Through his Mobile Enterprise Weblog, Daniel shares his thoughts and musings on enterprise mobility management.
May 16, 2006
Turning a leader into a follower
Two weeks ago, RIM announced their groundbreaking BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express product designed for the SMB, SME and SOHO markets. This product is in direct response to similar free offerings from Visto and SEVEN, and it's a demonstration of the ways in which a leader can become a follower.
In the past, smaller BlackBerry users have had three alternatives:
- To use RIM's "redirector" software, leaving their computers on 24x7, re-sending incoming e-mails back out to the BlackBerry device using an e-mail client.
- To use BlackBerry Internet Service and POP3 as a way to access non-Exchange e-mail accounts.
- To install BES for a handful of users (I know of several five-person BES implementations).
And now there's a lightweight version of BES that you can install and integrate with Exchange...assuming that you have Exchange, Notes or GroupWise in your ten-person company or your home office.
I haven't had much to say about this product announcement other than the fact that - like many things from RIM lately - it's too little, too late.
And then RIM came out with another zoomingly creative product announcement - BES for MDS.
RIM Announces BlackBerry Enterprise Server for MDS Applications
New solution gives organizations the ease and flexibility to deploy wireless applications independent of email
WATERLOO, ON - Research In Motion (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; TSX: RIM) today announced BlackBerry Enterprise Server for MDS Applications™, a new offering aimed at organizations looking to easily mobilize applications and have the flexibility to run them independent of wireless email deployments. BlackBerry Enterprise Server for MDS Applications builds on the solid foundation that has already made BlackBerry® the leading wireless platform for the enterprise today and offers the same industry-leading security, reliability, and administration features of BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
So MDS has been in the works, and we've heard about it before.
May 11, 2006
If a tree falls in the forest …
Does anyone hear the product announcement?
I'm referring specifically to HP's second annual "Connected: The HP Mobility Summit" event which was the company's "mobility event for press and industry analysts."
According to the press release:
HP today introduced more than a dozen products and services designed to make it easy for businesses and consumers to enjoy always-on, always-ready mobile computing.
And who gets to learn about these new devices for businesses? IT managers? CIOs? Line-of-business decision makers?
No. It's the usual suspects in the press and analyst community ... pretty much the last people who need to see another new product announcement.
So what's my beef? It's a massive budget that's spent announcing predictable products to an over-served community. HP is announcing some interesting new products and some very interesting services. And I know the only thing that will see the light of day is the device announcements.
What I'd like to talk about is the managed services for mobile e-mail and device management.
And I'm very interested in seeing what HP is doing with OpenCall (their service creation environment ...SCE) to facilitate roaming, especially for mobile data.
But all I get is another un-returned phone call from HP's PR department.
And these announcements are just trees falling in the forest. The new laptops will get covered. The rest of the stuff is too complicated to get any decent discussion.
Maybe I'll spend some time on the managed services in the coming weeks. I'll do that regardless of whether I get the free trip, the free devices, or a briefing from HP.
May 4, 2006
Samsung Q1: The channel says it all
I'll defer to the Samsung press release:
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – May 1, 2006 – Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., a global leader in semiconductor, telecommunication, digital media and digital convergence technologies, today announced the official U.S. launch of the company's new Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), the Q1.
The company made the announcement at a San Francisco press event, where it also announced that the Q1 will be available at Best Buy's e-tail outlet, www.bestbuy.com/ultramobilepc, beginning May 7, and in select Best Buy stores later this summer as part of a collaboration between the two companies.
Notice that this device will go out through a retail channel.
"The Q1 is a good companion PC for the mobile professional that is looking for the freedom and flexibility of a small mobile device without having to sacrifice functionality," said HS Kim, executive vice president of Samsung Electronics Computer System Division. "This product marks the beginning of a revolution for PCs and PC use."
How exactly does the Best Buy outlet make it an enterprise product? Wouldn't we want to see this device going through one of the major distributors? For example:
to name a few.
But this announcement of a retail channel is a continuation of the idea that early adopters will buy these devices on their own...ultimately bringing them to work for IT to sort out.
As I discussed yesterday, it's perfectly fine to go around IT...as long as the solution is:
- A complete, workable solution from the beginning,
- Not integrated with any other enterprise assets (e.g. spurring security concerns), and
- Supportable by IT in the mid- to long-term.
