Mobility Matures: It’s Time Your Company Treated It Like a Grown Up

Technology in general–and mobility in particular–have been bright spots in the recent lackluster economy.  Several industry analysts expect mobility revenue to reach a trillion dollars by 2014, with mobile services (including call minutes, text messages, advertising, mobile apps and other premium content) accounting for about 80 percent of that total. Hardware (mainly devices) and network infrastructure will make up the other 20 percent.

The mobility industry appears ubiquitous now, but it’s a fairly young industry. Initially defined by devices (such as the Motorola RAZR, first sold in late 2004), it was device manufacturers that controlled the mobility space. Since 2008, apps have been all the rage. While apps still get plenty of attention, I think mobility is now entering a new phase.

The Service and Social Era

A few analysts have referred to this time in mobility history as the “service and social era.” This present phase builds on the mobile app boom, but adds streaming media and cloud services and greatly expands the industry’s offerings. I see applications as continuing to play a key role, but I think they’ll shift from being device-centric to residing in the cloud.

Going forward, device manufacturers will test different concepts. As a result, we’ll see new device types fill the form factor continuum–the smartphone at one end and the tablet PC on the other. A recent example, with its 7-inch screen, is the Samsung Galaxy Tab. With the price of modules dropping, we can expect to see more traditional devices, such as laptops, offered with embedded WWAN technology as a standard feature.

Connected Devices and the Future

When considering the future of mobility, we can’t overlook machine-to-machine (M2M) technology and connected devices. M2M is shaping up to be one of mobility’s fastest growing sectors. According to Analysys Mason, in 2010, there were an estimated 62 million devices connected, and year-on-year growth between now and 2020 is projected to be between 36% and 52%.

Businesses will increase the use of location information services (LIS) and barcoding in their mobile plays and will take these services into consideration when deciding which companies and vendors to choose. Mobile business systems will leverage cloud services hosted by competent third parties. We’re already seeing vendors such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and AT&T stake out cloud service positions.

Develop a Strategy

To take advantage of this service and social era, companies should develop a high-level strategy based on technology-independent management goals and styles, rather than focusing on individual device, platform or application policies. In other words, mobile-device-management (MDM) should not be about managing a small sample of devices or operating systems. It should be based on an over-arching strategy. For sure, companies must pay attention to certain device requirements, but there’s a lot more to it.

Which is why it’s semi-shocking that when Forrester conducted a global mobile maturity online survey among executives in the fall of 2010, 57 percent of those executives interviewed admitted they either have no mobile strategy or are just now defining one. When it comes to best practices, few have been implemented. In the early 1990s, to support the PCs that began to appear on corporate America’s desktops, a specialized IT industry evolved. The emergence of mobility and its forthcoming support requirements is akin to this. Granted, I’m biased (I work at AT&T and in mobility), but outsourcing your company’s MDM to a qualified third-party like AT&T can help your company deal with everything from device management to security solutions. Regardless of whether or not your company seeks out a partner to help it with its MDM needs, if it doesn’t have a mobile strategy, it’s time to develop one. Even a small piece of a trillion dollars is a lot of revenue.

If your company has not adopted a mobile strategy, I’d like to hear what’s holding it back.
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