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Posts Tagged ‘CIO’

Mobile Sessions From SAP TechEd I Plan To Watch-Virtually

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | October 12, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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I made it to my first SAP TechEd conference last year. Not this year, which is a pity, since there are over 100 sessions related to mobile.

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I may not be able to make to the Venetian/Palazzo Congress Center, but I still plan to attend TechEd virtually, watching sessions and talks via SAP’s broadcast platform.

Sessions begin at 8 AM in Las Vegas, or 7 AM Pacific Time. So if you’re in California or Washington, set your alarm clock. Or catch the replays, which should be up within a few hours.

Some of the talks and workshops in the Virtual Events Catalog have incorrect starting times or durations. Please double-check the main catalog to get the best, latest schedule.

There are many worthy technical sessions on SUP, Netweaver Portal, BusinessObjects Design Studio and Afaria, that I’d recommend for developer and IT types. They may also want to download the Developer Survival Guide for TechEd.

Here are the higher-level mobile sessions I plan to catch remotely:

Tuesday, Oct 16:

11 AM: Mobility Platform Road Map and Strategy. Get the latest overview of where the SAP Mobile Platform, including the Sybase Unwired Platform, Mobilizer and SAP Afaria, are headed. This features two ex-Sybase technical experts, CTO Jagdish Bansiya and product manager, Sami Lechner.

3 PM: Business Benefits of Mobile. In a 20 minute interview, hear the thoughts of Bill Clark, one of Gartner’s former top mobile analysts, who has just joined as SAP’s global VP for mobile strategy.

8 PM: Demo Jam. The annual showcase of the best business demo applications created by SAP, and its customers and partners. Mobile entrants include the intriguingly-named “Singularity” created by Accenture and Cooper Tire to enable instant collaboration across mobile devices, “Food Agent” by Roberto Clemente Middle School that is a mobile app that lets shoppers scan supermarket barcodes to check the origin of food items and possible contamination, and “Personas,” an SAP app to let users self-customize SAP application interfaces for better productivity on their PCs or tablets.

Wednesday, Oct 17:

12:15 PM: SAP User Interfaces – Strategy and Road Map. Improving the design and ease-of-use of applications, both its own and its partners, has never been more important for SAP. I’m eager to hear about the UI development toolkit for HTML5 from SAP.

Thursday, Oct 18:

11 AM: Avoiding Design Errors and Improving User Experience for Mobile Apps. The speaker promises to “share examples of real and already in the market applications” and how their UX/UI is or isn’t up to snuff.

2:45 PM: Developing Apps and Interfaces with Our Cloud Solutions with an On-Demand SDK. The world is moving to the cloud, and SAP is keeping apace. Werner Wolf, a solution manager at SAP, will demonstrate how to bring an iPad, Business Objects, and cloud data together.

Parents Need Mobile Device Management, Too

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | September 28, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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September is coming to a close, and so will the spate of back-to-school/child-oriented blog posts from me (I promise). Just…after my coming review of the Fuhu Nabi tablet. And – D’oh! – this post:  (more…)

Why Text Messaging Still Thrives Despite Smartphones, Twitter and WhatsApp

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | September 26, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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The tech industry attracts the worst kind of futurists, Clayton Christensen-quoting types who behold shifting paradigms, looming inflection points and disruptive innovations everywhere they look. (more…)

How Quickly Can Enterprises Deploy iPhone 5 And iOS 6?

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | September 24, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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How long did it take for your company to upgrade to Windows 7 after it became available in July 2009? Months? Years? Still hasn’t happened?

Even the latter wouldn’t be surprising. According to Net Applications, Windows 7 only overtook Windows XP in popularity last month. That’s more than three years after its release.

This sort of lag would never happen in mobile. In the post-PC era, companies are upgrading to new devices and operating system versions within months or weeks.

Take my employer, SAP. On its first day of availability last Friday, SAP’s Global IT team already had 20 iPhone 5s in possession that it was putting through their paces.

“I already have one in hand, and I have to say, it’s very nicely done, pretty cool to look at,” said SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann in an interview that day.

If everything goes as expected, Bussmann hopes to make the iPhone 5 available to employees within 2 weeks, or by early October.

How about iOS 6? That new version should be available to SAP workers even sooner, with targeted availability this Tuesday September 25, or just one week after its official release. 

How is SAP able to test and certify iOS 6 so fast? “We were part of the iOS 6 beta program, so we did a lot in advance, knowing that expectations from workers would be pretty high and there would be a lot of pressure on our engineering team,” Bussmann said. “Hype on the consumer side always translates into demand on the corporate side.”

SAP may be faster than other companies, but it’s not alone in its plans to embrace iPhone 5 and iOS 6. It’s confirmation that the two new Apple releases deliver features that CIOS care about: LTE, better camera and microphone and improved MDM features (such as the Authorized Mode and Guided Access features that preload apps and restrict users to use only them (like a point-of-sale app for a retail kiosk, or a classroom app for students).

SAP, by the way, now manages 18,000 iPads, 18,000 BlackBerries, 13,000 iPhones and 2,000 Samsung devices, according to Bussmann. Its total of BYOD devices is up to 4,000 – more than double over the summer, which Bussmann attributed to the addition of devices owned by the now-integrated Sybase employees.

What about other devices?

As much as SAP employees love their iOS devices, they also love Android. So SAP is expanding its support. At the end of August, Samsung Android devices were cleared to become available to employees, both as corporate-owned devices, as well as BYOD.

To enable Android BYOD, SAP is testing an Android MDM app called Divide By Enterproid. The software creates a virtual sandbox for all corporate data and e-mail within the employee’s personal device. Bussmann says the software is both technically promising and surprisingly inexpensive.

As for Windows 8, SAP has been testing convertible laptop/tablets from Fujitsu and Samsung for the past month, said Bussmann. The devices hold a lot of promise for workers to replace their existing tablets and laptops with a single piece of hardware, he said.

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Last week, SAP launched a Mobility Design Center in its Palo Alto office. This group is focused on quickly customizing business apps for enterprises, especially creating highly-usable, consumer-grade interfaces that will satisfy workers and end users. Learn more here.

Four Reasons Why Enterprise Mobile Rollouts Can Fail – Or Fail To Launch

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | September 17, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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Schools can stumble and fail while going mobile for four reasons, I discovered earlier this month while reporting on all of the latest tablet rollouts this back-to-school season.

That made me wonder: what are the reasons why enterprises stumble or fail at their mobile rollouts?

