Smartphones

Smartphone device loyalty will trump standardization in the enterprise

Blogger Paul Mah recently got an iPod Touch. He came to some conclusions about the future of smartphones in the enterprise, device loyalty, and multiple platforms.

Some weeks after Apple launched the third-generation iPod Touch, I finally succumbed and purchased the 32GB model of the device. While downloading from the hoards of applications in the App Store, I started thinking about the perpetual debate about whether its older brother, the iPhone, is "enterprise ready," and what the future of smartphones is in the enterprise.

Is your mobile device enterprise ready?

When you think about it, users don't care if their favored Smartphone platform is "enterprise ready" or not. Most folks just want to continue using their device of choice and, where possible, bring it into their work environments. While security restrictions do keep unapproved devices out of certain installations, the gap in device security and compliance can only narrow and possibly even lose relevance one day.

Ultimately, security managers and IT professionals need to understand that the masses will go with the device that captures their imagination. When that happens, these same devices will eventually proliferate in the enterprise.

Device loyalty

Regular readers to TechRepublic will remember that I am a BlackBerry user. In terms of smartphone usage, I was on two different Windows Mobile devices for a period of time before making the switch to a BlackBerry a couple of years back. In fact, I wrote a number of articles highlighting the merits and differences between Microsoft's ExchangeSync and RIM's push mail technology.

Back to the topic of device loyalty -- I have 35 contacts in my BlackBerry Messenger, and none of these BlackBerry users have switched platforms so far. In recent years, the same appears to be true of the Apple iPhone. It is very interesting in a way -- as I have friends who are on the iPhone and others who are on the BlackBerry, and I honestly cannot imagine any of them switching camps.

In a nutshell, smartphones are engendering a fierce device loyalty that will see them being brought into the office, regardless of any attempts by companies to standardize on one platform. As such, one can expect any attempt to force a single device implementation in the enterprise to be extremely difficult and bordering on impossible.

Ease of programmability

Have you ever wondered at the deluge of applications for the iPhone platform? Of course, a large part of the reason behind it would be the App Store and the innate appeal of the iPhone. What is less well known, though, is the fact that there are some challenges when it comes to coding for the BlackBerry.

One aspect is related to its user interface; in a nutshell, the basic GUI widgets just don't cut it. As such, many application developers are forced to start from basic primitives and put in extraordinary efforts to imitate what an iPhone programmer could probably do in five minutes with a few drags and drops of the mouse.

There are other challenges, too, but don't take my word for it. Check out this long but very interesting account of the development efforts as written by Marcus Watkins, the developer of the popular PodTrapper podcast software.

What are your thoughts on the use of mobile smartphones in the enterprise a year or two from now? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

15 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

I for one am a Windows Mobile user and the features of the iPhone and Blackberry keep me from switching platforms. As if my company would mandate me to switch platforms my response would be over my dead body.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We don't allow people to bring in their privately-owned laptops and connect them to the company network. We don't allow you to bring in the desktop phone of your choice and connect it to the company phone system. Why would a phone be different? With malware for smart phones beginning to become a noticeable problem, why would we allow unsecured private phones to interact with our e-mail servers? How does the company remove proprietary information or sales contacts from a user's personal equipment?

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

No matter how loyal someone is to their iphone it is not going to be connected to my network due to it's lack of security and lack of device encryption. Blackberrys are the only smart phone allowed.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

Then i finally got fed up with my phones freezing up and not working. Then I switched to blackberry. Yes, it does not have all the bells and whistles of a winmo device but it WORKS and it is secure.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have my own portable device for eprsonal use, I got a good discount on a rugged mobile device a few years back (Symbol/Motorola MC70) and nothing even comes close to touching it so far. However for my current employer, I was given an HTCP4000 running WinMo. I LOVE teh stylus, used to it as my MC70 uses one too. Teh handwriting and text recognition is amazingly accurate. The camera is really good, the software that interfaces with my dataase, synhcs my database calendar etc is secons to none, and nto available for Blackberry or i-Phone either. Having been a B2B rep for a company that also designed mobile devices to suit specific industry needs, I see teh same from most other companies I've dealt with, other devices just don't offer what they need. They offer reasonable clones or emulators, but not the actual software they use day to day in the office. So, much like yourself, the feature set I use as a BDM now is unsurpassed by other devices and thus, in my case, it is a MUCH better device for my work.

