This year we will see an expanded array of PC cards and enterprise-class devices, all leveraging new 3G networks.
As 3G networks spread, we will see a major emphasis on remote access products. You should be able to get a 3G PC card for US$99 or less. Is there a real difference among the brands? There are minor variations in data performance, but the area to focus on is the connection client on the PC, because there are differences in functionality, such as:
- Compression. Some connection clients include built-in compression.
- Wi-Fi functionality. Some PC cards combine WAN and wireless LAN (WLAN) functions, or are at least able to detect WAN signal strength and WLAN access points.
- Session and service control. These features include support for roaming, VPN tunnel support, an authentication procedure and session management.
We will also start seeing a broader range of PCs that have embedded WAN modems. The advantage of this option is that greater thought has been given to the integration of WAN services on PCs, and the performance on the integrated cards is a little better. The drawback is that you have to make a commitment to a particular operator, rather than having the option of swapping PC cards. In an era of uneven 3G coverage, this is a risk.
Enterprise decision makers can expect to see the following developments in the platform and high-end device segments in 2006:
Research in Motion. Keep a close eye on the patent dispute between RIM and NTP. It is unlikely that BlackBerry will get shut down, but there will probably be a fairly substantial settlement. You might consider holding off on a major purchase until the issue is resolved, likely early this year. We have been impressed with the pace of new product introductions from RIM, despite the patent distractions. Keep an eye out for:
- The first 3G BlackBerry, now available from Verizon Wireless.
- 3G BlackBerry devices for Cingular, likely in the first half of this year.
- More extensive support of enterprise applications, beyond e-mail, and deeper partnerships with enterprise application vendors.
- Availability of BlackBerry Connect software on a larger number of devices.
Palm. The major news from Palm will be the Treo 700w, available now from Verizon Wireless. The Treo 700w, Palm's first 3G device, uses Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. Expect additional 3G models from other carriers to be released throughout the year.
Nokia. Nokia is making a more aggressive foray into the enterprise. During 2005, the company launched Nokia Business Center, and it also recently acquired Intellisync. It also is coming out with a new suite of enterprise-centric phones, which it calls the E Series. The E61, which looks like a cross between a Treo and a BlackBerry, is scheduled to be available early this year; it is the most serious of all the enterprise-class devices. It supports:
- Multiple enterprise e-mail options, such as GoodLink, Visto, Seven and BlackBerry Connect.
- Wi-Fi capability.
- IP integration, with features designed to better integrate with company PBX systems.
Another Nokia enterprise-centric device is the 9300. Although not yet 3G-enabled, it features Wi-Fi, a qwerty keyboard and support for many enterprise applications.
Motorola. Another device that companies should keep an eye on is the Motorola Q phone, also known as the RazorBerry. It's as thin as the popular Razr, but features a large display and qwerty keyboard. It will be one of the first devices to feature Windows Mobile 5.0 and possibly to support BlackBerry Connect.
Microsoft. This year there will be a significant number of new Windows Mobile-enabled wireless devices from Microsoft and other companies. Additionally, Service Pack 2 for mobile will become available, which should make Microsoft-based devices more competitive with BlackBerry for mobile e-mail. All these products are intended to improve Microsoft Exchange integration for mobile users.