Mobility: Going beyond messaging

The mobile worker will be able to do a lot more, thanks to new technology, but not for a while.The promise of a handset with applications that match those on your desktop is not around the corner, despite what some vendors are saying.

Recently, Sage Software and RIM entered into a partnership to push CRM to the mobile space.

Analyst Richard Hill of E-CRM Solutions cited a survey that found 83 per cent of salespeople believed that a PDA sales solution would make them more productive. The same survey also showed that 90 per cent of respondents would use their CRM system more if they had handheld mobile access.

Currently, messaging is the most widely-used application on anyone’s handset, according to Eddie Chan, research analyst, mobile/personal computing and technology at IDC Canada of Toronto.

Messaging is favoured
Messaging is an overwhelming favourite among the mobile worker with, the Blackberry, Palm, Linux and Symbian to the newly released Windows Mobile 6 platform.

But, on the distant horizon, the mobile worker can see applications such as CRM, sales force automation, global positioning service (GPS) and other desktop office applications.

IDC recently polled all of its business segments and found that 51 per cent of respondents have deployed some kind of mobile messaging application. This means the opportunity is still a very large one for the channel in messaging.

Chan added that the enterprise customers are still well ahead of the small and mid-sized business customers in deploying mobile messaging. The channel will have more companies to sell messaging solutions to.

“Canada is still predominantly an SMB market place,” he said.

“The device market is relatively young, but it is really taking off the past couple of years largely due to the success of RIM and its mobilized e-mail application,” Chan said.

Voice and text communication will also be the killer app for the mobile worker. Beyond messaging, the next target application will be VoIP.

Microsoft is plunging ahead with its attempts to penetrate the BlackBerry-dominated mobile market with Windows Mobile 6, the newest version of its mobile operating system.

One of Mobile 6’s highlights is its VoIP capabilities, which simplifies getting a Mobile 6-enabled device VoIP-ready. Hewlett-Packard used the recent 3GGSM World Congress to announce its iPaq 500 series Voice Messenger smartphone, which will run on Windows Mobile 6 and is planned for a July rollout in Canada.

“We all know that mobile space is where the growth is,” said Marwan Al-Najjar, HP Canada’s iPaq product marketing manager. He said that clients want a single device they can use in the office and out; its new smartphone has hands-free wireless e-mail that can run through voice control.

On-the-go users will have a virtual office in their hand because the software allows the use of a mobile version of the Office suite, including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Users can navigate documents and spreadsheets in their original format, and tables, images and text show up normally.

Chan said that desktop apps such as Office had a huge drop-off in IDC’s survey.

E-mail still tops “We asked: What was the next top priority app to go to mobile over the next 12 months? And, basic e-mail is still No. 1 with 50.4 per cent,” Chan said.The growth opportunity for the channel will remain in messaging, while the second-highest was basic Internet access, as more Web services and SOA become realized.

Applications such as sales force automation and CRM are even further down the line, according to Chan. Only 4.5 per cent of the IDC survey respondents named those two applications as a top priority.

Chan lumps ERP into the mix with CRM and SFA. “What it says is messaging is still No. 1 and that there is still work to be done in mobilizing the workforce,” he added.

There is room to grow, of course, and the large enterprises will be the first to adopt business process applications such as CRM, Chan said.

Two things stand in the way, as Chan sees it: partners with expertise are needed, and devices or operating system platforms that can handle the applications. He believes that ISVs, service providers and network operators must mount a co-ordinated effort before high-end apps hit the masses.

“Everyone will have to be on the same page, and it is still a highly fragmented market. They need to be on the same page on manageability and security,” he said.

When these high-end apps do reach critical mass, there will be plenty of business opportunities for the channel, because they require a sophisticated back-end. Users also will need education and training, two traditional high-margin opportunities.

However, Chan said the rollout of applications will take time, so channel players should develop calculated deployment strategies for customers.

One of the more interesting up-and-coming mobile applications is GPS. Chan believes GPS solutions will increasingly form a part of the IT infrastructure.

Interest in GPS
“You hear the buzz in the VAD (vertical application delivery) space for trucking. It has been around for some time, tracking mobile assets for logistics companies as a horizontal app. We are starting to see more of (these solutions), especially in the consumer and leisure markets,” Chan said.

Personal navigation devices such as Garmin will be accompanied by mobile vendors with their own navigation offerings.

“You are seeing it being integrated onto the device,” he said.

Chan is seeing a lot of interest in GPS with companies such as Google with Google Maps and Microsoft with its Live service. The key for GPS is search, which he believes will be increasing in importance for the mobile worker of the future.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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