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Mobile advances abound in 2007

Mobility will again boom this year, and IDC predicts that mobile managers will face some unique challenges throughout the year.

Mobility, by many accounts, is still in its infancy. There are still a lot of kinks to be worked out, some interoperability challenges to overcome and a host of convergence details to nail down.

And, according to IDC, 2007 may be the year mobility and mobile enterprises make great strides.

IDC recently outlined what it believes will be the key global mobile issues through 2007, with fixed-mobile convergence, content interoperability, customer segmentation and the integration of mobile applications dominating the year and forcing enterprises to think out of the box to create a fine-tuned mobile workforce. This year will see mobile devices evolve into the "third screen," according to IDC. The first screen is television; the second is a computer monitor. The smartphone or device screen getting the third screen distinction illustrates that mobility will play a huge part in corporate strategies this year.

Enterprises need to keep a keen eye on fixed-mobile convergence this year, according to Stephen Drake, IDC program director, mobile enterprise. Being able to deliver PBX calling features to mobile devices will not only boost productivity, he said, it will improve call quality and save stacks of cash by moving in-building calls off the costly cellular network. Enterprises must remain vigilant, he said, since many wireless players will hesitate to offer fixed-mobile convergence options because a loss of revenue could result.

Still, Drake noted, many companies will this year add in fixed-mobile convergence capabilities as part of their initial VoIP and mobile rollouts, making the transition seamless.

For more information
Check out Craig Mathias' 2007 mobile predictions

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According to Scott Ellison, IDC's vice president of wireless and mobile communications, mobile enterprises in 2007 will depend heavily on the interoperability of content between multiple devices and on multiple networks. But content interoperability requires competing device makers, content providers and network carriers to work together to ensure that content can be shared. Ellison said a prime example of content interoperability is the boom of SMS and MMS, which early on was limited to users on the same network and now can go to and from any device on any network.

Ellison noted that if content interoperability is to work, IT needs to take a comprehensive approach and must fight the temptation to create one-off solutions that enable only a small portion of content to interoperate.

IDC analysts and experts also examined some key impacts the year will have on mobile consumers, such as advances in mobile advertising and customer segmentation. But one trend can affect both the enterprise and consumer user: location-based services, GPS and navigation. According to IDC, the number of mobile devices to be built with GPS antennae is going to grow, and major players like BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd. will continue to invest heavily in GPS devices and solutions. Device makers that straddle both consumer and corporate markets -- Motorola and Nokia, for instance -- will also be bringing out GPS solutions.

Along with built-in GPS, device makers will be wrapping in unified communications technologies, which will give enterprises a wider range of services from their devices, regardless of the device form factor. That, Drake suggests, will offer a more compelling reason for device upgrades.

Mobile enterprise applications will also evolve, Drake said, and grow past simple mobile email into collaborative applications and other applications such as CRM, ERP and supply chain. With a massive jump in mobile applications on the horizon, companies are now looking at mobility as a strategic deployment, he said. Because of that, the mobile application market will top $2 billion this year.

"Organizations are really at a new level of sophistication," Drake said. "We believe they're ready."

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