Many IT pros have felt the pain of supporting the first wave of smartphones, devices designed to be simple to use, but not so simple to manage. They are full-fledged computing platforms that promise improved productivity for information professionals who harness their power. Some of you may still question the ROI, but you're going to need to learn how to live with these devices--and you need to be prepared for another impending wave.
The BlackBerry and the Treo were early winners in the enterprise smartphone arena. Both sported proprietary and somewhat closed OSs and, though the devices were well-received by users, they garnered a lukewarm reception from IT pros, many of whom experienced the architectural limitations firsthand. More recently, Windows Mobile and Symbian have emerged as competitors. Although somewhat less user-friendly, they are more powerful and open platforms. But with each version, complexity grows. Before long, mobile Linux smartphone platforms will join the competitive fray. (For more on mobile Linux, see nwc.com/go/mobile-linux.)
Platform complexity is the first element of the new wave, making it tempting to standardize on a single platform. Doing so greatly simplifies provisioning, application delivery, management and support. But such efforts often fly in the face of departmental and expense-based budgetary funding models that put such devices in peoples' hands. And if central IT has a poor reputation for supporting distributed users, getting people to comply with central IT edicts will be politically challenging, especially as senior managers are often driving the adoption curve. Even if you can constrain device choices, you'll only avoid half the platform complexity problem. As smartphones evolve, they will support more complex OSs, an array of middleware applications and multiple radio subsystems.
User diversity is the second element of the new wave. First-generation adopters of smartphone technology usually knew they were breaking new ground. As such, they were somewhat more tolerant of the periodic service hiccups and a bit more willing to endure the pain of system or application upgrades. The new generation of adopters will be less sophisticated and less tolerant. These users want reliable, easy-to-use tools. Supporting this second wave of smartphone users will likely require new service initiatives and toolsets, including mobile device management, mobile middleware and new mobile security.