The expanded capabilities of wireless networks and devices will open new avenues for applications. With 3G networks, we will see greater emphasis on laptop remote access into corporate applications. In this way, middleware for anything other than custom applications will start to become less relevant in the enterprise.
In addition to important developments in network and device capabilities, IT executives should keep their eye on the following hot topics that should expand the applications framework in 2006.
LBS will be an area for value-added corporate applications this year. More than 50 percent of all phones being sold to companies have GPS chips, and accuracy levels continue to improve. A number of carriers have built an extensive partner network to deliver location-enabled applications that are delivering ROI daily in the enterprise market. We are increasingly seeing integrated products that combine LBS with in-office software to link assignment, dispatch, notification and tracking.
Enterprises should think about LBS in two ways: as a unique capability for specific vertical segments, such as fleets and transportation; and as a value-added capability within existing applications. In the U.S., for example, mobile carrier Sprint has partnered with IBM and Microsoft to deliver a Web services capability for location, where APIs are included in the application framework.
One key question is, beyond e-mail and personal information manager applications, which mobile application will be next to scale in the enterprise? In 2006 there will be a number of packaged applications in the areas of salesforce and field-force automation, offered directly by the wireless operators. One driving force is the reduced need to optimize certain functions for mobile using expensive and complex middleware, because of significantly improved wireless network and device capabilities. Additionally, small and midsize businesses are looking for plug-and-play software for certain functions, and believe that applications such as salesforce automation can be implemented without a great deal of customization.
Device management is becoming the new front in mobile security. As high-end devices proliferate, sensitive corporate information can get into the wrong hands if a phone is lost or stolen. More-advanced devices are also increasingly vulnerable to spam and viruses. There are millions of enterprise workers carrying around high-end mobile devices containing sensitive corporate information, and enterprises historically have not done a good job of tracking these devices as assets.
There is a rapidly expanding array of products for device management. A sound framework for mobile device management includes both policies, such as extending WLAN policies to the WAN, and technology - everything from firewalls; VPNs; anti-spam, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs; intrusion detection; mobile-asset tracking; device lockdown; and so on.
New business models
Enterprise decision makers might consider managed services as an approach for certain elements of their mobile-solution sets. Device management provides a good case in point. The good news is that there is a broad range of device management products available today. The bad news is that the product ecosystem is disparate and fragmented. As a result, many IT executives are not dealing with the device management problem directly and effectively. Managed services is an approach that is gaining popularity. For example, the lead product in Sprint's Managed Mobility Services program addresses device management.
Enterprises might find some value-added resellers offer a hosted approach to mobile. For example, Integrated Mobile offers companies a series of hosted capabilities, such as device provisioning, asset tracking, customized billing, and applications such as messaging for a monthly fee.