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This post concludes our series of 2011 mobile and wireless predictions and expectations.
6. Rugged Becomes Relevant…Again
In all fairness to rugged mobile computing vendors, the segment never actually lost its relevance. However, similar to the push toward individual-liable devices, the consequence of the recent global recession and its impact on access to capital resulted in organizations adopting non-rugged (or less rugged) devices in place of rugged mobile devices more suitable for the applications being targeted. This also impacted the non-rugged segment of the market and in part fueled the recent demand for lower cost Netbooks. Perhaps as a result of this shift in purchasing habits VDC tracked an increase in average failure rates of devices deployed to support enterprise mobility applications leading into 2010. (Note: this increase in failure rate came on the heels of a declining failure rate trend as mobile ODMs began to focus more on durability in their design specifications).
What is significant here is that enterprises are taking note of failure rates, especially as they look to mobile devices to support an ever expanding suite of workflows among their mobile workforce. Device cost of ownership – including post-deployment support costs and the costs of device failure – is again a top-of-mind mobile investment criterion.
7. Enterprise applications optimized for touch interface
More and more mobile devices are shipping with touch as the primary interface technology. However, while most are great for content consumption, few can be used to support more data-intensive input applications. We are not yet predicting the demise of the keyboard, but the fact that enterprise applications have not been designed to be supported by these types of devices is a key factor contributing to the inherent limitations of touch-only devices. This is evident across most sectors and enterprise application categories, but perhaps most acute in sectors with substantial mobile workforces. A key initiative for many of the enterprise application vendors will be to increase their investment in designing their UI to support a wider variety of input options, including touch.
One factor that will only accelerate this development will be the influx of the Millennials (Gen Y) on the workforce. Approximately 100M Millennials will enter the workforce shortly, bringing with them their experience with technology – especially (touch-based) mobile and social solutions. Consequently, their expectations on the integration of these technologies in enterprise workflows will act as a substantial catalyst towards new(er) mobile form factors, user interfaces and technology application.
VDC will be tracking many additional developments that did not make it into our list, such as mobile operating systems and the evolution of embedded I/O functionality (especially with respect to NFC) within mobile devices. With respect to mobile OSes, we expect Android to continue to gain momentum and emerge in 2011 as a viable enterprise platform. iOS will continue its trajectory (with Verizon expected to provide the necessary boost) and will also become more enterprise-friendly. Windows Mobile (Embedded Handheld) will remain the “king of the hill” for specialized/rugged handheld devices (however Android on rugged handheld devices will not only be a military story in 2011), and BlackBerry OS will remain the de facto solution for bullet proof security. The wild-cards for 2011 will clearly be the acceptance of Windows Phone 7, the emergence of the QNX-backed BlackBerry Tablet OS and the emergence of a more tablet-friendly version of Android (Honeycomb?).
However, while tracking OS shares provides a nice measuring stick, the more critical question may be at what point does the mobile OS move to the background/become less relevant. As device adoption continues to ramp up and competition amongst the leading mobile OS vendors continues, we see the fragmented state of the mobile landscape persisting. Moving forward, we see differentiation becoming increasingly difficult leading to more parity on these platforms. The result will likely be a sharpened focus on product positioning designed to target specific end-users (i.e. business vs. consumer). Additionally, pre-loaded applications and software utilities and partner strategies will grow in importance as new opportunities will become available from areas such as near field communications (which, thanks to carrier and device vendor endorsements, will finally gain traction in 2011) and mobile advertising platforms.
Happy Holidays from the VDC's Mobile & Wireless Practice!