As long as vendors keep pushing incomplete mobile enterprise solutions through the retail and carrier channels, the mobile enterprise industry will remain in a conundrum. And an ultraportable PC coming through a retail channel merely reinforces a model that hasn't been working.
May 3, 2006
Survey: Mobile Enterprise Readiness
I just completed this survey that's being conducted by Georgia Tech. It's about readiness for mobile enterprise solutions. It's a little more theoretical than many of the things that we deal with on a daily basis, but the MEA is supporting the activity, and I think it's a good way to stop and think about how your companies are preparing for mobility.
And which is most important? Technology, architecture, leadership, resources, employees, etc.? Here's the blurb.
Mobile information and communication technologies (ICT) have a tremendous potential to transform organizations in fundamental ways. In order to reduce organizational risks associated with the adoption and implementation of mobile ICT solutions, it is critical to determine an enterprise's readiness for mobile ICT. The purpose of this expert study is thus to gather your opinion about the relative importance of critical organizational dimensions and assessment areas that influence an enterprise's readiness to adopt and implement enterprise mobility solutions.
The URL http://www.mobilereadiness.info will take you to the web-based questionnaire. You will be able to login using the temporary UserID ("mobile") and Password ("expert"). Approximately 15-20 minutes will be needed to complete this questionnaire. Of course, participation is completely voluntary, and all responses and results will be kept confidential.
This research study is conducted by researchers from the Tennenbaum Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. After these data are collected, they will be presented in a simplified format online.
Rahul Basole is using this survey for his dissertation. For those of you who spent a little too much time in grad school, he's defending at the end of June, so take a few minutes to help him out. And if you didn't spend too much time in grad school, do it for the 27 mind-bending graphs!
It's a good thinking exercise. If you do anything related to mobility, check it out at http://www.mobilereadiness.info user: "mobile" and password: "expert."
Do we need to "democratize" enterprise mobility?
Nick Gonios at Smooth Mobility has recently launched his corporate weblog, and one of his first posts is entitled "The next wave of enterprise mobility - democratising it..." Gonios starts the discussion, but I'm left a little confused about what he means:
Taking a view from above, the enterprise mobile market is a very fragmented market globally with many players, platforms, carriers and solutions competing for the enterprise customer. In our view, all the market has done is created a sense of confusion with buzzwords, so called solutions, plans, etc. that lead the market to nowhere - solutions that are valued and customers are willing to pay for is the challenge.
With the recent announcement that Sendia has been acquired by salesforce.com, I believe the next wave of mobile solutions adoption by the enterprise market is going to come sooner rather than later. Read this article to understand more about salesforce.com thoughts on this....
I'd argue that the biggest challenge facing mobility is the fact that everying is already too user-focused which has given us a retail channel for mobile enterprise devices and few resources (commonly found in the indirect channel) for integration and solutions development.
So salesforce.com has acquired Sendia, a company with 79 customers on the salesforce.com platform. It's good to see salesforce.com getting serious about mobility, but I don't think that we're going to see the same type of success in the mobile environment until a company appears to do for mobility what salesforce.com did for CRM and SFA. Let me explain.
April 26, 2006
More news from the "big box" vendors
The key challenge for enterprise adoption of mobile technologies lies in best practices (there are few), industry standards (that don't currently address enterprise requirements) and solid ROI numbers (touchy-feely results still abound).
For this to happen, the so-called "big box" vendors will need to rally around the development of a symbiotic set of best practices and industry standards. We've been talking with a number of companies about doing this...but to no avail.
The thinking on the big box side is "we can go it alone."
A good example of this is found in this Unstrung article, Big Names Tackle VoIP.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) today announced that it is working with Intel Corporation, Nokia, Research In Motion (RIM) and other technology leaders to drive enterprise adoption of voice-ready wireless networks. Building upon the explosive growth and widespread adoption of voice-over-IP (VoIP), and Wi-Fi networks, Cisco's voice-ready wireless capabilities of Cisco(R) Compatible Extensions create the foundation for enterprise organizations that want to capitalize on these converging technologies and make voice over Wi-Fi a business reality.
As a nonprofit, this type of vendor/technology-specific alliance is strictly verboten, so an organization like the Wi-Fi Alliance, or the MEA for that matter, can't really help this sort of process.