Coincidentally, several days later, I happened to be a guest on the business technology radio show, In the Cloud with Gamechangers, hosted by Bonnie D. Graham (and, full disclosure, sponsored by SAP).

Other guests included Sheryl Kingstone, director of mobile and CRM research for analyst firm, the Yankee Group, Blake McLaughlin, an associate consulting partner at IBM and the lead for its SAP mobile practice, and Matthew H. Schwartz, IBM’s North American head of innovation around SAP software, including mobile.

The topic, “Mobile Moments: Opportunity or Catastrophe?” was a juicy one, and it ended up taking a turn around the biggest risks that enterprises going mobile face today. They included:

1) Brochureware. This was a dot-com term to describe Web sites so hastily and superficially built that they were no more interactive than the printed pamplets they were supposed to replace. Often, they were literally just scans of paper-based marketing materials.

Brochureware for a fake paper company. How fitting.

Credit: NBC’s TV show, The Office

History is repeating itself with mobile. “People are just taking their Web sites and mobilizing it and saying  ’Good enough,’” Kingstone said.

Just as bad dot-com era sites failed to take advantage of the Web’s interactivity, bad mobile sites and apps fail to take advantage of the real-time geolocation features of mobile devices. Or they try to jam too much information into a device’s small screen. Or they forget about the advantages and limitations of a touchscreen.

Bad mobile sites and apps disappoint your workers, customers and managers. And they’ll leave you far behind the curve of your competitors. Fortunately, they are easily corrected. 

2) Letting IT control mobile’s fate. Not so easily corrected is the bad attitude of who should be mobile’s biggest advocates.

Sure, in some organizations, the CIO is the force for pushing mobile forward. Take SAP’s Oliver Bussmann, for example.

But in organizations with a traditional, command-and-control style, CIOs and IT managers can be mobile’s biggest enemies (no surprise if you’ve seen my book, The Mobility Manifesto).

“The best ideas come from outside (IT). I see IT as almost an inhibitor,” Schwartz said. Many CIOs “have a lot of concerns around security, and how to sustain and maintain the infrastructure around mobile. Unless the line-of-business steps up to declare that they will pay for this, IT won’t go forward.”

My personal take: half or more of organizations out there are in this situation today. Fortunately, that’s changing. CIOs recognize that their role is changing, from the Department That Says No to a Partner and Enabler of the Business Side. 

3) “Paralysis by analysis.” Sometimes the caution towards mobile is spread more widely than in IT. Mobile’s very new-ness creates “many challenges” for organizations, McLaughlin said, due to the “moving parts” that touch many departments besides IT: legal, sales, operations, business processes, upper management, etc.

It’s enough to create “a lot of guesswork and paralysis by analysis,” McLaughlin said.

For Schwartz, inertia is more often the result of lack of a single champion for mobile within a company. “If I go to a company, and ask who’s in charge of mobile, either no one raises their hand or 5-6 people raises their hand,” he said.

While informal champions – think of the sales VP who evangelizes the success of the mobile CRM app for his charges – are good, companies typically need more, argues Schwartz. Companies should consider appointing Chief Mobile Officers and creating a Mobile Center of Excellence to help push mobile projects along, unify disparate deployments within various departments and offer guidance on the best way to deploy devices and apps.

4) Expecting R (Returns) without the I (investments). There are many organizations making huge investments in tablets and smartphones. Yahoo, for instance, is rolling out iPhone 5s to all 12,000 employees. 

Problem is, some organizations think it starts and ends with the devices, and, maybe, e-mail. If that’s your mindset, then you might as well have stuck with BlackBerries, then.

“Organizations are failing to put a stake in the ground and make the tough choices to move forward and build apps as quickly as they can,” McLaughlin said.

(Speaking of rapid app development, McLaughlin will present on this topic at the Enterprise Mobility 2012 conference in Las Vegas on October 30. Check him out as well as the all of the other SAP mobile experts speaking there.)

Other organizations hear the word app and are fooled into thinking that mobilizing business processes should be as quick and easy as buying something from Apple’s App Store. That’s Schwartz’s beef. Companies “think it will be fast and cheap. And mobility isn’t necessarily like that.”

For example, if you run a manufacturing plant and want to ensure uptime and save millions of dollars, a single “out of box app may not fit your needs,” he said. You will need to plan for multiple apps, and then customize then to wring out the full value.

What are the biggest reasons you’ve seen why enterprise mobile rollouts can stumble or fail?

The Five Things From Apple’s iPhone 5 Launch That CIOs Will Care About

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | September 12, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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There was a ton of news from Apple’s event today, many of which may have sounded earthshattering to those nattering away on Twitter (raises hand), but upon more reflection, are probably irrelevant to those of us in the enterprise and business worlds. (more…)

Real-Time Is The Wrong Reason For Your Enterprise To Go Mobile

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | September 10, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (1)

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First, it was the Scandinavian-style Smorgasbord. Later, it was Old Country Buffet.

(more…)

Chart: Top 100 iPad Rollouts by Enterprises & Schools (Updated Oct. 16, 2012)

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 31, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility,Sybase News | Comments (0)

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As part of my research mapping the largest iPad and other tablet deployments by schools and universities, I also updated my list of the largest publicly-known iPad deployments, including companies, governmental agencies, etc.

Notable additions include Coachella Valley Unified School District, one of the poorest districts in the US, which has deployed 4,000 iPads, and may, depending on outcome of Nov. ballot, deploy another 16,000, according to Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams.

Long Island University, one of the first large deployments on my list, will soon be up to 19,000 iPads. Conde Nast has 5,000 iPads. In Minnesota, West St. Paul has 1,550 and Minnetonka High School has at least 1,000 (thanks to Eric Simmons, director of technology at New Ulm Schools). 

There’s also Lincoln School in Costa Rica (1,464 iPads), Croswell-Lexington Schools (MI) with 1,700 iPads, East Allen County Schools (IN) with 7,780 iPads, Roche (formerly Genentech), now up to 13,070 iPads, McAllen School District in Texas (moved from 5,000 to 25,000 iPads deployed), Clinton Public Schools (now up to 1,350 iPads), Encinitas Union (upgraded to 4,500 from 3,700 iPads), Abilene Christian University (Texas), Eanes ISD (Texas), the Leeds School of Medicine and Essa Academy (UK), Hult International Business School, Ft. Bend ISD (Texas), Prince George’s County Schools (Maryland), Rochester (MN) School District, Mansfield County Schools (Texas), Vancouver & CDI Colleges, Beaufort County (GA) schools, Farmington (MN) schools, Muncie (ID) Community Schools, Encinitas Union (CA) Schools, Hopkins (MN) schools, and many, many more.

