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With AT&T's CEO Ralph de la Vega pronouncing 2011 as the "breakout year for mobilizing the enterprise" the show got off to a rousing start. Although the CTIA Fall show lacks the punch of the other major wireless shows at the beginning of the year, it appears to be finding a home around enterprise mobile solutions. However, it still needs to get away from the "gadget chic" mentality endemic of so many of these shows and better position the solutions these collective technologies are designed to address. Samsung did a great job of this in its booth bringing together partners to illustrate specific applications and operational pain points.
VDC analysts got the opportunity to meet with a wide range of enterprise mobility solution providers. A separate post will highlight some of the more noteworthy announcements. One interesting theme, however, has been surrounding approaches to the development of mobile applications in addition to how these applications are being distributed and supported. Today's "I got an app for that" mentality is redefining how enterprises are viewing mobility. It is no longer a point solution that is deployed in a siloed fashion. Rather enterprises are looking to leverage mobility on a much more strategic and holistic level. However, most enterprise IT departments have severe limitations when it comes to development and support of mobile solutions and applications. As as result they are turning towards wireless carriers, system integrators, managed service providers and other to support their requirements.
However, ultimately enterprises are desperate for simpler tools develop applications across a broad scope of devices/platforms. Many enterprise organizations we talk to remain confused about the merits of the various approaches to application development in addition to the multiple platforms they are required to support: MEAP vs. cloud-based micro-apps; rich native client vs. browser; HTML5 vs. cross platform compilers; iOS4 vs. WP7 vs. BB 6.0 vs. Android vs. meeG0; etc. Throw into this mix that consumers have taken Enterprise IT hostage and you get the sense that many are about to throw in the towel. The pace of advancement - and elevated importance of mobility in many CIO's calendars - is exposing how unprepared many organizations are and driving the need for more education and simpler tools.
Even with all this confusion, enterprises are forging ahead with their enterprise mobility strategies. One interesting theme that VDC has been tracking is the average number of mobile applications supported per organizations and per mobile worker. Unsurprisingly this number has been consistently growing with many field mobile workers today running over five separate applications on their mobile devices. Consequently this is creating issues for enterprises regarding app clutter, discoverability and management. Companies such as Sybase are developing unique enterprise application portals that are addressing many of these issues. In addition, at the CTIA show Sprint introduced Sprint ID. While criticized by many as a way for Sprint to 'expose' revenue generating content in front of their customers. From a consumer perspective I get the potential issues. However, from an enterprise perspective, Sprint ID introduces some potentially appealing concepts/services.
In theory Sprint ID has the potential to reduce IT costs by decentralizing deployment of applications, tools and widgets to employees. It does this by creating custom 'profiles' based on the employees functional responsibilities (sales agent; service technician; delivery driver; etc.) and delivers all the relevant applications for this user based on the profile criteria. Examples provided by Sprint included Sales Force ID, which provides access to time and expense reporting, CRM, navigation/driving directions and product collateral, and Field Service ID, which provides access to turn-by-turn driving directions, a third-party work order application and a fleet management application.
All in all the CTIA Enterprise and Applications show is beginning to find its identity and could become the 'go-to' event this industry needs. While clearly work remains to be done - quality of some of the sessions and the somewhat haphazard collection of exhibitors left something to be desired - the quality of attendee (according to everyone we talked to) and opportunity to conduct business was very positive.