It's the rigor of nonprofit status that means that an activity "to drive enterprise adoption" is actually that. Vendors standardizing on one vendor's products is a thinly-veiled activity to drive product revenues formed entirely by self-interest.
Now I'm glad to see vendors working together to make the market for VoIP happen more quickly. These types of for-profit "alliances" are a reasonable complement to the activities of nonprofit trade groups and standards-setting organizations.
What concerns me, however, is the apparent focus solely on these types of for-profit activities. This is early in the marketplace, and everyone wants to be the next Microsoft, meaning that monopoly and cartel are the sole objectives of many of the vendors in the marketplace.
And we've been talking to every vendor in this press release. The consistent feedback we're getting is "not now"...as in...now is not the time for a nonprofit in the enterprise mobility space. The vendors want to "wait and see" whether there will be a need for open standards. They want to know whether they will become the monopoly...before deciding to share the standards-setting activity with their competitors.
Enterprises take notice. Which is more important? Products today? or standards tomorrow?
April 19, 2006
Where are the "Big Box" vendors in the mobile enterprise?
At CTIA the other week, I was talking with Godfrey Chua from IDC in the press room. We have a number of mutual friends, and Godfrey is back in IT after spending the past three years working on wind power. I'll spare the jokes about analysts generating their own form of wind power and will get to the meat of the conversation.
As one of the finer analysts in the industry, Godfrey started asking me some basic, probing questions about the Mobile Enterprise Alliance, our mission, and the types of vendors involved in enterprise mobility topics. He covers wireless and mobile infrastructure, so much of his focus is on the networking equipment. His observation was:
… so this [a nonprofit trade group like the MEA] would be of interest to the "big box" vendors?
and the answer is "yes" and "no" at the same time. Enterprise mobility should be of interest to the big box networking and computing vendors, and it is...inasmuch as it sells wireless networks (e.g. Wi-Fi hardware) in the enterprise environment. But there's no data center story here. Sure, mobile gateways, middleware and e-mail platforms sit in data centers, but we're not talking about the "big iron" that usually drives vendor revenues.
April 17, 2006
Podcast: Enterprise mobility at CTIA Wireless 2006
In this podcast co-produced with SearchMobileComputing.com, we go into a discussion of mobile enterprise topics from CTIA Wireless 2006.
Over the weekend, Current Analysis published a piece entitled "CTIA Wireless 2006: Enterprise Mobility Takes a Breather."
Another CTIA show has come and gone, with the usual flurry of announcements, briefings and luncheons. Strangely absent were a lot of Enterprise-focused service launches. Perhaps it was too close to 3GSM, where carriers, device vendors and middleware vendors were full of business market enhancements. If short of news, CTIA was, at least, a coming together of the major players in the enterprise space, with booths and demos of existing or future products and services. While not thrilling, it allowed for a holistic view of the current state of the industry, with an emerging niche for specialist providers.
We spent quite a bit of time in the booths looking at the demos. The podcast reveals some of the things we found.
April 13, 2006
An even more powerful argument for the role of IT
At 3GSM, Cisco CIO Brad Boston gave the mobile industry the "what for." In a Computerworld article, Cisco CIO, Going mobile is tough for enterprises, he reflected a common sentiment in the industry:
Brad Boston, senior vice president and CIO at Cisco, said he was amazed as he walked around the show floor to see how many companies were focused on consumers rather than the enterprise. "There's a lack of focus on what we need," he said in a speech Thursday morning.
and he's not alone:
He figures that Cisco represents an opportunity for the mobile industry to sell as many as 40,000 devices. Yet it's been a constant struggle for him to develop a mobile program for workers, he said.
Boston began planning a mobile strategy a few years ago when he found there were about 12,000 Palm- and Windows-based devices being used by Cisco workers, and that many were being used to access corporate data. He was concerned a lack of security in the devices could allow Cisco intellectual property to leak into the wrong hands. To regain control, his team began to develop a program to support the mobile devices.
It wasn't easy. Boston found there was no single place to buy all the software he needed, and his team had to cobble together components to secure and manage the devices and enable remote access to corporate data. "When I talk to my peers, they all have the same problem," he said.
This sparked a search into more of his speeches and writings. The most interesting of which is something that's nearly three years old. In this short piece, Boston addresses a common sentiment that IT just isn't necessary anymore...and that users can - and should - make their own technolgy decisions.
