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RIM exec: Keep wireless deployments simple

At CeBit America 2003 Wednesday, speakers encouraged IT professionals to keep their wireless deployments simple, while focusing on ROI and flexibility.

NEW YORK -- In a session on wireless deployments at the CeBit America 2003 conference Wednesday, speakers encouraged IT professionals to search for single vendors that will handle the often diverse parts of a deployment. Users should also think about ROI and seek out solutions that are flexible.

Speaker David Heit, senior product manager for Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), the Waterloo, Ontario, company behind the popular handheld BlackBerry e-mail device, said that, often, wireless deployments involve many unrelated steps. For example, vendors that provide a platform for tying mobile devices into a company's back-end systems may not have much expertise with designing user interfaces. If a company ends up working with too many specialized wireless vendors, it could end up taking on the role of integrator, he said.

Vendors also need to take the confusion away from wireless. The soup of abbreviations for air interfaces -- for example, CDMA, GSM, iDen -- is confusing. IT administrators should not be burdened with having to learn all those terms (more than a half dozen).

One of the keys to RIM's success has been its simplicity, he said. Few of its users ever bother to read the user manual. It is intuitive, and that is crucial for a successful wireless deployment.

Understanding the total cost of ownership and calculating convincing return on investment numbers are also important factors in wireless. Heit cited ROI numbers of between 1,500% and 6,000% for an $800 BlackBerry. While the calculations might seem high, Heit said that users were able to make better-informed decisions because of the BlackBerry and, therefore, save their companies' money and bring in higher revenues. Their fast access to data put them ahead of the competition, he said, but he did not cite specifics.

Conference attendee Victor Yepello, network manger with Genex Services Inc., a health care and disability management company in Wayne, Pa., said that his ROI calculations were much more rigorous. His company is providing its nurses with wide area network (WAN) access so they can update forms when they are visiting patients.

Initially, the company provided its nurses with laptops so they could input data in the field and then transmit it when they arrived at home. But he found that the costs of dial-up and broadband accounts, fax machines and the ensuing bills were climbing dramatically. With a wireless service, the nurses can connect for $64 a month. Yepello has added a fax server and taken that cost out of the equation. Now data is updated in real time.

Heit also stressed the need for flexibility, and that is crucial for Yepello as well. His company uses a voice over Internet Protocol system for its phones. In time, that will be added to its WAN data application, so nurses can use their laptops as phones. In time, laptops are likely to be replaced by Tablet PCs, he said.


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