(Many thanks to my tipsters including Dr. Adams, Charles Clickner, head of technology at Lincoln School, Theo Kerhoulas, principal at Croswell-Lexington Schools, Kurt Dager in the IT department at East Allen County Schools, Paul Lanzi, Roche manager for enterprise mobile applications, George Saltsman, director of mobile learning at Abilene Christian University, Kevin Hime, superintendent, Clinton Public Schools, Mike Guerena, tech director at Encinitas Union, Jill Burdo, tech integration specialist at Ramsey Middle School (MN), Yousuf Khan, CIO of Hult Intl. Business School, Brett Belding, senior IT manager at Cisco, Thomas Burgess of Lexington School District One (SC), Cathleen Richardson of Apple, and anyone else I might have stupidly forgotten.)

Indeed, nearly 70 out of my top 100 are K-12 schools. 

Besides the new schools on the list, the major differences with this version are:

a) I’ve expanded it from 50 to 100;

b) I’ve changed the way I’ve embedded the list, hopefully making it more attractive and readable.

If you want to copy and paste the below data but are having trouble, please visit the Google Spreadsheet.

Check out my entire list of iPad deployments here, and my Android list here.

Oh, and please send any missing deployments to me via ericyolai@gmail.com or via Twitter @ericylai.

Map: Back-To-School Drives 100+ Huge iPad & Tablet Deployments

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 30, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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My kids returned to school this week. They attend a suburban elementary school built only one year ago. Everything there is beautiful and state-of-the-art – with the glaring exception of its computing technology. Not only does the school still use computer labs, but they run an outdated platform, as I discovered after quizzing my son:

Me: “Do you know what operating system the PCs in the computer lab run?”

Him: “Umm, I think it says XP when I turn them on?”

Me: “What?!? That OS was introduced two years before you were born!”

Him: “Wowwwww, that is old.”

My mind reeling, I quickly decicided I needed to: a) get involved in the PTA RIGHT AWAY; b) find out what schools are moving forward, not backward, towards tablets and e-textbooks.

Through the magic of Google, I found more than 120 schools, school districts, and colleges and universities that are deploying tablets to students for the first time this fall.

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Credit: ShutterStock.com

My list is no doubt an undercount. 1.5 million American students and 1,000 colleges worldwide use iPads (see this infographic by MDG Advertising). Meanwhile, I can only find deployments that make the news – a difficult ask since rollouts of Android tablets tend to attract much less attention from the press.

Still, I’ve done my best, and have created a map in Google for you to browse. You can zoom in and out and click on the blue points to find out more about each deployment (including iPads as well as Samsung and Amazon Kindle Fire tablets), including the original news reference or web link.

If you cannot view the embedded map below, please click on this link.

I’ve added the larger deployments – San Diego Unified, Rochester Minnesota, Mansfield County (Texas) and others – to another blog/chart listing the 100 Largest iPad Deployments Worldwide today. 

I also plan to take a closer look at some of the trends in the new school deployments in a coming blog.  

If I’ve missed any deployments, please e-mail me at ericyolai@gmail.com or tweet me at @ericylai.

 


View School iPad & Tablet Deployments, Fall 2012 in a larger map

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As part of its ongoing Mobile Insight series, SAP is holding two webcasts in September with experts who can help companies in distribution or utility industries reduce costs and boost sales. Click on the links to register:

Sept. 19th – Fuel Competitive Advantage in Wholesale Distribution Using Mobile Solutions 

Sept. 26th – Mobile Applications for Streamlining Utility Services

How Did SAP’s CIO Spend His Summer Vacation?

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 28, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility,Sybase News | Comments (0)

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Apart from a family trip to Vienna and the Croatian seaside resort of Dubrovnik, SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann and his team had a full plate this summer, especially on mobile initiatives.

Here are some of the highlights:

1) Introducing a new model for tech support. Since the beginning of the summer, SAP has opened up a slew of Mobile Solutions Centers. Its spin on the Apple Genius Bar, think of SAP’s MSC as a corporate IT helpdesk revamped for the BYOD/mobile era.

Each MSC is a friendly (not adversarial) place for workers to come and browse mobile devices and apps and get unhurried, unpatronizing technical advice.  

 

Credit: SAP

“Moving the IT organizations out of the closet has been very well-received” by employees, says Bussmann. “Giving you a place to test drive devices and apps on your way to lunch is the support model of the future.”

SAP has opened about a dozen MSCs worldwide, including in Bangalore, Mumbai, London and the US and German headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and Walldorf. Coming this week: an MSC in Singapore. 

While this high-touch model isn’t the most economical way to provide support, Bussmann says it helps drive better employee satisfaction with IT, and other positive outcomes.

“Should workers lower their expectations [for support] when they leave the Apple Store or Microsoft Store and come to the corporate environment?” he asked.

2) Expanding access to BYOD. SAP has made massive deployments of corporate-owned iPhones and iPads. Perhaps partly as a result, its BYOD program was a late starter compared to other firms. Being a 50,000+ employee company governed by EU data privacy regulations didn’t help, either. 

SAP is making up for lost time. Beginning with granting full BYOD access to Japanese employees hit by the tsunami of 2011, SAP has opened up BYOD to workers in the rest of Asia-Pacific and the US and Canada. By the end of July, SAP had 1,600 devices in its BYOD program, whichi are all managed by SAP Afaria. Just this month (August), workers in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela became eligible for BYOD.

Only Apple devices are eligible for BYOD today. But by September, SAP workers will be able to bring in Android devices made by Samsung, Bussmann said.

The big exception is in Germany. There, employees today can only access corporate data from iPhone or iPad while using Citrix. Full connectivity is coming, though that is subject to negotiations and EU privacy laws.

3) Embracing Android, Windows 8. Since the beginning of the year, SAP has deployed 1,500 Samsung Android Galaxy devices to employees. That has accelerated this summer. 

“I see more and more users internally going for the Galaxy Note,” he said. And the new S III is “a hot device. A lot of executives are asking for that.” (Note: this interview was conducted last week before the Apple-Samsung trial was concluded.)

