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The Mobile UC Endpoint

Will the smartphone become your only computer, and if so, what are the implications for the enterprise-in terms of cost and security, among other issues?Several No Jitter posts and news items have centered on smart phones over the last few days. To start with, Allan Sulkin posted about the reports that Dell may soon announce it's getting into the smart phone business. As Information Week has reported, this is both a risky but potentially necessary move for Dell as it seeks new high-margin hardware markets to get into and undercut, to fuel its own growth.

Indeed, the fact that users may increasingly prefer to use a smartphone as their only computer is a double whammy driving Dell toward a move into this market- it represents both further erosion of the desktop/laptop market, and an enhancement of the smartphone market.

Allan's post focuses on Dell as a sales and support channel for Unified Communications, and you do have to wonder if the UC market won't commoditize, both on the hardware and software side, faster than the PBX vendors can adjust- at least at the lower end. But if a Dell smartphone became a cost buy versus the more full-featured iPhone and the various Blackberries, would that win it much enterprise business? Again, maybe at the price-sensitive low end (though, granted, today everybody's price sensitive everywhere). How willing would the road warriors be to give up their premium devices?

That brings us to this item, about Microsoft applying for a patent on a smartphone docking station. Evidently there is at least some work going on in Redmond where people assume that smartphones could displace laptops as the portable computing device of choice. If the enterprise user is then presented with the choice of being given a Dell smartphone that doubles as your work computer, versus buying your own iPhone or Blackberry, and also potentially having to buy your own laptop if you're not willing to use the standard company device-what will users do? Again, what they'll want is the iPhone or Blackberry, but is that what they'll get?

Finally, there's a lot of danger inherent in moving to a softphone as your sole device, as Matt Brunk points out on No Jitter. Matt offers some sobering tales and statistics about the potential losses from people losing track of their portable devices. I really don't think this risk can be underestimated. I think hacking, worms, and any other over-the-network attack pales in comparison.

Regardless of whether Dell gets into the softphone business, electronic devices will continue to get smaller, cheaper and faster, making mobile devices a prime target to become the sole endpoints for a unified communications system. That's one reality that all of the communications vendors- and all enterprises- will definitely have to deal with in the years ahead.Will the smartphone become your only computer, and if so, what are the implications for the enterprise-in terms of cost and security, among other issues?