How Many Devices are Enough?

UC

One of the more significant changes we’re seeing regarding the enterprises’ view toward mobility is the proliferation of supported device types.

While BlackBerry was king for most of the last five years, we’re now seeing the portfolio of supported devices widening to include iPhones and Android devices. Some studies are suggesting that Windows Mobile will gain ground thanks to a ground-up revamping of the Microsoft mobile operating system. In our latest benchmark we found that more than 10% of companies now officially support iPhone versus almost 40% for BlackBerry smartphones.

There are several drivers for increased device proliferation. One is an ongoing effort by Apple to reposition its solutions (including but not limited to the iPhone) for businesses. Since early 2010, Apple has had an under-the-radar effort underway within its stores to uncover small business owners and target their concerns specifically. The company also has bolstered support for enterprise requirements, including email synchronization with Microsoft Exchange and other systems supporting ActiveSync. Apple now provides dedicated web pages to highlight the benefits of its products for business users (see: http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/)

As Apple signals its willingness to move toward business-caliber solutions, IT professionals who originally scorned the iPhone are taking another look. Meanwhile the rapid rise of Android-based devices in the last year has created pressure on IT shops to enable support for devices such as the Motorola Droid and HTC EVO 4G.

Another driver is the increased technical sophistication of employees, particularly the under-30 cohort. These users are demanding the latest consumer bells and whistles, and they aren’t shy about signaling their dissatisfaction with the more conservative stance many IT organizations previously adopted.

Finally, there’s the availability of third-party products such as those from Good Technology that deliver effective data-leak protection on a range of mobile devices, thus effectively making them equivalent to BlackBerry smartphones from a security perspective. In previous years, IT professionals eschewed non-BlackBerry devices because of the lack of operational tools, particularly the ability to wipe devices if lost or stolen to protect corporate data. Good Technology provides that capability, and many organizations report they’re deploying or assessing it. As IT managers evaluate support for a wider variety of devices they should evaluate various device types with respect to security requirements, the ability to provide front line support such as replacements and parts (e.g., batteries), and the ability of devices to support service provider partners. Set guidelines for which devices you’ll officially support, which ones you’ll tolerate, and which ones are not acceptable.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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