Bussmann’s IT team has also been testing Windows 8 tablets and laptops from Fujitsu and Samsung. He is enthusiastic about the OS, though he emphasizes that there is no chance that SAP would ever go backwards and standardize completely on Windows 8 for PC and laptop.

“We don’t want to go back to a one-model-fits-all,” he said. “From my perspective, you have to provide choice.”

4) Building and Deploying More Apps. There are more than 35 apps available to SAP employees today, some built by SAP product teams, and some built by SAP IT, such as the SAP Box enterprise cloud storage app, which has been downloaded more than 3,000 times. But IT is working hard to ready and augment many more.

These include HTML5-based apps, imbuing sales apps with more features so that salespeople can instantly generate full sales quotes using just their mobile device, and building a new unified workflow and approval inbox to make things easier for managers and others who confronted with many sales, procurement and HR approvals every day, Bussmann said.

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I’ve written before about how Mobile and Big Data are coming together in weird and wonderful ways. Here’s your opportunity to learn more. Leading industry analyst Maribel Lopez (formerly of Forrester Research) will lead an all-day seminar in the Silicon Valley on September 5th on how mobile+analytics can create “right time experiences” for your company. You can register here.

Gartner: Mobile Is Not The Edge, But The Center, Of Your IT Universe

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 22, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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My ZDNet blogger-in-arms John Fontana is at Gartner’s (formerly Burton Group’s) Catalyst conference in San Diego this week, and wrote up two pieces about mobile (even though he’s more of a security/privacy expert). (more…)

Will The New Wave Of Prosumer Tablets Beat The iPad In The Enterprise?

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 20, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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(Corrected 6 PM PT, August 21, with information provided by Avaya.)

Consumer appeal has been the most important factor in the business tablet war to date. That’s because the vast majority of tablets used for work – five-sixths, by one estimate - have been brought in by workers via their employers’ Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. It’s why the iPad has dominated.

It’s a simple equation, but it vexes the IT snobs and command-and-control traditionalists. How has this [UGH] gadget, with its va-va-va-voom looks infiltrated THEIR HOUSE so quickly?

Intellectually, they might understand that we’re in an era of increasing Consumerization of IT (CoIT), and that they need to stop thinking that they get to call all the technology shots. But old habits die hard. So as a reminder, let’s look at what happened to the 2011 wave of tablets that thought the pathway into organizations was via the IT manager, not the worker:

BlackBerry PlayBook – It came from IT favorite RIM and delivered the Canadian company’s vaunted manageability and security. But delays by RIM to deliver its trademark e-mail experience on the PlayBook (and other apps), as well as cut the price to a competitive level, has hurt the popularity of the first iteration of this device.

Cisco Cius – Another vendor well-liked by IT, Cisco’s entry featured some powerful videoconferencing, networking and security options. And its nod towards CoIT was to run the Cius on Android. But the tablet itself was homely and underpowered. And the options were pricey. Cisco stopped supporting the Cius less than a year after its launch.

Avaya Flare – With its $2,5001,999 list price tag and positioning as a “desktop video device” integrated with (Avaya) desk phones, Avaya couldn’t have expected many consumers to buy the Flare. What it probably didn’t expect was how few enterprises would. Avaya has since wised up, abandoningcontinues to offer its proprietary unified communications hardware, but I suspect the market is warmer to the Flare Experience unified communications apps (list price: $190/user) in favor of pushing Flare video apps running on iOS, Windows and (in 2013) Android.

Tablet War 2.0 – the Battlefield Shifts, Slightly

A new wave of tablets are set to hit the market and challenge the iPad in companies and other large organizations. The vendors behind them have learned their lessons: appealing to IT is not enough. They get that for the foreseeable future, there will be two channels into the enterprise – BYOD (employees buy and own) and IT (company buys and issues). To be successful, they need to cater equally to both.

At the same time, there is a growing realization that poorly-managed, overly-liberal BYOD programs can cost companies more than they save. These vendors are hoping that IT will start reasserting itself and restrict employees who wish to Bring Their Own tablets to a limited menu of IT-approved ones.

For instance, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 released earlier this month. It follows its successful, smaller predecessor which proved that millions of people dislike touchscreen keyboards enough to go stylus. Besides being excellent for artists (and Palm Pilot nostalgists), the Note 4G also suits field workers who must accurately fill out long forms or questionnaires while on the go.

Like this guy.

Credit: ShutterStock.com

 

For IT managers, the Samsung Note is like other recent Galaxy-class devices, running a more-manageable, secureable variant of Android through the Samsung Approved for the Enterprise (SAFE) technology. Features include on-device encryption, Cisco and Juniper VPN, Exchange ActiveSync and more. Also, it’s much easier to fix than an iPad!

SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann, who carries a Galaxy Note himself, says it’s one of the most-requested Android devices at SAP. “I see more and more internal users, especially executives, going for the Note,” he said.

Or take Hewlett-Packard, which strongly hinted last week that rumors that its coming Windows 8 tablet will be enterprise-oriented, with a stylus, enterprise dock and sunlight-viewable screen, are true. 451 Research’s Chris Hazelton believes the HP tablet could even come with an optional semi-rugged to fully-rugged keyboard.

And then there’s Microsoft, which IDC predicts will build 3 million Surface tablets running both Windows 8 and Windows RT, and other Windows 8 tablet vendors, including Asus (Tablet 600), Acer, Samsung (Series 5 & 7 Hybrid PCs), Dell (Latitude 10) and Lenovo (ThinkPad Tablet 2).

Arriving in late October, Windows 8 tablets may cost as little as $600 and $700, sport optional or integrated keyboards, be backwards compatible with existing Windows applications, and, crucially for IT pros, be compatible with Microsoft’s stack of systems management software.

Not a Return to Days of Yore

Some hope that this will be the start of Microsoft’s takeover of the tablet space, just as it slowly but eventually dominated the business PC space with Windows. Others hope this will be a re-ascendence of command-and-control IT, which favors corporate deployments and the standardization on a single platform, presumably Windows, for better management and control.

I think that ship has sailed.

Companies aren’t going to dump iPads and Android tablets wholesale. These tablets have proven their usefulness in many companies under many different conditions, from sales enablement, field service, meetings, accelerating internal processes and more. Their devices too much of a bargain ($199 Nexus vs. a $700 Windows 8 tablet?) and the platforms just too rich with apps.

 

Credit: ShutterStock.com

Also, the growth of iPhones and Android smartphones at work continues unabated. Why would employees be content if they allowed to use iOS or Android with one kind of mobile device but banned with another? Rather than abandoning BYOD, companies will learn to use the right Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to create the right security policies and keep costs under control.

