Mobile Only: Week 17
Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.
I met the much ballyhooed announcement of Android’s next operating system, Jelly Bean, with tepid excitement. You see, the operating system of my Samsung Galaxy Note is Gingerbread. I am still waiting for AT&T to update my Phablet (yes, it’s neither a phone nor a tablet) to Ice Cream Sandwich, let alone this latest version. I will soon be 3 updates behind; no Honeycomb, no Ice Cream Sandwich, and now no Jelly Bean. It’s not like I have an old phone either. The Galaxy Note has only been available in the States for 4 months. This disconnect of devices and operating systems falls under the term fragmentation. However, from an enterprise mobility perspective, it equates to two major problems – lack of capabilities and security holes.
One of the same ingredients that makes Android successful, customization, is also one of its greatest hindrances. Customization gums up the works of mobile OS refresh cycles. Manufacturers and carriers tweak the customizable Android operating system to their specific needs. This is not possible with iOS, so it escapes this fate. The manufacturers and carriers run extensive testing cycles for each release of Android devices to assure a successful release. This is at their cost, their time, and their resources. There is little incentive for them to invest in refreshing with each release of a new operating system. This matrix of devices makes this a costly and daunting task. As far as the carriers and manufactures are concerned, once you have bought the device the sale is done. Any extra effort expended on that sale is wasted capital.
The lag in operating system deployment on devices means that certain capabilities are not available to many users. For example, in Jelly Bean it was announced that there will be improved search, notification, and keyboard functionality. To a business user these improvements could make a big difference in efficiency and effectiveness. Ice Cream Sandwich had similar updates that would be useful in a business context. Yet, I am not able to take advantage of these updates. Instead I find myself sitting on the sidelines looking at pretty slides during exciting keynotes.
From a security perspective, not having the latest and greatest potentially exposes users to known vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may have been corrected in a subsequent release but not yet rolled out. Security is a fast-paced race. Can an enterprise afford to be exposed due to lack of economic will of the manufacturers and carriers to keep up? From that perspective, devices should be considered hostile environments that are the weak spot in the armor. This point alone demonstrates why it is imperative that organizations secure the apps and data above all else on mobile devices. You cannot rely on the latest operating system to be deployed to protect users. Organization should adopt robust Mobile Application Management and Information Management practices.
Mobility promises the notion of anytime, anywhere. There is a sense of immediacy, speed, and up-to-dateness that accompanies this. It is supposed to be new and exciting. However, carriers and manufacturers function on an ‘our time’, ‘our pace’ lack of urgency. Users may only see updates to the operating system with the purchase of a new device. If you have a 2 or 3 year contract, you could be waiting quite a while. This mindset puts us even further back than a PC mindset. At least with a PC in the enterprise, IT could control the OS refresh cycle. With the current ecosystem mix of Android, carriers, and manufacturers we have lost the ability to keep devices up-to-date. For me, it is disappointing to have one of the latest, greatest devices and be three OS revisions behind.
Have we taken a step backwards? Post a comment and tell me what you think.
Benjamin Robbins is co-founder and Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com