The transition to mobile computing is gathering fast pace. The big IT vendors have all been trying to get a share, including those who are succeeding such as Apple, Google, Samsung and HTC to those who are struggling such as HP, Microsoft, Nokia and Blackberry.
Gartner predicts that during 2013, mobile devices will overtake PCs as the most common technology to access the Internet. The report also suggests that by 2015, media tablet shipments will reach around 50% of laptop shipments and that the new mobile era spells the end of the dominant desktop Microsoft operating system era. Microsoft will be just one of a variety of competitors in the mobile operating system market, along with Google Android and Apple iOS.
Similarly to how SaaS is starting to make real progress in overtaking large sections of the market and creating new leaders, so is software on mobile devices. Given that most of the leading devices have few buttons or keys and are predominantly touch screen devices, it would be logical that the dominant players are going to be the software vendors. It seems that Google holds the strongest position by owning the Android operating system and providing it free to hardware manufacturers. By owning the OS, they should be able to collect a significant amount of user data which would allow them to have feedback targeted advertising and content.
The growth in mobile is certainly going to provide some challenges for marketing and IT departments. Here are a couple of examples.
Until recently, building a website simply meant thinking about a design that was HTML compatible and would display inside of a web browser. Today, there are many different operating systems. With Android, iOS and a range of other platforms, marketers are challenged with the ways to provide content to so many different devices and ensure that the expected user experience is met. The quantity of devices is making it more complex as vendors manufacture devices of different sizes. You only need to look at your website’s Google Analytics statistics to recognise that the mobile device viewing of your web content is growing. Most of us also know that accessing websites that are not designed for mobiles is not a good user experience. The cost of developing sites is expensive to start with, let alone the cost of delivering a further five or more to satisfy your visitors. However, with the time someone spends on your website a key metric in marketing and with the growth in devices, we may all be forced to deliver mobile operating system and device specific web sites. Additionally, with reduced screen real estate, how will advertisers reach their audience with their message? It seems Facebook, among others, still doesn’t have an answer for that challenge.
The use of personal mobile devices is creating a challenge for IT managers for a number of reasons. Given the ubiquity of what are effectively personal computers, accessing applications, data and sensitive information from personal devices creates new challenges in rapidly evolving policies from both a business and technical perspective. We have already discussed some of the issues with content filtering and bring your own device (BYOD) but other challenges exist with the collection and the backing up of company intellectual property. Supporting a vast array of devices and operating systems is by no way easy. Some operating systems have software application clients, others do not. Settings are vastly different from device to device.
The use of mobiles as access devices is going to continue to grow. The last few years have seen a shift from a primarily telecom focused device to one that nearly matches the functionality and capability of a traditional computer. Like most technology, it is important to embrace the change and work out how to effectively incorporate it into business operations in order to gain enhancement and competitive advantage.