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These days, most organizations are a mobile enterprise, whether their IT departments want them to be or not.
As end users rely more on tablets, smartphones and even their personal laptops, IT needs to keep up with the latest mobile computing definitions and trends. Devices, operating systems and apps evolve quickly, so IT pros in a mobile enterprise must stay on top of the latest software and strategies for managing, securing and taking advantage of new technologies.
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Start with these mobile computing definitions to get a good grasp on the major mobile enterprise trends and how to address them.
With enterprise mobility, end users aren't chained to their desks and PCs anymore. More employees do work outside the office with smartphones and tablets, sharing and accessing data via cloud services. Enterprise mobility can improve employee productivity but also create security risks.
Mobile operating system
A mobile operating system is software that lets devices run apps, connect to cellular and wireless networks, and perform other tasks. Popular mobile OSes include Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS and Microsoft's Windows Phone.
Smartphones and tablets have much smaller screens than desktops and laptops, so they run Web browsers that render websites for optimal viewing. Mobile browsers also utilize lightweight software to address mobile devices' memory and bandwidth limitations. Most browsers display the mobile versions of sites by default but can display regular HTML sites if mobile versions aren't available.
Mobile device fragmentation
When there are different versions of the same mobile operating system in current use, that's known as mobile device fragmentation. Android provides the best example of a fragmented operating system: Wireless carriers control the timing of OS updates to different devices, so there are often delays (deliberate or otherwise) in delivery. Some devices in a mobile enterprise may be on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, while others may still run Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and there's nothing IT can do to standardize.
Mobile device management
Mobile device management (MDM) software lets IT deliver apps, data and configuration settings to smartphones and tablets. A mobile enterprise typically deploys MDM for security reasons; most commonly, MDM lets IT see what users are doing on their mobile devices, blacklist and whitelist apps and remotely wipe devices in case of loss or theft.
A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy governs how employees may use their personal smartphones, tablets and computers at work -- and the extent to which corporate IT will support these devices. BYOD policies vary widely between organizations, because no two companies will have the same use cases, IT resources and security concerns. A BYOD policy will typically state who can do what with particular apps on certain devices.
Apps and websites that work with most operating systems and device types are device-agnostic, but the term also applies to any hardware or software that is compatible across different systems without special adaptations. App development has begun to lean toward device agnosticism to help IT departments avoid unmanageable support demands. When apps work across a broad range of devices, they're better for users and for IT.