bharman
bharman

While I sort of agree with some of the sentiments here, if viewed from the IT side, look at my case. I work for a large software company, but like a substantial percentage of employees am remote nearly 100% of the time. I don't even let IT build my work notebook. Don't trust them to not screw it up. Why would my smartphone be any different. This is a Blackberry company. However, I used WinMo first, moved to Blackberry because I hate using a stylus, may upgrade to a new, improved BB, but am also eying the new Verizon Android phone. My gate? How good is the Exchange support. That's it. I am disappointed in what I had to give up to go to Blackberry. I was very surprised to find it was the worst experience I have had with smartphones and Exchange. I guess my point is that if there is any wiggle room at all, people who aren't tied to the brick and morter 8 to 5 WILL find a way around. Trust me, I did.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I understand you not permitting an i-Phoen for obvious reasons. But with rugged mobile smart phones offering military lvel encryption that is far greater security than Blackberry or standard WinMobile phones, why would you be so blatant on only allowing Blackberry? I've seen far mroe secure devices in use than Blackerry. Though again I understand your desire to keep insecure devices off your network, but the device's OS doesn't always command the security it offers.

GregEB
GregEB

This blog shows the reason why we keep seeing so many cases of serious data breaches taking place in organizations. In this blog we see plain pandering to what are most probably security ignorant phone users. When I read blogs such as these I see where users get their loose, swinging, anything goes attitude towards enterprise data. The message that this blog gives me is that the users phone preference is more important than the value of the enterprise data that the smart phone will be used to handle. If and when these devices are implicated in serious data breaches I'm sure that some lawyer will be happy to establish the dollar value of this enterprise data in a class action lawsuit. Guess who pays? In this blog I see little attempt to insure that we are dealing with user education when it comes to security issues. It's like giving an untrained driver the keys to an 18 wheeler semi rig and hoping for the best.

rwidegren
rwidegren

My wife works for a national accounting firm and she has used Palms for several years. This week she's being forced to go to a Blackberry. It's all about security and the fuctionality that you get with the BES. Like Travis said, no one cares how much she likes her Palm, she gets a Blackberry.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

It's no different at all, in fact if it's really your phone and your notebook, have at er, connect it to YOUR network, that YOU manage and pay for too. If it is your phone and your notebook that the company doesn't want connected to THEIR network, then that is THEIR perogative. If you want to connect to THEIR network expect to use THEIR approved or provided devices. Bit of a no brainer really, which is why I wonder how someone working remotely for a large software company would not see such simple logic themselves.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

Because we have a good amount of money invested in our Blackberry Enterprise server solution. Blackberry's encryption is AES and at this point that encryption level is satisfactory. Also it is not just the encryption that the Blackberry BES solution offers us but everything else that can be done. No other solution provides as much control over the devices as BES does.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

It isn't going to change how we do things. Regardless of how educated the user is, I can't guarantee the safety of the data on the device without encrypting it.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

But, 'blog', can I get one more 'blog' for the back, blog, row? "BLOG!" that's, blog, right, I said 'blog' it, who's 'blog' your daddy!? :D

BobinAtlanta
BobinAtlanta

I was a serious Palm since the beginning and co-workers would shake their heads. I switched to a blackberry two years ago on my own, then my company fell in love with them. I have an itouch for my personal entertainment needs. The result is that blackberries rule the enterprise and Apple does not have a burning desire to revamp their software for security. Why would they? Our security manager flinchs if you mention iTunes. I doubt that Apple could ever get to the point where they would be trusted with any type of confidential information. Do you know what? I'm fine with that, I'm not trying to merge everything into one device. I equate it to having two buildings, one I work in and one I live in.

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