft exploits.  The short version of the exploit is that it can get access to the content of your SD card.  Google is aware of the flaw and says that the problem will be fixed in Android 2.3.  The problem here is that not all devices will get the 2.3 upgrade.  Now there are a number of reasons why this may occur.

  1. The device may not have sufficient HW specs to support 2.3
  2. It could be a low priority for the handset manufacturers to upgrade the handsets (they make no money off that)
  3. The carrier could also be dragging their heels in terms of testing…and oh ya, they make no money off new or extended contracts.

This is why I am increasingly of the mindset that mobile operating system upgrades should be left solely in the hands of the platform manufacturer.  We are certainly comfortable with this process in both the desktop and mobile space.  Microsoft regularly pushes out updates for the gazillion PCs out there, and Apple is obviously the one throat to choke with regards to iOS updates….so there is already a deep precedent for carriers to allow this as opposed to dragging their feet as they so often do.

But with the mobile OS comes another increasingly important link.  The App Store.  PC World published an article yesterday alleging that Apple banned an application for its store dedicated to Android.  This is in obvious stark contrast to the basic free for all that is the Android store.  Here are the closing statements of that article:

I believe Apple’s iPhone is rapidly becoming a niche device. Its restrictions are too numerous, its approach too condescending, and its choices too few to have the broad appeal it needs to succeed on a grander scale in the long run.

In short, Apple may always have its share of fans among consumers who don’t mind living in its “walled garden,” but there’s no way it can compete in the market as a whole with the diverse, compelling and powerful platform that is Android.

From an enterprise perspective, I agree somewhat with the first paragraph, but have strong objections to the second paragraph….by the way, I’ll argue that these comments apply just as much to the stores as to the operating system.

Android’s diversity is its Achilles’ heel.  Enterprises want and need as much consistency as possible.  If they can’t “win” on the multiple OS front, at the very least, throw them a bone and give them consistency within one operating system.  Android lets the handset manufacturers and carriers do what they want, without forcing anything upon them…meaning upgrades are optional  Apple (and webOS for that matter) is the exact opposite….our way or the highway.  My sense is that there should be a middle ground in there somewhere. (BTW, I wonder how QNX will work on this front)

Is the best approach perhaps hence the Windows Phone 7 strategy where they do give partners limited (consumer centric) flexibility, but at the end of the day it is Microsoft that is taking ownership of the operating system updates.  They are the one throat to choke.  Sounds like a good plan (on paper at least) to me….especially for the enterprise.  This could almost be a new twist on mPAAS – mobility Platform as a Service.

Thoughts?

5 Comments

  1. Posted December 1, 2010 at 12:48 | Permalink

    Some predictions:

    When the enterprise soon regains control of mobile devices (and it will – the enterpization of mobility comes back with a vengence as mobile becomes fully a part of core enterprise DNA), if Microsoft has played its cards right – it’s a big IF – WP7 devices will end up ruling the roost (and you are right on the huge value of microsoft’s ultimate control), at the expense of RIM.

    Android – open software, fragmented, forked versions, blah blah blah…most enterprises (aside from those impoverished ones that automatically claim they hate Microsoft and can only live with open source) won’t trust Android. Period. Too many security concerns in the long and short run. Pure consumer market will thrive though.

    Apple – iPhone will live on and maintain a small share of the enterprise – BUT, iPads are a different story…Apple will make huge early enterprise inroads on this front – at the expense of RIM and Android. If Microsoft doesn’t move tablet OS to WP7 they’ll be shut out. Apple makes a major landgrab here – may be tough to dislodge long term.

    QNX – early view of Playbook suggests that QNX is powerful stuff (and controlled by RIM and integrated with BES) and will give RIM a much longer enterprise shelf life. Much depends not on the OS with RIM however, but on its ability to deliver really cool hardware. Can it? That is the real problem RIM has – I would never upgrade them from hold without proof they can deliver on the hardware. It’s too early to tell if Playbook and future QNX smartphones will deliver on the cool factor.

    I’m still thinking go long on MSFT.

    Tony Rizzo
    http://www.mobilemasterscommunity.com

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    • Posted December 1, 2010 at 14:59 | Permalink

      So Tony….when do you think this will all play itself out? Could it begin with this purported huge WP7 rollout in January?

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      • Posted December 1, 2010 at 15:25 | Permalink

        You heard about the ‘purported’ roll out as well I see. It’ll begin happening in 2011…10% or more of 250-280 million new smartphones sold in 2011 will be WP7…its in writing (http://bit.ly/fQ9WXH)! What is interesting is that the majority of those smartphones will be low end Nokia Symbian devices going into emerging countries – so a true significant percentage of new advanced market phones sold into advanced mobile markets will be WP7…2012 is the year it all shifts dominantly for Microsoft…I’d feel better though about MSFT long if they got fully behind WP7 for tablets…

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  2. Posted December 1, 2010 at 16:56 | Permalink

    I too Tony would LOVE to see Microsoft get behind the idea of using WP7 for tablets….that could be quite an interesting platform. There, I think you would see Azure shine.

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