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Enterprises Should Focus on Android and iOS, Not Just BlackBerry

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Enterprises Should Focus on Android and iOS, Not Just BlackBerry


November 15, 2010

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Historically, enterprise information technology managers have understandably wanted to limit the number of mobile devices and operating systems they must support. BlackBerry (News - Alert), Windows Mobile or Symbian have been among the expected choices.

However, something has changed. In 2011, enterprises should focus on Android and iOS and BlackBerry. That's a big and dramatic change. To unsettle you even more, however, consider that the analysts also recommend that IT staffs review their choices every year. 

Although these are the three recommended platforms today, Forrester encourages IT teams to revisit their mobile policies at least annually to ensure they’re investing in the right platforms," said Benjamin Gray and Christian Kane, Forrester Research analysts. 

"This is especially crucial with the launch of Windows Phone 7, as Intel (News - Alert) and Nokia continue to develop MeeGo, and as HP prepares to launch devices powered by WebOS," Gray and Kain said. If that sounds a bit anarchic, it is. The larger point is that mobile technology is developing so rapidly that a "correct" choice one year might not be viewed as so appropriate 12 to 18 months later. 

In fact, though it is not quite "policy by exception," it is darn close. Despite the organizational need for uniformity as a way of controlling and managing operational costs and security, users simply are asking to use an almost-bewildering assortment of devices, and IT managers are finding they simply have to adjust. 

Forrester’s most recent survey found that nearly half of firms are supporting two or more mobile operating systems and that 56 percent support employee-owned devices to some degree.

To strike the right balance between support, manageability, and flexibility "you should focus your attention over the next year on three mobile operating systems," Gray and Kane argued. Those include BlackBerry, iOS (Apple (News - Alert)) and Android. The first name would come as no surprise. The latter two just might. 

At the top of the list for most firms is BlackBerry, the gold standard for management and security, Forrester argues. More than 115 million BlackBerry smartphones have shipped around the globe, more than half within the past 18 months. 

With more than 50 million subscribers worldwide through August 2010 and in deployment within 90 percent of the Fortune 500, BlackBerry will retain its position as the number-one  most widely deployed solution for businesses of all sizes. In fact, 70 percent of the firms Forrester surveyed support BlackBerry.

But Apple seems to have turned a corner in the enterprise market. Over the nearly four years in its existence, iOS (formerly iPhone (News - Alert) OS) has matured from a consumer-centric OS to an enterprise-capable platform. IT can now securely control corporate data on the device and while in transport.

However, what has most firms excited about the iPhone opportunity is the proliferation of business applications. Nearly 30 percent of firms Forrester surveyed support iOS already today, making it the third most widely supported platform behind BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. 

Android seems to have quickly followed a similar path to the iPhone. Android 2.2 represented a significant leap in enterprise-class features, including ActiveSync integration, stronger password policies, and remote wipe capabilities, Gray and Kane said.

About 13 percent of firms Forrester surveyed officially support and manage Android already. 

Business productivity always is balanced to some degree with needs for security, ease of management, and cost. But increased mobility and remote work mean end users are going to keep putting pressure on IT to support the tools users prefer. About 35 percent of all enterprise workers rely on their notebooks every week, while 13 percent use their smartphones just as frequently. As information workers become more mobile, demand for location-agnostic devices such as laptops and smartphones will increase, keeping the pressure and tension between what end users want, and what IT wants. 

On top of all that, mobile technology itself is changing very rapidly. The best sign of that is Forrester Research indicating there are no mobile operating system decisions that automatically can be counted on to provide the best solution, year in and year out. Instead, mobile decisions have to be re-visited annually. 

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard

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