Mobile World Congress 2010 – behind the obvious …

Mobility has seen fast growth and been a hot topic the in last couple of years and at Mobile World Congress this year, it turned a corner and moved beyond being just a procession of breakthrough devices and new forms of wireless. The question is who noticed this in the IT or enterprise IT community and will they make the connection in terms of the enterprise user and models for cloud delivery?
The focus, announcements and fun have – in the past – always seemed to centre on new devices with incredible capabilities that invited the comparison with the functionality of a PC. Much less time was given to what people are using mobile devices for. That is the real game change to look at and at least one group of 24 operators grasped this and established a new alliance. The alliance is focussed on one simple objective: to take on Apple and its App Store dominance. Under the old rules of the game anything that increased connection time and usage was good, so as long as you were part of the Apple game all those extra call minutes and data were just what you wanted.

As an operator, you expected to have to provide a lot of content yourself to get this to happen, but now it seems you don’t have to which is good, right? Wrong! It now seems that the content is the driving force in the selection of the network and even the device itself. Not like before, when the phone itself and the selection offered by an operator, were the driving force and basis of competition. This is a serious shift and further compounded by users being prepared to buy their own phone and use bare SIM-based contracts. This once again forces operators back into being mere commodity providers, competing on price with high churn rates.
If Apple has become the dominant driver in this market with the iPhone, then it has done so on the basis of the content in the App Store. In many ways, the model is a small and proprietary mimic of what clouds are about and most likely contains some lessons to learn from in terms of user expectations and behaviour. The real point of clouds, including the name, was to support and broaden a web 2.0 type experience in which users had access to, and could choose from, many different ‘services’, or ‘apps’ without needing to know anything about, or be constrained by, the underlying technology. To understand this and see an interesting diagram on what is intended, it’s worth reading the introductory paragraphs about cloud computing on Wikipedia.
But what can we take from Mobile World Congress and what does it teach us about deploying cloud computing within the enterprise? Well Marc Benioff at has the answer and I for one agree with him, though I don’t like his use of the term cloud 2.0! The answer is that people want to use and swap information, expertise and capabilities on a continuous basis in support of the continuously changing experiences that they are having and to use this to help guide their decisions and activities. Look more carefully at what is in the Apple App store: it’s a vast range of services that can support current activities, whether choosing wine, using a spirit level to put up a shelf, or … well the list is endless. The list seems endless because anyone in the world can produce a simple service about their unique idea readily with all the complexity taken out of the task of writing it by the Infostructure of the Apple App Store. As Marc says, we will go past the idea that clouds deliver IT more cheaply and move to a new generation of clouds and a model where constant interaction and interchange of data and services between users support their activities.
In their private life users already have this kind of experience, but in work life, they are increasingly bypassing enterprise systems. The next development is likely to be the formal enablement of supporting users in safely downloading and using the services and apps that they choose to use to be more productive in their roles. So for me, Mobile World Congress is an object lesson in what is likely to happen when user environment capabilities grow more significantly than device functionality.

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