Don’t get me wrong: Windows 8 tablets will certainly appeal to many consumers and companies. But I just don’t think that most organizations will be willing to turn back the clock. Standardization is an unattainable utopia. The average enterprise already supports three or more mobile OSes.

Don’t forget that Apple is upping its enterprise game. It revealed in an SEC filing this month that it plans to incorporate fingerprint sensor technology from its recent acquisition, AuthenTec, in its products as soon as possible. Presumably, that would mean embedding fingerprint sensors for secure authentication into the iPhone and/or iPad. This could smooth in-person retail payments made using wireless NFC (Near-Field Communications) technology, as well as “be handy in large business or government agencies where security is paramount,” wrote CNET.

Apple – and Google, for that matter – also continue to open up more APIs to third-party MDM and MAM (Mobile Application Management) vendors so that they can continue to improve their security and manageability.

Bottom line: enterprises should not expect Windows 8 to herald a return to one platform uber alles (i.e. PCs AND tablets). Enterprises should expect to support iOS, Android and Windows 8 if they want to optimize worker performance – and morale.

CIO On Windows 8 Tablets: “Best Solution Currently Available”

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 16, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (1)

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My blog last week, “University Deploying Thousands of Windows 8 Tablets Is Smart Tactics, Flawed Strategy,” generated quite a bit of reader reaction. (more…)

iPads In The Enterprise Aren’t Overhyped. They’re Properly Hyped.

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 15, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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Bill Simmons, aka the Sports Guy on ESPN/Grantland, is probably my favorite writer on the planet. In the last decade, I’ve read more words by him than anyone besides myself.

There are several reasons for this. His stuff mostly appears on the Web. Like every guy I know, I stopped reading actual books around the time DSL replaced AOL. Simmons also writes incredibly long. His trademark mailbag columns, where he answers his readers’ off-kilter questions, are 10,000 words of Jack Kerouac-style-stream-of-consciousness – if Kerouac had a MacBook and grew up obsessed with 80s movies and the Red Sox.

Finally, Simmons has a gift for spinning fantastical theories that make total sense despite not being grounded in anything resembling scientific rigor, like his 16 Levels of Losing (rating the psychic pain of fans depending on the scenario) or The (Patrick) Ewing Theory (teams play better after losing a superstar).

One Simmons-ism that I find particularly applicable to tech is his notion of something being, not over-hyped, not under-hyped, but properly-hyped. It’s like the Gartner Hype Cycle, but applied to jocks, as they go from overhyped college star to underhyped, struggling young pro to properly-hyped veteran.

Take Lebron James. When he was a high school freshman with a bodybuilder’s physique, he was already overhyped. The hype only grew when James skipped college and instantly became an NBA star. By year 4, though, James began taking heat, from nitpickers who latched onto his (occasionally) poor dribbling and (relatively) weak 3-point shooting, to critics who pointed out his inability to win an NBA championship.

When he messily switched teams, gave up his Alpha Dog status to teammate Dwyane Wade, and still failed to win a championship in his first year, the naysayers seized on every opportunity to call him a choke artist, a waste of talent, a loser. By the end of that season, James was stupendously under-hyped.

Then what happened? Not only did James win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the third time, but he finally carried a team to the championship this past June. That’s the sort of season that anyone not surnamed Bird, Jordan or Bryant can only dream about. But it’s a requirement for a player with the nickname King James to live up to his billing, answer his critics, and, finally, reach the state where his achievements match the hype.

Domenic Gareri / Shutterstock.com

The iPad is the LeBron James of tech. Like LeBron, it is incredibly successful (85 million sold in 2.5 years, 70% of the tablet market) and incredibly hyped.

Only in one area could you argue that the iPad is underhyped, and that is in the enterprise. There’s no shortage of critics charging that the iPad is incapable of ‘real’ business work, that it’s not manageable and insecure, and that it will be dead meat once Windows 8/RT comes out.

For sure, some companies stumble when they blindly jump onto the iPad bandwagon. Like the enterprise that returned 40% of the 14,000 iPads earmarked for its managers because, according to a Gartner analyst, “they don’t have a clue what to do with them.”

In other organizations, the iPad has simply failed to make a dent. In the City of Minneapolis, an attempt to encourage iPad deployments and BYOD usage resulted in just 170 of its 3,600 workers using them, according to a recent article in CIO magazine headlined, “Is the iPad Over-Hyped in the Enterprise?”

Still other organizations like Seton Hall University are consciously eschewing the iPad in favor of Windows 8 tablets.

Personally, I think it’s great that stories like these are emerging and being aired publicly. No CIO would expect a unplanned ad hoc deployment to succeed. Why should iPads be any different? And if you combine super-strict BYOD policies along with super-tight budgets, as happened in Minneapolis, would you expect many workers and managers to bring/deploy iPads?

Not the Holy Grail

The critics are right: there are many things that the iPad isn’t. It isn’t the Holy Grail of mobility. It isn’t the Jesus Tablet. It’s not even a 100% laptop replacement.

But the facts are this: 94% of Fortune 500 companies are rolling out or testing iPads, according to Apple. Thousands more have deployed them. And some of these deployments are massive: 32,000 by Korea Telecom, 26,000 by the San Diego Unified School District, 18,000 by the United States Air Force, 11,000 by United Airlines, etc.

For many companies, the iPad is proving to be a useful business tool that is as easy to manage as Windows PCs and secure enough for top-tier banks. In others, it is a wedge for the next generation of technology to make its way into enterprises. It is an enabler for many companies to overcome the inertia of naysayers to experiment with scenarios where tablets can make add plenty of value (like field service, like sales, like meetings, like healthcare, like HR and general worker productivity). And it is helping companies earn real ROI today.

It’s not only possible to reconcile these opposing views and facts, but desirable that we do so. To ignore one or the other would be to over-hype or under-play the iPad. To properly hype/assess the iPad, we need to match expectations with reality, link hype to actual impact.

Want to see some more examples of companies improving their operations using apps and tablets like the iPad? Check out the infographic below created by the SAP Mobile team, which references companies like Vodafone, CSC, Asian Paints, Charite Berlin hospital, Verizon Wireless and Standard Bank of South Africa:

 

India’s Aakash-2: iPad Guts In A Miraculous US$21 Android Tablet

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | August 8, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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Inexpensive homegrown tablets - think between US$60 and $200 - abound in India, where the per-capita income, despite the fast-rising economy, remains US$3,700 per year. But the uncrowned king of inexpensive, Indian-made tablets is the Aakash tablet.

