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Tim Scannell's mobile management predictions for 2004

We asked mobile management expert Tim Scannell for his top predictions for the coming year. He replied:
Prediction 1: We will finally see early products that are based on the IEEE's proposed 802.11i advanced encryption standard, which essentially does for wireless what the current Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol does for hard-wired systems. While the demand for such systems and secure technology is strong, however, there may be a gradual acceptance of 802.11i products since there are some compatibility issues surrounding the implementation of these new systems into current Wi-Fi networks. There are also many users who think the current Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security protocol is sufficient and that we perhaps need an extension of that rather than a whole new level of software.

Prediction 2: An increasing number of enterprise users will opt for next-generation wireless smartphones and other communications-centric devices, rather than purchase individual handheld computers and other systems that basically offer personal information management applications and some remote data access capabilities. Look for new devices from the Palm/Handspring camp that adopt the Treo 600 model, and a variety of so-called "smartphones" that are able to access corporate e-mail, offer enhanced Web-browsing capabilities, and feature extended instant messaging technologies that are designed to juggle multiple discussion threads.

Prediction 3: Look for next-generation notebook computers that not only feature embedded wireless technology (which is quickly becoming a purchasing mandate), but also offer built capabilities to adapt to different network environments and operate in a more pervasively connected world. These enterprise version of these systems will also be able to automatically synchronize and work within established managed network environments, and be equipped with both software and firmware that is designed for virtualized teamwork within a company or remotely. You will also see a wider variety of tablet PCs introduced, that offer moved battery life, better screen resolution and a smaller form factor to appeal to field force workers and compete with handheld computer alternatives.

Prediction 4: Look for "commodization" in the wireless switch market as the number of players increase and the prices decrease on generic switching products. A number of key vendors in the network space, including Cisco Systems, will also introduce products that offer more RF signal sensing capabilities and automated management and load balancing. As a result, a number of smaller third-party solutions providers may find themselves out in the cold as more enterprise users look to limit the number of boxes that plug into their wireless networks.

Prediction 5: Despite aggressive plans by Wal-Mart, Inc. to deploy radio frequency identification (RFID) systems throughout its stores and push its suppliers to fall in line to adopt the smart tagging process, progress in this area will be delayed due to conflicting standards, concerns about security and privacy, and a poor understanding of the impact such systems might have on back-end infrastructures. Look for a number of companies to take the lead in terms of developing stronger standards, especially in establishing rules concerning RFID systems and networks operating outside the U.S. Also, 2004 will see an increased interest and use of "active" RFID systems, which initiate broadcasts on their own and set the stage for real-time supply chain management and control.

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