Q&A with Patrick Gilbert of 4SmartPhone
4SmartPhone is a company that offers Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 hosting for smartphone users in the small to medium-sized business category. The company launched services in late 2004 and has recently announced a distribution agreement with MobilePlanet and eXpansys for U.S. and global service distribution to SMB customers.
At CTIA Wireless 2006 in early April, mobile e-mail was a hot topic, with numerous mobile devices supporting multiple platforms like BlackBerry and Microsoft Exchange. Many of these solutions are most applicable to large enterprise environments. According to Patrick Gilbert, president and chief executive officer of 4SmartPhone, "out of the box solutions have made some incredible improvements over the past four years, and if you're a large enterprise, you can take advantage of recent updates to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003."
April 11, 2006
SearchMobileComputing.com poll: corporate cellular policies
The most recent SearchMobileComputing.com poll asked participants "Does your company have a clearly-articulated policy for cellular purchases?"
41% of the respondents said "YES"
while 58% responded "NO"
Nearly six in ten respondents said that their company does not have a clearly-articulated policy for purchasing cellular devices and services.
Let's think about that one. The SearchMobileComputing.com community is largely an IT audience. These are professionals who manage and support mobile computing within their companies. Within this community, there is still a fair amount of ambiguity about who is responsible for purchasing cellular and who provides ongoing management and support for cellular telephony within the company.
As we think about adding mobile e-mail and a whole range of mobile applications to new smartphone devices, the debate isn't about which mobile OS is the best. The debate isn't about whether middleware makes sense. The debate shouldn't be about anything other than policy.
Because cellular is the one thing we desperately need to get in order.
This week's question is "How frequently do you replace your mobile phone, smartphone or PDA?"
April 10, 2006
CTIA: Which channel are we talking about?
It's easy to confuse wireless resellers with the traditional three-tier IT distribution model that includes value-added resellers (VAR) and systems integrators (SI). The question is which channel is most important for enterprise mobility. In this post, I argue why it's imperative that we engage three-tier IT distribution networks to spread mobile enterprise solutions.
Last week, I brought up the topic of "Channel Gap" for enterprise mobility, and my post Addressing the "Channel Gap" for Enterprise Mobility sparked an interesting comment from Mark Terry:
I believe much of the problem originates from the carriers complicated subsidy model for the channel - that has 'worked' for mobile voice penetration but creates complexity for the would-be mobile enterprise channels:
forces the channel to optimise solutions around the carriers subsidy & not around the solution many enterprise customers are locked into 18 - 36 month contracts and timing becomes overly critical to help make financial sense for the customer many carriers (inadvertently) incentivise the channel to make their money out of voice (and not data)
In the end - the would-be mobile enterprise channel is forced to fit into the existing carrier approach, channel and subsidy model; they are incentivised to take a short term view or they stand on the side-lines waiting for carriers to amend their go-to market approach.
Which is an interesting point - to a certain extent. The subsidy that Terry is talking about is the handset subsidy in which the carrier cross-subsidizes the cost of the handset with the ongoing service revenues of a long-term contract on the order of 12 to 36 months.
But let's address the impacts of the handset subsidy in a few moments. For now, let's clarify what we're talking about when we say "channel gap." The terms "channel" and "distribution" are often used interchangeably, though "the channel" is a specific form of indirect distribution, usually the three-tier model we find in IT markets. Wireless carriers use a combination of direct and indirect distribution, with the indirect models taking a back seat in recent years. These forms of distribution include:
Carrier: Direct distribution
Retail stores owned by the carrier Carrier website Carrier sales team (business customers only)
Carrier: Indirect distribution
Wireless resellers - this channel has traditionally focused on retail, consumer environments, though there are some resellers with business competency. Integration partners - such as the larger systems integrators Value-added resellers - typically with IT experience and focused on SMB and SME categories.
This only tells half the story, because carrier services aren't synonymous with enterprise mobility. There is a great deal of workforce mobility that doesn't include cellular or wireless data services. For example, a campus WLAN is mobility, and so is an application developed for a handheld device that is synchronized once or twice a day. Using cradle, IR or Bluetooth sync is integral to many mobile applications, and the carrier isn't involved. The same holds for an e-mail delivered to a laptop via WLAN - that's mobile e-mail, but there's no BlackBerry and there's no wireless data service.
