Few markets are undergoing such constant and rapid change as the mobile technology market. Smartphones and tablets are fighting to replace laptops as the road-warrior’s tool of choice. Once-dominant players are now fighting for survival. The strength of a particular manufacturer’s hardware now has far less to do with success than the platform and, arguably more importantly, the apps that run on it. Integration with business email systems is becoming easier. IT is becoming “consumerized” with many businesses opting to allow employees to provide their own phones as long as they meet certain business-necessary criteria. It’s important that your business adopt a mobile strategy to ensure ongoing security, supportability, and success for your increasingly mobile and connected workforce.
Research in Motion, RIM, makes of the venerable BlackBerry smartphone line, a long-time favorite of businesses for providing best-in-class mobile email and security using their BlackBerry Enterprise Server solution, is struggling to maintain relevance in an increasingly consumer-dominated market. RIM is making substantial changes to their BlackBerry operating system (OS) in the upcoming “BlackBerry 10.” Where device launches are concerned, RIM has a slow year ahead with a new 7-inch PlayBook tablet – a device that cost the company nearly half a billion dollars last quarter – and a single BlackBerry 10 smartphone that won’t launch until late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter. Analysts are suggesting that RIM’s changes may be too little, too late in the face of its competition.
An Achilles’ heel for RIM may be what was once considered one of its greatest strengths – the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Offering security, integration with all of the market-leading on-premise business email systems (Exchange, Domino, etc.), and device management, BES was seen as the must-have solution for businesses that wanted control over their mobile workforce’s devices. While not as comprehesive, many business email systems now offer built-in mobile device management and security. Even Google’s cloud-based Google Apps for Business offers very solid management of mobile devices via a variety of policies that control password requirements, device wipe, etc. The additional cost and management overhead of BES is more of a potential burden than a strength for RIM’s customers.
The market leaders are Apple with it’s iPhone, iPad, and iOS, and Google with its Android operating system and multiple tablet and smartphone hardware partners. Microsoft is making aggressive moves with its Windows Phone operating system and key hardware partners such as Nokia. All of these platforms offer excellent integration with business email systems (particularly Microsoft Exchange via their built-in ActiveSync solution), manageability, and security. If you’re using Exchange, email, contacts, and calendar integration is a simple matter of enabling ActiveSync support on your server through your firewall and configuring the mobile device – no additional software infrastructure is required.
A key differentiating factor for both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android is their app catalogs. Hundreds of thousands of apps are available for each platform, demonstrating a solid commitment by mobile app developers to furthering the platforms. RIM and Microsoft are much weaker in this area. When you’re selecting a mobile platform for your business, spend time thinking about and researching the apps you think would be important to your business. Do you want VPN access to your business network? Do you want to be able to edit Microsoft Office files? Do you want secure access to your Windows file server? Do you want to access a terminal server? Apps of varying quality are available for both iOS and Android that can perform these tasks and many more. Spend some time thinking about what you want to do with your mobile devices and then make sure the platform follows your needs – not the other way around.
While RIM has a long history of leadership in the mobile market, and you should never bet against Microsoft’s determination to be a strong presence in a major market, the best bet for your business today would be a device based on iOS or Android. Both have strong integration with your business email systems, active and enthusiastic developer communities with the app catalogs to back it, and the support of strong companies with a commitment to the mobile market. Both iOS and Android will be a presence in the smartphone and tablet markets for many years to come, and their competition will lead to better products and more pervasive business use and support.
Colden Company has experience with all of the major mobile platforms and can help you evaluate the pros and cons of each against your business needs. Call us at (888) 600-4560 and ask how we can assist your business in utilizing these powerful mobile technologies to keep your business a step ahead of your competition. You can also find us on FaceBook, on Twitter @coldenco, or send us an email.