Analysts are, after all, fundamentally in the business of predicting the future. As everyone knows, this is an enterprise fraught with peril and excuses, and these come with the territory. At the risk of having to deal with both of these later, however, and in the spirit of the season -- looking forward to the promise of a shiny new year -- I'm going to make two big predictions for 2007.
The first of these I've mentioned before, and that's convergence. The first form of convergence, called fixed/mobile convergence (FMC), allows a cell phone to become an extension on the corporate PBX. The convenience here is undeniable: one number, one device, and -- my personal favorite -- one voicemail. But there's a much more important form of convergence, called mobile/mobile convergence (MMC), which will provide both improved capacity and greater availability and reliability. The idea here is to combine a wide-area technology like cellular or WiMAX and a local-area technology (that would be Wi-Fi -- no competition here!) into a single system where the user has no idea which radio is being used at any given moment. Combining the coverage of a wide-area technology with the capacity of both metro-scale and enterprise WLAN deployments is a core theme for 2007. The most common form of MMC will be in enterprise-centric deployments, where IT departments add a few new components to their network and off they go, managing their own secure wide-area voice and data services. Over time, the carriers will also get into the act, but this won't be a major factor in wireless until 2008.
The second prediction actually builds on the first, if a bit indirectly. As I noted above, users want to carry a minimal number of mobile devices, and, as these devices become the province of enterprise IT and less of a personal choice (yes, that's going to happen, and I'll have more on this in 2007), the real issue is managing and securing all of that corporate data now floating around on personal devices – an unhealthy situation if ever there was one. So, two things will happen here. The first is that the purchasing of personal mobile communications technology will move away from the individual and into enterprise IT. The primary motivator here isn't cost savings, although that will be a factor, but rather being able to manage these mobile devices centrally. All too often, vital (and often sensitive) corporate data lives on handsets and wireless PDAs. If these are lost or stolen, there's usually no recourse – data can be lost or compromised. Having these units under the control of IT means that they can be checked for viruses (yes, there are viruses known to infect mobile devices) and have their configurations verified and locked, and that data can be secured, backed up, and even erased ("zapped") should the unit disappear for any reason.
And this development motivates the second, which -- beginning next year – is going to be a really big story: the rise of mobile devices supporting Web services, service-oriented architectures, and software as a service. Data, after all, is now far more important than the device that holds it. Centralized management will lead to centralized applications, with mobile users having very much the same experience they would have in the office, and much less emphasis on specific mobile operating environments. I've been working this way with a Palm Treo 650 for some time, and -- OK, I'll admit it -- it's not perfect yet. But this trend is one we'll be revisiting with the New Year. So, in the meantime, have a nice holiday, and stay tuned for a very exciting 2007 in wireless communications and mobile computing.
About the author: Craig Mathias is a principal with Farpoint Group, an advisory firm based in Ashland, Mass., specializing in wireless networking and mobile computing. The firm works with manufacturers, enterprises, carriers, government, and the financial community on all aspects of wireless and mobile. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.