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Wireless IT – A consumer playground with an enterprise spin

CIOs and IT managers should review these products announced at CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment

Bob Egan's weekly column
November 1, 2004

What's Happening?

The CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment show, held Oct. 25-27, used to be called Wireless IT. Tacking on the "& Entertainment" suffix suggests that this show is shifting its focus from enterprises to consumers. But although the entertainment tail now wags the IT dog, at least at this dog and pony show, there were still a few announcements that enterprises shouldn't overlook.


Our Conclusions

Wireless modems prices will collapse in 2005 as competition heats up. New PC card modems from Kyocera, Sierra Wireless and Sony Ericsson are the latest examples.

The new PalmOne Treo 650 is the bellwether Treo 600 on steroids. One operator announced support: Sprint. Of concern was some indication that Sprint may bastardize full Bluetooth support to prohibit its use as a wireless data modem. We got mixed messages from palmOne about Wi-Fi support through the SD slot: Yes, it can; no, it cannot; it will someday. Although palmOne has changed production facilities in an attempt to avoid the 600's quality issues, enterprise IT managers are well advised to keep a close eye on reliability. We don't expect announced support by other operators, including the GSM/EDGE camp (T-Mobile, Cingular) much before 2Q05 because Sprint has bought nearly all of palmOne's Treo 650 short-term production capacity.

Sprint announced its Managed Mobility Service on the heels of a similar announcement from Cingular. This confirms our expectation that the managed services market is going to explode in 2005, as operators and third parties move aggressively to simplify mobile solution deployment and support for enterprises.

Action

CIOs and IT managers who aren't bowled over by the Treo 650's features should look for the 600 to be discounted (~25%) as palmOne and carriers make room for its successor. Enterprises considering the 650 should wait for the camera-less version, although palmOne won't say when it will be available.

Enterprises are well advised to avoid DO and EDGE camera phones. Although they can serve as high-speed modems for laptops, camera phones still pose a security risk. Through at least YE05 modem based wireless access will be the most effective enterprise solution owed to simplicity at the lowest cost point. The number of modem choices that are available continues to widen (as evident in the announcements at Wireless IT) and we expect price points (device and network charges) to collapse. Our indicated price for "all you can eat" wireless modem access is now $64/month (from $79) and dropping.

We reinforce two prior recommendations from our Mobile Viewpoint: Cellular Data – What Enterprises Should Expect In 2005.

  1. Although we don't see DO becoming enterprise-grade until YE05, enterprises planning to use 1xRTT are well advised to buy DO modems – which are backward-compatible with 1xRTT – to save future capital and support expenses when migrating to DO.
  2. EDGE R4 will likely be the best option for general enterprise laptop wide
    area wireless access through at least 3Q05.

Discussion

CIOs and IT managers should review the following products announced at CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment:

  • PalmOne Treo 650 – The 650 sports a easier-to-use keyboard, a higher resolution screen, Bluetooth, removable battery and a 2X faster processor. The GSM version includes EDGE, but the CDMA version only appears today to support 1XRTT rather than DO as well. This may prove to be more of an artifact related to Sprint's virtual exclusivity on the Treo650 and the fact that it has no DO network then it bespeaks a feature mis-step on the part of palmOne. Sprint has purchased the first several months' worth of production, so we don't expect Verizon Wireless or any GSM carriers to sell the 650 until sometime in 2Q05. 
  • PC card modems – Enterprises with employees who rely on EDGE but have to use GPRS when abroad should consider the Sierra Wireless AirCard 775 and the Sony Ericsson GC89, which are quad-band PC card modems. Both ship with support for Release 4, whose lower latency should improve VPN compatibility. The GC89 also supports 802.11b/g. On the DO side, Kyocera claims that its dual-band Passport KPC-650 is twice as fast as rival PC cards because it uses dual antennas.
  • Mobile Phones - Although Audiovox (CDM-8940) and LG (LG VX8000) announced DO handsets, we believe they aren't suitable for enterprises because 1) they have cameras and 2) they lack keyboards, making them practical for not much more then e-mail inbox management. Sprint announced the Windows PocketPC based Audiovox PPC – 6601, a neat PDA gadget with a slide-out keyboard but as usual it's unwieldy when used as a mobile phone. Battery life remains an issue as with all Windows based mobile devices.
  • Sprint Managed Mobility Services – This turnkey package aims to address security and TCO by providing services such as remote device management, including the ability to disable lost or stolen handsets. We had Sprint demo the service, and it wiped a handset clean in under three minutes. The underlying technology is from Credant and Intellisync, which Sprint chose over Sybase/XcelleNet for its ability to single out a device based on its phone number. This ability highlights our concern about the forthcoming wireless 411 directory, which will make it easier for spammers and hackers to target individual enterprise wireless users.
  • Senforce Portable Firewall Plus – Sometimes good things do come in small packages. This tiny company appears to pack a solid solution. The SPF+ product appears to have the right stuff in terms of addressing enterprise and government security requirements. For example, it automatically disables wireless when the laptop is plugged into Ethernet, thus eliminating a back door into the enterprise for hackers. The product line also appears to have a strong security and protection policy and enforcement framework. To achieve critical market mass in the mobility space, Senforce must aggressively expand itself beyond laptops.


Mobile Competency bob@mobilecompetency.com
Bob Egan is president and CEO of , a Providence, R.I.-based market analyst and consultancy. He can be contacted at or via phone at 401-241-4000.
This was last published in November 2004

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