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Let's face it -- over the past decade, mobile devices have become so commonplace, they're no longer as exciting as they once were. Until smartphones can start projecting holographic images à la Tony Stark's phone in the Iron Man films, it may not seem like consumers, enterprise users or IT have all that much to look forward to.
Mobile technology may no longer seem like it's advancing at the speed of light, but the relative stability of the mobile marketplace is exactly what IT administrators everywhere want today. Stability improves reliability, lowers costs and mitigates the risk associated with rapid market changes. But stable doesn't have to mean boring -- here are some of the top mobile trends to look forward to in 2017.
For the past five years or so, there's been a dichotomy in the mobile device market, with the more recent innovations in handsets, tablets and hybrid devices such as Chromebooks appealing to content creators. Those end users, though, tend to stick with more traditional desktop PCs, often out of necessity -- ever try editing video on a phone?
Mobile devices are still becoming platforms for enterprise content creators, though. As long as a user has a connection to the cloud, the desktop might be on its way to becoming an anachronism. And with keyboards as the number one accessory among tablet owners, the functional differences between tablets and PCs are reduced to the choice of operating system.
Nowadays, innovation in devices is much more likely to be in software than hardware. Sure, cameras will continue to improve, processors will get faster and more power-efficient as price and performance continues to advance. But IT pros expecting a major paradigm shift in, say, the 10th anniversary iPhone 8 may be disappointed; hardware is now about the incremental and the evolutionary, not the revolutionary.
In terms of predicting the top mobile trends, it's hard to imagine what kind of radical shift in device form factor might occur in the near future, unless it's something straight out of Hollywood. Unfortunately, software innovations such as Iron Man's smartphone -- with a transparent holographic projector screen -- have yet to make it to the mobile marketplace and therefore the enterprise -- although MIT is working on it.
The cloudification of everything
IT is now well into a transition that may take many IT pros back to their roots -- computing provisioned at the end of a network link rather than locally. Mainframe-based computing and storage are now cloud computing services, such as Amazon Web Services, and dial-up lines have evolved into broadband, and increasingly wireless, links. The resulting services model literally has no downside -- costs are lower and easier for IT shops to manage, scalability is practically on-demand and availability and resilience and integrity are all improved, especially if companies utilize more than one cloud supplier. And there's no necessary compromise to security, either.
IT pros will also see the end of offline, as anyone off the net is already out of the loop with respect to current information. The future belongs to managed service providers, networking as a service and cloud services replacing apps as the basis for organizational and IT. Even major network infrastructure will continue its transition into the cloud, with the increasing adoption of software-defined networking techniques across the board, the rise of analytics and related automation becoming an essential element of network operations.
All of these technologies improve mobility's fundamental availability, reliability and cost-effectiveness. Mobility, after all, represents a superset of the end-user part of IT -- build an effective mobile organization, and the rest of IT is simplified, if not well on its way to easy.
Mobile security taking center stage
Security remains the one area of IT where the work is never truly done. It's a bit depressing to think that, overall, IT shops have done a poor job of minimizing opportunities for break-ins, information theft and compromises to critical data and systems. And that extends to critical internet infrastructure, such as the recent Dyn distributed denial-of-service attack prosecuted by Internet of things devices.
The key to a more secure mobile future is the adoption of two-factor authentication in place of easily-compromised usernames and passwords, with mobile devices acting as that second factor. No, two-factor authentication isn't perfect, especially by itself. Absolute security is and will always remain an abstract, theoretical concept. But IT admins can stay on top of mobile security threats by putting in place an appropriate security policy and validating it with education, training and regular reinforcement. They must also make sure critical data is encrypted and restrict access to authorized individuals only.
It seems that those responsible for security and integrity across organizations everywhere are finally getting the message, and one of the top mobile trends of 2017 could involve major progress toward a secure future -- at least, a future that's secure as it can be.
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