I say uncrowned because the student-designed, government-subsidized Aakash has yet to hit the market. And for awhile this year, the $35 tablet looked like it never would.

Besides poor reviews of version one of the Aakash tablet, there have been fingerpointing and legal suits flying between the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), whose students and professors designed the tablet, the Indian manufacturer, and the Canadian firm DataWind overseeing the manufacturer.

 

 

The Aakash-2 sports the same ARM chipset as the iPhone 4 and the first iPad. Not bad – just watch out for the 3-hour battery life.

 

But in an article last week, New York Times correspondent Pamposh Raina reports that the Aakash not only appears to be back on track, but is now targeted to be even less expensive and with better hardware than before.

How cheap? For Indian college students, the price of the Aakash-2 has fallen 40% to about $21 (1,132 rupees). A commercial version called the “UbiSlate” will cost between 3,499 and 4,299 rupees, or between $65 and $80.

And what will students get for $21? A 7-inch Android tablet/phone which, despite the latest upgrades, is honestly about 12-18 months behind what you’ll see on the shelves of Best Buy. That’s a relatively long time in the mobile game. But hey, at this price, who can complain?

Internally, the Aakash uses a single-core ARM Cortex-A8 running at 800 MHz, an video co-processor to provide HD video, and 256 MB of RAM. Though out of date in the dual/quad-core era, let’s not forget that the Cortex-A8 with 256 MB RAM is what powers the original iPad (though at a slightly-faster 1 GHz).

Other popular devices using the Cortex-A8 include the iPhone 4, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color, Lenovo’s IdeaPad A1, the Archos 5, and the Palm Pre (the latter four all via TI’s OMAP chipset).

The original Aakash only came with a 7-inch resistive touchscreen. Though cheaper, these require pressure from users’ fingers or styluses, and are rarely used in modern tablets.

The Aakash-2 now also comes in a glossy capacitive touchscreen version with a 800×480 resolution. According to Raina, navigation on the capacitive screen “was simple and fast, needing only a light touch,” while video was “decent quality” with “very little pixelization.”

One of the more impressive things about the Aakash-2 are its communication options. They include Wi-Fi a/b/g, a GPRS modem for which subscriptions will only cost 98 rupees per month, or less than US$2, and the ability to add a SIM card for voice phone access.

The Inevitable Tradeoffs

You’ll need the data options to get on the Web or cloud, because the Aakash-2′s internal storage (2 or 4 GB) is meager, though users can add up to 32 GB via an unspecified memory card slot.

The casing is a generic rubberized black plastic. And the operating system is out of date - Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Though it should be noted that Gingerbread still runs on 60% of Android tablets in use today. And the makers are upfront that the Aakash’s battery life is only 3 hours.

 

 

One Tablet Per Backpack.

Credit: Shutterstock

Unlike the One Laptop Per Child Project, the Aakash does not feature any sunlight-readable displays, or any other cutting-edge, MIT-developed technology. It is simply a bare-bones Android tablet delivered at a miraculous price. I plan to bug my Indian colleagues to buy one for me the next time they go back home.

Like the OLPC, which has fallen short of its initial goals and only delivered 2.4 million laptops to school children worldwide in the last 7 years, the Aakash project has had its share of problems. Hopefully, it’s moved past them – permanently.

Over the next six months, about 100,000 tablets are scheduled to be delivered to IIT, which plans to install a number of engineering and other educational Android apps.

In a country where more than 600 million people are under the age of 25, the Aakash tablet’s makers have the opportunity to bridge the digital divide for hundreds of millions of students. And perhaps even jumpstart an Indian mobile hardware industry.

What Do Developers And Influencers Think About The New SAP Mobile Developer Program?

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | July 31, 2012 in Mobile Industry,Mobility,Sybase News | Comments (0)

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SAP has lowered formerly-forbidding barriers for mobile developers to build within its ecosystem.
(more…)

Nine Steps You Can Take To Help Prevent ‘Apple Picking’ [iPhone, iPad Robberies]

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility,security | Comments (0)

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A broken jaw. A torn finger. Death.

Pickpockets and thieves used to be the main risk to your smartphone or tablet. But violent robbers are also targeting mobile users.

A Wall Street Journal reporter, Rolfe Winkler, recently wrote what happened after he chased some thieves who had stolen his date’s iPad:

But he had a crew backing him up that I never saw. Instead of winning back the iPad, I found myself lying on the platform bleeding, my jaw split in half.

As Winkler wrote, his story was far from unique:

Hwang Yang, a chef at the Modern in New York, was walking home from the subway in the Bronx in April when thieves shot him dead for his iPhone. They were caught after posting it on Craigslist. Outside Denver in 2010, Bill Jordan was leaving an Apple store, toting his new iPad in a bag. When a thief ripped the bag away, the strings tore off part of Mr. Jordan’s pinkie.

Here’s another sad story from Chicago in March 2011:

At rush hour on Monday, a man snatched an iPhone from a woman who was using it at Fullerton station platform in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. As he ran off, the man knocked over Sally Katona-King, 68, on her way home from her church receptionist’s job. Katona-King died yesterday after tumbling down the station stairs. Hospital officials believe that she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

And still another one from England in February 2011:

A man was stabbed to death with a screwdriver after remonstrating with two street robbers who had stolen his iPhone, a court has been told.

This made-for-headlines trend is being called ‘apple picking‘, as robbers appear to be favoring iPhones and iPads for their brand recognition and higher street value. Though I’m sure plenty of Android devices are being stolen, especially newer wares like the Google Nexus tablet and the Samsung Galaxy S III superphone.

In New York City, there were 26,000 electronics thefts in the first 10 months of 2011, of which 81% involved mobile phones, according to the WSJ. In Washington D.C., cellphone-related robberies grew 54% between 2007 to 2011.

I think this will grow as organizations start to deploy thousands of iPads and similar devices on airplanes, in restaurants and airport waiting areas, in elementary schools, etc.

While I’ve misplaced cellphones, I’ve never had one stolen or robbed from me. And I’ve only had a single brush with violent crime, as I detail below. Still, I’ve done some research and given some thought on what you can do prevent being a victim – and mitigate the effects if it does happen.

1. Be Aware.

The beauty of mobile devices is their ability to whisk you away mentally from your immediate environs through music, video, the Web. Problem is, that also happens to make you a perfect target for a thief or robber.