April 3, 2006
Addressing the "Channel Gap" for enterprise mobility
Last month, I posted about a study that IDC published in Australia. The discussion was about the lack of a channel for mobile enterprise solutions. I summarized things:
So enterprise IT is looking for someone to "develop a mobile application." But the software developers are focusing their business development efforts on the carriers, in the hopes that the carriers will make them rich. Meanwhile, the carriers are looking for help in the channel, and the only companies with any cross-technology solutions capability are the large systems integrators like Accenture, CSC, HP and IBM.
And what's lacking is a set of affordable solutions from small to mid-sized VARs and systems integrators.
This prompted Carlo Longino to send me an e-mail pointing out that he had written a piece for The Feature in 2002. In Carriers Mean Business, Carlo demonstrates the excellent writing that we have come to expect from him … and used to expect from The Feature.
What the chain is begging for is a service integrator to pull all these separate pieces together and to keep an eye on them from the end-user perspective – provide one point of contact and act as a clearinghouse to provide customers with the best possible solutions. But who can best fill that role? The usual suspects of systems integrators and technology consultants, web services firms moving into the wireless space, or specialized wireless boutiques? Surprisingly, many carriers around the globe are positioning themselves in the space, offering up that they're best suited to deliver the entire wireless enterprise data package.
And four years later, it's clear that the wireless operators have had mixed results in being the sole channel for enterprise mobility.
March 30, 2006
Price point for 3G
John Sun from Mobile Analyst Watch made an insightful comment about the Sprint Power Vision service and laptop connectivity. Using the phone in "B" mode, you can connect your laptop to the 3G network. John nails the rest: [emphasis added]
For companies that have workers who don't need a smartphone and/or heavy email connectivity, but do need to connect via the notebook while out in the field on occasion, then this might be a nice alternative. Sprint charges about $80 a month to use a EV-DO card for a notebook, while a 3G handset with the basic all-you-can-eat Power Vision plan only costs $15 a month plus $25 a month for connecting to a notebook via the USB cable. Of course, the handset is tied up when in use as a modem, but it stll is a 50% monthly savings...
Which sounds like a differentiated service to me. You give up the voice capability on the phone to use it as a modem - so it's not a pure substitute for the 1xEV-DO card. In exchange, you get a lower price. Not a bad deal for occasional connectivity. If you get bumped back to 1xRTT (or GPRS), then the connectivity is barely worth the hassle.
March 28, 2006
A treatise on the role of IT
C. Enrique Ortiz made a few comments on my post: Blurring the lines between "work" and "play" - A Hobson's Choice for enterprise IT. He hosted the Carnival of the Mobilists the other week, and that post had been my submission. Ortiz's comments echoed a similar set of ideas that Xen Dolev used to introduce my post on developing a mobility policy.
What's interesting here is that when I introduce an idea about the human aspects of IT management processes, the response is that we need to develop better technologies. I use C. Enrique Ortiz and Xen Dolev as object examples because they're both reasonable and thoughtful people, and they represent the best intentions of our industry.
They also represent a prevailing sentiment within the industry that rubs IT management the wrong way -- an attitude that technologies can solve challenges of human interaction. And the idea that individual users, left to their own devices, will optimize their behavior and will therefore optimize the performance of the organization.
March 22, 2006
Building a business case for IM
With all the focus on mobile e-mail, it's easy to forget that SMS is a more widely-deployed mobile business application. Also, business use of SMS currently generates more revenues for the wireless operators than does mobile e-mail.
However, SMS purchasing is far less systematic. This SearchCIO.com article, IM too critical a business app to ban, does a good job of explaining more.
One thing to remember here - most mobile phones deployed today are capable of SMS.
March 20, 2006
Does RIM have A strategy? - Addendum
One point of clarification on my previous post "Does RIM have a strategy? " which relates to the intended audience for a corporate strategy. RIM has been presenting at financial conferences, and the financial analysts appear to believe that RIM does, in fact, have a strategy. I am especially skeptical of the financial analysts.
On the industry analyst side, there's a great deal of doubt that RIM does have a strategy. In this community, RIM's products are well-respected, but the corporate strategy, based largely on reactive behavior and tactics, is not.
