The Mobile World Congress just held its annual event to allow the mobility industry (cell phones, services, providers, etc.) to update the world on the latest developments in an industry that pretty well affects all of us as Smart Phone users. At least that’s what I thought, but then I got an interesting comment from a highly experienced colleague in IT support, who questioned why, in a Blog about IT, I would include such a topic. His job is based at one site, and though he uses a laptop he is not really ‘mobile’ in the sense of the word, and more importantly, his work pattern is very structured in tasks and timing.
What this triggered was a small test – try it out with your colleagues: Ask the question in the title of this post, as in ‘if either your PC or your Smart Phone (Blackberry) was to fail and not be available for three days, which would you choose to have working?’ If the person was in a support function they would likely say their PC, as their work is fundamentally based at a given desk and they have access to a phone on the desk. If their role was ‘operational’, i.e. they were driven by events, meeting people outside their own offices, etc., then the choice would be the Smart Phone. A less polite colleague dubbed it, ‘value creating roles need to be where the event is happening, supporting roles have the process delivered to them.’

A little harsh perhaps, but if you examine the logic, then a Smart Phone can be with you at all times – you can write and read email, and if you are really determined, even create documents and handle spreadsheets, but most of all you can simply be in touch with the constant changing circumstances and able to direct activities. So there is the answer to why I follow the mobility market, and why I spot business people everywhere tapping away on their Smart Phones all the time – it has become normal business behaviour. Is that now IT? And has the IT function really mastered the integration and support that should go with this? I mean more than user driven synchronisation of email in that question!
So with this in mind, what did happen from a business point of view? Well first of all, Microsoft went with Steve Ballmer providing a keynote, and Google seemed largely absent, to the point that it was a talking point as to how little support the phone handset makers were showing for Android. Given the launch of Android had been at the event last year, there were high expectations that Google would pull something big out for this year. IBM was there apparently demonstrating the tools to hack an iPhone! Actually the real point is that if Smart Phones are a mainstream business tool, then the security of them is very bad, and this truly is a topic that needs to be addressed. To get a really good understanding of this point take a look at this post written to assess the problem in connection with President Obama. There are some good tools available, as an example, Norton seems to be repeating its approach to PCs to help handle Smart Phones, but the operating systems that are supported are pretty limited.
For those of you with an IT mindset, the last statistics on operating system shipments said that iPhone now had a market share that equates to half of the total Linux market share. A quiet revolution indeed and one that should encourage the IT department, with its focus on using Linux as a cost reducing OS, to ask some questions about including iPhone in its OS focus! However, with Apple iPhone running so far ahead of the rest in sales and use, it’s a little worrying that I have not seen any security utilities for the iPhone. Can anyone help us all with a post pointing to some products or services? Is this acknowledged by other CIOs, etc. as a really big problem by default (i.e., users choosing iPhones regardless of the enterprise issues)?
On other fronts the business tools are coming along nicely with Dataviz the provider of the popular Documents ToGo Microsoft Office Compatible suite promising new versions for the iPhone and Android. The URL to follow up on this which I have provided takes you to AppScout.com whose tag line is ‘stalking the killer app’. It’s an interesting site to know about, especially if you want to keep up with all the new ‘not mainstream’ stuff such as Apps for mobility! It is actually run by PC Magazine and there is my final point. To many business users the phone has become the more accessible device for them to ‘do their own thing’ in terms of getting ‘what they want the way they want it’.
We have all done such a good job of managing the PC to stop damaging, rogue activities that the users have migrated their ‘personalisation’ activities to their Smart Phones! It’s no good saying that Smart Phones are not part of IT, because they certainly are part of an Enterprise users activities and technology base, so a proper approach to enabling them to be used well, pass the risk audit, etc., and become a valuable, integrated part of the IT environment is needed. Sorry to my colleague, but Smart Phones are part of your responsibilities in IT today!