Staying ahead of changes in mobile

You have to stay on top of things these days if your IT shop is going to take maximum advantage of the mobile technologies available. In the world of technology, where things have always changed fast, the fastest-changing segment might be mobile.

Think about it. It wasn’t all that long ago that we were introduced to the concept of mobile e-mail, untethered from a laptop and an analog phone line. Before then, the idea seemed about as realistic as beaming up to the starship Enterprise. Once the concept was born, it crept into the enterprise via executives who demanded such mobile convenience. Meanwhile, we outfitted more and more of the workforce with cell phones, and today, the cell phones allocated to the general workforce have e-mail syncing as a basic functionality.

When it comes to today’s mobile devices, a lot more is changing as well. When IT decision-makers think about which devices to give their stamp of approval, these are a few of the things they need to consider:

Screens. In this area alone, the bar has been raised tremendously. Screen technologies such as IPS (in-plane switching) and AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) have brought a new level of screen clarity and bright, vivid colors. Screen sizes of 3.5 to 4 inches are now the norm — and probably the most useful for your users. Screens smaller than 3.5 inches are too small to convey enough information. Devices with screens larger than 4 inches start to lose pocketability. But size isn’t the whole story here. Look at resolution. Apple led the way with the so-called Retina display and its 300 pixels per inch, which make it virtually impossible to discern the actual pixels.

Syncing. No mobile device that handles syncing poorly is going to make it in the enterprise. But syncing an in-box isn’t enough anymore. Often, users need to sync with personal e-mail accounts such as Gmail and want to connect personal accounts, calendars and contacts on their devices. And with services such as Gmail and Hotmail now supporting the Exchange protocol, it’s a must for devices to support more than one Exchange account. But more and more, your users are going to want access to apps and services that will connect them to things such as Dropbox or SugarSync, which give them full access to the files and folders on their PCs and keep the files used on the road in sync with those back at the office.

Apps. The number of apps available for your users’ mobile devices really does matter. When users have a lot of options available for apps that can expand the usability of their devices, they are able to customize their devices to fit their needs. You might not need all the apps I use, and I might not need all the ones that you think are important. But the fact that we both can find what we need and tailor our experiences to our needs is a big deal. That doesn’t mean that IT has to go with the platform with the most apps, but it should certainly choose one with enough app diversity to keep users happy. Remember, happy users sing the praises of their IT departments.

As features and functions have increased, tech-savvy users are well aware of the changes and are voting for them with their wallets. Wise IT departments will get ahead of the curve and purge from their enterprise older devices that are difficult to manage and support, while raising the bar for the end-user experience and delighting their audiences.

Michael Gartenberg is a partner at Altimeter Group. His blog can be found at Contact him at gartenberg AT gmail DOT com. The views expressed here are his own.

Computerworld (US)

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