And then there is enterprise IT. OK. Let's assume that BlackBerry is in the enterprise because the C-level executives decided that they wanted to have one. IT management (mid-level IT managers, not the "CIO" that everyone believes is involved in every single IT decision) had budget for BlackBerry, because the C-level executives prioritized it.
Now that BlackBerry Enterprise Server is sitting in some 60,000 corporate installations, the next step will be for RIM to convince the people managing this platform to do the following:
March 17, 2006
CTIA Wireless 2006 is a few weeks away, but now is the time for those of us on the pre-registered press list to schedule our meetings. Yes, I'm back on the press list for CTIA this year after last year's categoric denial of all "weblog" writers. I'll be covering CTIA for both this weblog and for SearchMobileComputing.com, and we'll do another "Mobile Messenger" feature on the show.
As with any telecoms-focused show, I'm not holding out a lot of hope for enterprise-related briefings. I'm already getting quite a bit of, "that team won't be at the show" responses from PR people, but there are a handful of companies that will be able to talk about enterprise topics, and I look forward to those conversations. There are a lot of interesting things happening for enterprise mobility, though I won't go as far as saying that 2006 will be the year for enterprise mobility, because I've already had to eat my words for making that statement to the MEA Board of Directors sometime in 2004.
More encouraging is the level of PR activity for the show. I haven't been through this flak gauntlet for several years, though that's not necessarily by choice. It seems like many have already forgotten how bleak things were in the IT and telecoms industries four years ago, and few may realize that many shows have yet to reach their attendance levels from the mid-to-late 1990s.
There is no comparison between SUPERCOMM 2000 with the 2002 Networld + Interop. At SUPERCOMM in 2000, I was in Atlanta and had 40 briefings scheduled for a three day period.
At the time, I was an industry analyst, and briefings and trade shows were my life blood. I spent 60% of my working time talking to vendors and their customers. The remaining 40% of the time, I spent researching and writing. The other 20% of the time was sales and administrative. Yes, this adds up to 120%, but that's what it's like when you work for yourself. And it's extremely difficult to collect on an invoice you haven't gotten around to send.
By 2002, the stream of vendor briefings had slowed from five a day to five a quarter. In March of that year, I cashed in the last of my frequent flyer miles and trekked out to Las Vegas for Networld + Interop. Like the five previous incarnations of spring N+I, I was on the pre-registered press list eight weeks in advance, and I showed up at the conference with six briefings scheduled. That's right. Six briefings at a show where - the year before - I had to turn away briefings after committing to the inhuman number of 35 in a two and a half day period.
I stayed at the Sahara that year. It cost $35/night. The taxi lines were short, and there were many of us scamming the free meals in the press room.
March 16, 2006
Does RIM have a strategy?
It's becoming clear that RIM doesn't have a corporate strategy. The company is completely reactive and is apparently hung up on the pressing issue of "patent reform."
More importantly, the company just doesn't seem to know which end is up. Perhaps that may change, and perhaps there are announcements to come that will prove me wrong. But as a marketing professional, I just can't believe that they're still banging this patent reform drum.
The reason is that - before the settlement with NTP - RIM was arguing that the whole process is a waste. Now that there's a settlement, RIM is wasting money lancing at windmills, taking out ads in major newspapers and spending valuable PR and advertising resources on messages that will not generate sales.
RIM is proving the exception to "no publicity is bad publicity" with popular sentiment turning against RIM. In this CNET article, the comments are swinging past the 50% against mark. Before the settlement, comments were 80% in favor of RIM. Now that there's a settlement, the story has changed, and it isn't swinging in RIM's favor.
So it's hard to put RIM's acquisition of Ascendent into perspective. Does RIM have a plan? Or is this just happenstance? From RIM's BlackBerry Connection Newsletter (emphasis added):
RIM has acquired Ascendent Systems, a provider of solutions that simplify voice mobility implementations in the enterprise. The Ascendent® Voice Mobility Suite is a standards-based software solution that augments existing PBX (Private Branch Exchange) and IP-PBX (Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange) systems to "push" voice calls to mobile users on their wireless handset or any wireline phone. Ascendent will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of RIM.
Open standards! One has to openly wonder how RIM plans on integrating Ascendent into BES. Will corporate telecoms managers step up when they're dragged in to integrate BES into their PBX? I can already see them saying, "this thing already has a phone in it, why are you calling us in?"