I remember walking at night around the University of Minnesota campus 20 years ago with my girlfriend. We were in deep conversation about something. Suddenly, a passing bicyclist tried to grab her purse off her shoulder. We were lucky that his grip was poor – or my girlfriend was stronger than her 5’2″ frame would suggest – because he rode away prize-less.

I wouldn’t suggest testing your luck. So when you’re on the subway or walking around at night in a quiet area, turn your music down a notch. Look up from your screen. Even better, put your device in your bag or inside coat pocket. Being aware – and showing others that you are aware – could make the difference.

2. Be Unflashy.

One piece of travel advice I’ve taken to heart is to not buy fancy, matching designer luggage. That sort of luggage is much more likely to be stolen.

You also want to be inconspicuous with your mobile devices. Those white ear buds Apple included with your iPhone? Total mugger bait. Put them away in favor of some generic $8 ear buds from Target or, my personal favorite, some black foam headphones that you harvested from your 90s-era Sony Discman. They probably still work great.

To round out the experience, play your Nirvana channel on Pandora.

Similarly, those snappy magnetic covers also scream “NEW IPAD” to robbers. I protect my iPad with a homely padded leather case. It adds so much bulk to my svelte iPad it’s like putting a supermodel in a fat suit. Still, I feel comfortable no one’s going to target my tablet.

3. Get Insurance.

If you live or work in an urban area or travel a lot for work or pleasure, consider getting specialized device insurance. Telcos and traditional insurance companies offer them. The cost starts at a reasonable $5 a month, or 17 cents a day.

You may also be able to cover your mobile device through homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and their “personal articles policy” option. That reportedly costs between $15 to $40 to add.

4. Install Device Recovery Apps.

All of these apps let you track a lost or stolen device. Apple’s Find My iPhone is the standard for iOS. There are plenty of other options: Lookout Mobile and Where’s My Droid for Android, Find My Phone for Windows Phone 7, Prey and AirCover for multiple platforms.

Here’s a nice piece explaining how to use Find My iPhone. Anyone got a device recovery story with a happy ending to share?

Remember the limitations of these apps: your device must be on, can’t be wiped or reformatted, or had its SIM card taken out. Experienced thieves know this. If not, your battery will run out, too. So time is of the essence.

5. Back Up Your Device.

Monetary value is one thing, but what about all of those great photos of your friends and family that you took? The Notes you took detailing that great business idea? All of your Contacts? Those can’t be replaced.

With iCloud, it’s easy to make sure your iPhone or iPad data is backed up to within the last 24 hours (you can also manually back up data whenever you have a Wi-Fi connection).

With Android, it appears to be more about mixing and matching various free and paid servicesanyone got recommendations?

Once you’ve got Nos. 4 and 5 covered, it makes doing No. 6 much easier.

6. Choose Your Life Over Your Device.

Replacing an on-contract smartphone is about $200. The most expensive tablet costs less than $1,000 to replace. Your life is worth more than either of those amounts.

So just as you shouldn’t fight back or refuse when someone armed demands your wallet, you shouldn’t bluff or refuse when someone armed demands your iPad. Most robbery attempts don’t turn out like this.

7. Get Your Company To Install MDM Software.

That stands for Mobile Device Management software, and it’s used by your IT manager to prepare new devices, secure corporate data on them, and kill these devices if lost or stolen.

MDM software is powerful stuff, combining more powerful versions of the features from Nos. 4 and 5 – plus dozens more. Any company with even a small population of corporate-deployed or BYOD iPhones or Android devices should be running it.

As for recommendations, your company could do worse than SAP Afaria. My company’s MDM offering has been one of the top choices in the market for more than a decade.

8. Teach Your Kids.

As a father of two young boys who love mobile tech and have their own devices, it scares me to think that all of these risks apply to them, too. So besides installing device recovery apps and getting insurance, make sure you have the talk with them about being aware in public and giving up their devices without a struggle if facing a mugger. I’d advise that even if you are raising mini-Donnie Yens. Finally…

9. Help Shrivel The Market.

Buying used is good for the environment. Just make sure you aren’t mixing good with bad by buying something that “fell off the back of a truck.”

Next time you are browsing ads for Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets on Craigslist, take care to avoid ads where the tablets are suspiciously cheap, or there’s some excuse why they are missing the cable and power supply, receipt, manual, box, etc. If you do contact them, say you need all of that stuff for warranty reasons or that you’re a paperwork freak.

If their excuses for not supplying you this stuff sound fishy, don’t just stop dealing with them – call them out on your suspicions, or file a complaint with Craigslist.

What Happens to Syclo After Its Acquisition By SAP?

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | July 26, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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If your company suddenly had two products that owned highly-coveted Leader rankings in the same Gartner Magic Quadrant, would you kill one of them? Or would you celebrate your good fortune by trying to accommodate and integrate the two? (more…)

Apple’s iPhone Sales Were Weak Because The Chinese And Big Businesses Love It [Huh?]

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | July 25, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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Let’s keep a little perspective. Apple still sold 26 million iPhones in its fiscal Q3, up 28% year-over-year, worth $16.2 billion, up 22% year-over-year. The strongest challenger to the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone, has been sold 10 million times two months after launch, but that was after months of pent-up demand and stellar reviews.

The normally overexcitable stock market is certainly keeping its collective head. As of mid-day, Apple’s stock is only down 5% on above-average trading. You’d think after what you read on Techmeme yesterday that AAPL would look like this:

China Syndrome

Some are blaming Europe for iPhone weakness. But if you’re going to point to a region, point to China, where sales fell 28% to $5.7 billion in Q3 from $7.9 billion in Q2.

People forget that Apple hugely ramped up iPhone sales in China at the beginning of the year. It launched the iPhone 4S at Apple Stores in Beijing and Shanghai in January. January/February is when Chinese New Year occurs, when workers get their annual bonus (usually at least several months worth of pay) plus several weeks of vacation. It’s really the closest equivalent to Christmas, with lots of gift giving. And what better gift for a young urbanite than an iPhone?

Also, Apple officially began offering iPhones via a second carrier partner, China Mobile, at the end of Q2. With 129 million subscribers on its CDMA network, China Mobile is like the U.S.’s Verizon. As a result, its iPhone shipments in China in fiscal Q2 were up 5x year-over-year. Yes, 500%. And don’t forget that China is Apple’s second largest market in the world.

