SAN DIEGO -- If IT managers want to succeed with mobile applications, the first step is to get control over the proliferating PDAs and smart phones in their workforces, then establish the standards that their companies will need to move forward.
That was just some of the advice presented by Gartner Inc. vice president Ken Dulaney at this week's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. Dulaney offered IT managers a presentation that included evaluations of key mobile hardware and software platforms, as well as suggestions for making the most of mobile technology in the enterprise.
Dulaney likened today's mobile computing scene to that of the PC sector in the mid-1980s, when PCs were purchased haphazardly by individual employees and department heads, and IT wasn't involved in managing new desktop systems.
Regarding today's mobile technologies, he said, IT departments have the opportunity to identify the best platforms for their corporate needs and provide individual departments with specific hardware choices that work best in conjunction with their other platforms.
"Assume these things are going to proliferate. Know your user and know their applications, so you can choose the right platform," Dulaney said.
He advised IT managers to bring PDA and smart phone selection, purchasing and support into the PC group. He also recommended that managers establish a mobile e-mail architecture featuring a gateway server between the corporate e-mail server and the firewall. That gateway server should be able to work with a variety of mobile devices on the wireless LAN or WAN.
But regardless of the platform, wireless e-mail will remain a driving force in the mobile market, Dulaney said.
"You can probably see a 10% productivity gain with wireless e-mail, if the users are properly trained for it," he said.
Throughout 2003, the continuous connectivity and horizontal applications, such as e-mail and databases, will remain in the spotlight. However, Dulaney said, the next generation of mobile applications will start to emerge in 2004, as application developers begin to assume that every user has a mobile device, and they construct new applications that allow mobile access, particularly in vertical applications.
On the security front, Dulaney warned, "The biggest concern you should worry about is lost devices and the data that is on them." He encouraged managers to implement "remote destruct" technology that would allow them to delete data from a lost mobile device.
Dulaney's observations also included the following:
- Windows CE .NET is attracting more corporate buyers, but it will likely skimp on user functionality.
- Palm OS continues to be a viable enterprise platform.
- Wait for the Symbian Ltd. operating system to become more enterprise-focused.
- Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and its clones can be used as e-mail/personal information manager (PIM) appliances.
- Vendors will make progress in allowing mobile devices to read attached documents, but it will remain difficult to execute macros for some time to come, which means that managers must make it clear that employees may not be able to trust the way a PDA or smart phone presents an attached document.
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