And "push" telephony! Great. There are thousands of telecoms engineers groaning over that one. RIM's crack PR team evidently feels differently, and I hear the trademark application coming out for that one.
The larger issue here is the fact that RIM is still making the bulk of their money on devices. That's where the margin is. That's where the profits are. And RIM's attempts at becoming a "platform" player haven't come to fruition. One has to wonder if the uncertainty of a long and very public legal battle has taken its toll on RIM's partner community.
So let's take a look at the resource commitments here. For the partners, RIM has sent a very nice e-mail: cost=$100.
On the patent reform side, RIM has taken out ads in major newspapers and has allocated the co-CEO's time: cost=$1+ million.
That speaks a lot about corporate priorities. I had my doubts when RIM was spending more on legal fees than they were on R&D. Today it's clear to me that they just won't let go and move on with business as usual.
And that's a kind of uncertainty that isn't especially endearing to partners and customers.
March 9, 2006
Blurring the lines between "work" and "play" - A Hobson's Choice for enterprise IT
I went to Montessori school, and one of the most important lessons I learned there was that "work" and "play" are two distinct and clearly delineated activities.
I represent an organization focused on the requirements of enterprise mobility, and one of the MEA's key premises is that corporate IT departments must be involved in deploying mobile enterprise solutions. IT needs to be involved for several reasons, and the first is to properly identify technologies that will leverage existing information systems and improve worker and organizational productivity. Many erroneously think of IT as an afterthought, filling a "just make things work" role.
Because the MEA values the role that IT plays in developing mobile enterprise solutions, we have a difficult time reconciling the role of IT with those who promote the blurring of the lines between "work" and "play." Cellular has been difficult for corporate IT to manage for the precise reason that users self-provision devices and services. Managing cellular within an enterprise is a massive task and one that IT departments don't wish to repeat with the upcoming generation of smartphones and mixed-use mobile devices.
So called "lifestyle" mobile devices like the upcoming DualCor cPC and Origami are appealing and interesting, but it isn't yet clear how such devices will integrate with enterprise IT environments. There's more to a mobile device than some interesting packaging and a price point, and it's clear that - for these types of devices to make their way into corporate computing environments - it will require costly management, provisioning, security and policy enforcement.
March 7, 2006
Making Sense of Fixed-Mobile Convergence: An Enterprise Perspective
The recent announcement of AT&T's intent to purchase BellSouth for $67 billion raised a number of questions about the future of fixed-mobile convergence. AT&T jointly owns Cingular Wireless with BellSouth, and much of the purchase price can be attributed to the stake in Cingular.
Richard Martin at Unstrung wrote an excellent piece on the enterprise aspects of fixed-mobile convergence. In that piece, I was quoted as being skeptical about the near-term prospects for FMC in the enterprise:
"It'll take several years before we see a cohesive enterprise fixed/mobile convergence offer from AT&T incorporating the wireless network that we now call Cingular," states Daniel Taylor, managing director of the Mobile Enterprise Alliance. For one thing, he points out, "fixed/mobile convergence services would cannibalize the very same local business that AT&T and BellSouth already have."
In addition, the new Ma Bell must contend with innovative competition that didn't exist just two years ago, when SBC (which renamed itself AT&T this year) acquired AT&T Wireless. For one thing, municipal WiFi networks are springing up across the country, even as voice-over-wireless-LAN providers make inroads with enterprise customers seeking cheaper phone service. The availability of many different hybrid services, allowing enterprise IT managers to choose from a buffet rather than a prix fixe menu, as it were, will make the road to fixed/mobile convergence longer than it would be otherwise.
"Until there's a compelling piece of integration and a serious price point associated with FMC," remarks Taylor, "users and telecom managers will remain ambivalent."
Ambivalent, if not downright skeptical.
"If they can create a one-stop shop, to cover everything, yes, that'd be something we'd look at seriously," says Singh, whose employees enjoy an array of services from providers including Cingular, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ - message board), and Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S - message board). "That's the utopia that everyone talks about but never gets to."
It's nice to not be the most skeptical person quoted in the article. Letting someone else be the curmudgeon means that I can give the cane and monacle a rest.
I like the UMA approach, and if we were in a greenfield situation, it'd be easier to sell into the enterprise. But legacy carrier billing systems and the lack of UMA devices and services will continue to push back the timeline for fixed-mobile convergence.