The net is that Apple’s iPhone comparables for Q3 vs. Q2 in China were impossible to match. But few analysts seemed to notice the China situation, despite Tim Cook openly talking about it.

Virtually, all of the $2.2 billion sequential revenue decline, was due to iPhone sales in Greater China and about half of that $2.2 billion is attributable to changes in the channel inventory not the underlying sell through of the iPhone.

No, let’s blame the euro crisis or the housing market or Obama/the Fed because that’s trendier.

Enterprise Savvy

For my other argument, I’m going out a little on a limb, using circumstantial evidence, albeit what I consider strong evidence.

There is no doubt that enterprises are buying up iPhones. Not being brought in by BYOD – that’s more of a tablet/iPad phenom – but being bought up by IT and deployed as a standard device, often replacing BlackBerries.

For instance, Good Technology reported today that among users of its MDM software, the iPhone dominated Android, with 62% share vs. Android’s 37% share of smartphones.

 

Or as Cook said:

We estimate that the number of iPhones in the Fortune 500 has more than doubled in the past year…PepsiCo has deployed thousands of iPhones with an in-house app build specifically for their field merchandisers. This app has eliminated paper reports and provides real-time information to managers, sales teams and delivery drivers.

German insurance provider ERGO has built an in-house app for iPhone that thousands of agents use to process insurance claims, which has significantly reduced paper work and improved processing time and customer satisfaction.

The good thing about enterprise deployments is that they are huge. The bad thing is that CIOs and IT managers are savvier than your average consumer (slap yourself on the back if you’re in IT). You know exactly when smartphones are introduced, and the effect of timing on refresh cycles and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). And you are plugged into the rumor mill about the iPhone 5, as evidenced by your reading this and other blogs.

It doesn’t take that many Fortune 500 CIOs to wait for the iPhone 5 to cause enterprise iPhone sales to become unfavorably “lumpy” for Apple.  If this is a significant factor, I don’t think Apple would admit to it, as it would show a crack in the façade of broad enterprise embrace of the iPhone.

Any readers working in IT who want to confirm or disconfirm that this entered into your decisionmaking about whether or not to deploy iPhones this quarter?

Still, I think the broad narrative holds true – enterprises are still embracing the iPhone. But as it becomes a significant segment for Apple, expect Apple to experience more seasonality in sales as enterprises try to time their buying and refresh cycles to gain maximum TCO.

 

Is This The Most Boring Branch Of Enterprise Mobility?

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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Ask a man on the street what the mobile enterprise means to them, and you’ll probably get one of two replies: 1) “Mobile wha?” 2) “BYOD.”

Why BYOD? Well, Bring Your Own Device is the one thing that potentially touches all of us workers, not just IT folks and developers.

No wonder BYOD’s gone totally mainstream – so much that some wiseguy pundits are declaring BYOD to be soooo over, and that we need to boldly go beyond it.

So if BYOD is hot because it’s all about me, what’s obscure and therefore all about meh? Traditionally, that would be industrial mobility, or the practice of mobilizing field service workers.

Mobilizing field workers has been a thriving field for decades, with companies equipping their delivery drivers, repair technicians, surveyors etc. with mobile devices. The problem is that it’s we’ve become accustomed to seeing these guys carrying around mobile devices. Hence, no longer novel.

That’s out in public. Inside most companies, field service only involves a tiny fraction of workers. Hence, obscure.

Also, the mobile devices used by field service have traditionally been homely, ruggedized gear running some green screen Linux-based UI, or, if you’re “lucky,” Windows Mobile or CE. Hence, meh.

 

Big Turnaround

If you’d asked me even nine months ago, I would’ve wholeheartedly, 100% echoed the sentiments above. Mobilizing knowledge workers and salesfolks – that’s where it’s at!

My attitude adjustment began last November, when I attended the Enterprise Mobility Exchange in Las Vegas. At that conference, which despite its name is all about field service, I learned about Coca-Cola Bottling, which was swapping out ruggedized devices for iPads and encouraging their new owners, delivery drivers, to install and play Angry Birds and other games.

Why? Because drivers would start to get emotionally attached to their iPads and take care of them like their own property. Indeed, Coca-Cola found that the breakage rates for the iPads were lower than its pricier, heavily-armored counterparts.

Then I learned about Aviva, the world’s 6th largest insurance company, deploying BlackBerry PlayBooks to its risk inspectors that it hopes will save gobs of time and money by making its inspectors 2-3 times more productive.

And then I listened to Syclo Mobile’s CEO Rich Padula keynote speech at the company’s (now an SAP subsidiary) user conference last week. You can catch the reply of this and other speeches, including Syclo’s platform roadmap, here, and download the presentations here.

The pre-eminent provider of field service apps, Syclo has been around since the late 1990s. So not only did it survive the era when ruggedized WinMo devices were the only game in town, but it thrived, with 600 customers as proof.

Here were some of the fascinating customer stories Padula shared:

The MGM Grand Hotels wanted to make its room maintenance people more efficient. So as part of a Syclo mobile asset management solution, it stuck “little barcodes around the door frame of each room,” said Padula, which the repairmen could scan as they went in rather than type it. 

Results were great for the first several weeks. But the maintenance department forgot to tell housekeeping. So the Monday after that, the techs discovered that the maids had scrubbed all of the barcodes off. Moral of this story: you need “good interdepartmental communication,” Padula said.

Mobilizing can shorten processes dramatically. What’s so exciting about that? Well, that can save a ton of time and money.

 

Mobile work orders help HP’s repairpeople save an average of 45 minutes a day. For a full-time worker making $30 an hour, that adds up to $5,600 in savings a year. The cost of managing a work order at healthcare vendor Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, fell by half, to $4.50 from $9.

Finally, Syclo, if you can believe it, tried to out-innovate Apple. Back in 2004, it introduced a Siri-like voice control feature for an inventory management app. Yes, eight years ago. The feature allowed users to enter data and move through screens by speaking into its device, rather than using a stylus or (gloved) hand.

The voice technology was adopted in some big warehouses, according to Padula, but ultimately failed because workers in maintenance storerooms wouldn’t use it. “We never got the adoption we wanted,” he said.

Padula wasn’t clear why voice control failed, but I wonder if the reason was similar at all to why voice-controlled car computers are not a reality yet.

All in all, you could say that my attitude towards field service mobility is 180 degrees different than it was less than a year ago. There are great stories to be told. Do you have any to share? Please do so in the comments below.