To clarify, UMA and IMS are two halves of the same coin. IMS is an architecture for converged voice and data services that rely on the carrier network for information about roaming and call routing. UMA is a set of technologies that enable a handset to transfer a call from the cellular network to a Wi-Fi/VoIP environment. UMA makes it possible for users to roam telephony from the local to wide area and vice versa. IMS provides the carrier infrastructure to make UMA (and many other similar types of permutations) work as a carrier service. Carriers can support UMA without deploying IMS across their networks, but UMA is an "IMS-like" service.
So why will it take time for us to see fixed-mobile convergence in the enterprise?
March 6, 2006
NTP's "960" patent - you make the call
Earlier today, I helped out Andrew Hickey at TechTarget with some material for his story on the RIM/NTP settlement. Talking to Andrew, I got the impression that there are analysts who continue to get their facts wrong about the patents behind the case.
I believe in holding pundits accountable. I was wrong about when this would happen and how much money would be involved (I thought we'd have this resolved a month ago and for $100-200 million more than today), but I have said on many occasions that the U.S. PTO actions weren't the governing issue in this case and that an injunction was both possible and probably.
Who got things right? Gartner most certainly did, putting the probability of an injunction as low but possible. Gartner said that IT departments should factor in the uncertainty of BlackBerry. Yankee was also in the fray with a similar set of predictions.
And I could go into a long list of analysts who were flat-out wrong about this whole thing. Analysts who said that there wouldn't be an injunction and that there wouldn't be a settlement because the NTP patents were "junk." This was a term straight out of RIM's PR, and it appears to be the only thing that RIM's PR team was able to accomplish -- calling a set of patents [that the company ultimately paid $612.5 million to license] junk.
Were NTP's patents junk? I honestly can't tell you, but I can provide the "960" patent and some perspective.
OK, so it's news by now, but RIM and NTP have finally settled. The number is $612.5 million, and that'll cover both RIM and RIM's partners in the past and in the future.
We've produced a podcast with SearchMobileComputing.com on this topic.
And my guess is that RIM was stretching things in calling the "work-around" both "legal" and "seamless." Were that the case, there wouldn't have been a settlement. I saw this quote from Jim Balsillie and had to chuckle:
"Even though you have a workaround, you ask yourself a question: Is there a price at which you can put this behind you? We came to that point," Balsillie said.
Because of the threat of the injunction, RIM was about $40 million behind in last quarter's revenues. Meanwhile, the company owed NTP about $200 million for royalites to date. And RIM could have just paid the $200 million, deployed the work-around (which the company stated was "legal" a few weeks ago). The work-around website now points to the press release announcing the settlement.
March 1, 2006
2006 MEA Mobile Impact Awards
The Mobile Enterprise Alliance is announcing the 2006 MEA Mobile Impact™ Awards. This program is in its third year, and it recognizes leading enterprise IT departments for their successful enterprise mobility deployments. Here are the key dates for the program:
July 28, 2006: Deadline for SubmissionsFor more information about the awards, information about the awards categories, links to the submission form and any other details, visit http://www.mobileenterprise.org/awards.
October 17, 2006: Announcement of Winners
February 27, 2006
Something more important than BlackBerry
Hundreds of millions of people survive today without mobile e-mail. Contrary to what you see and hear in the news, technology does not always lead to productivity. I can give a dozen examples where face-to-face communications are better than the telephone, and I can give another dozen examples where the telephone is better and faster than e-mail.
The problem isn't the technology. It's the fact that the technology is poorly implemented and that users select technologies that continue to distract them without making them more effective. For example, the mobility industry vilifies the "top down" approach of IT management, instead talking about user choice and device selection. Many industry insiders continue to evangelize the leadership of the "power user."
IT departments serve an important function. In addition to solving technical challenges, IT departments are responsible for identifying and deploying information technologies with the greatest impact on the bottom line.
But we're falling short, across the board. Last week, Day-Timers, Inc. released a study that concluded that Americans work more, seem to accomplish less.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed on this page are those of the writer, Daniel Taylor, and not necessarily those of SearchMobileComputing.com or TechTarget.
Any questions or comments should be sent to Assistant Editor Jeff Kelly.
This was first published in May 2006