PEOPLE in businesses are increasingly using mobile devices in their daily operations, through company-issued programmess or by using their personal devices.
The growing smartphone base combined with huge sales of media Tablets is forcing a reassessment of the client platform and IT best practices to support it.
It comes as no surprise that people are dropping their comparatively bulky laptops for devices that are sleek and swift, such as Tablets and smartphones.
This year will see mobile technology seeping into business data and applications, thus furnishing various communication methods that are welcomed openly by users.
However, for IT, mobile technology can prove to be challenging due to the sporadic shifts in the mobile field.
This shift has significant implications for enterprise governance and management processes. It also has a significant impact on the IT market, because the vendors that once dominated the desktop are being forced to deal with a more heterogeneous mobile market.
With the introduction of the iPad, Tablet computers emerged from more than 20 years of obscurity and have grown to become a prominent device category. Through thorough planning and the weighing of management options, IT can meet these challenges.
Here is a look at the most significant trends for 2012 and how will influence the need for IT to adapt to the changes
Today, users have broad access to inexpensive yet powerful mobile consumer devices with strong capabilities to interact with enterprise systems.
Users of such products are more technically savvy than ever, and are more capable of working around IT controls to use these devices in a business context when they believe the electronic tools provided by IT are insufficient.
As such, companies are giving way for employees to choose which mobile device they can use in workplace. Usually, in this case, companies own these mobile devices or employees are doing BYOD.
The reason being to enable users to adopt what works best for them while not burdening the IT department with excessive costs and support for device churn, so individual ownership may be the optimal approach.
By reassessing security models to accommodate for greater user choice, this will help alleviate the risks of data security breaches, and of course, the inadvertent loss of confidential information.
After a suitable level of risk is incorporated, IT will assess the various strategies available for putting solutions into practice.
Instead of laptops and desktop devices, Tablets continue to be wholly embraced by upper management, executives and basically anyone who appreciates the rich computing experience these devices offer.
The lightweight, instant-on, user-friendly devices will be readily adopted by a culture in which minimised bulk and weight is valued. Often times, this constituency is mainly used for personal activities such as navigating, e-books, and websurfing in non-business settings.
The ideal way to utilise Tablets as work-appropriate devices it to consider it as similar to a smartphone, where access to corporate resources is provided.
However, the winning proposition for IT is to provide Tablet computers to upper management to increase awareness.
This investment provides benefits because it involves management in both the new ideas and new challenges brought on by Tablets, which abide by different rules than the traditional PC.
However, certain IT professionals may not have the functions needed to keep up with operating platforms like Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Nevertheless, the need to educate upper management on implications associated with the use of consumer-grade technologies is imperative, such as iCloud, for sensitive enterprise information, as well as the options to manage these capabilities.
Proliferation of new application platforms
The budding rise of different platform architecture can often prove to be demanding from IT's point of view.
Most applications are sandboxed, which means, one can see their files and no one else. So, without breaking platform rules, it is impossible for a single application to manage the entire system image as can be done on Windows-based products.
Often, background processing is limited, so IT cannot autonomously update the device; the user must be involved to some degree.
With the advent of the application store, which is based on elective downloads of applications, rather than push applications, image management becomes more user-controlled than IT-controlled.
Also, the advent of external cloud-based data and state synchronisation models (for instance: iCloud and Windows Live) add a new level of complexity and risk to this equation.
Thus, each organisation would need to decide - based on the application platform plus points -in order to establish which best meets the technical and business needs.
Emergence of hybrid form factors
In the current age, there are desktop PCs, notebooks, Tablets, smartphones and other types of devices, some which are business-centric in nature while others are consumer-centric.
Users, on average, continue to utilise their mobile devices for more seamless experiences that allow them to manage their personal information, check e-mail, save contacts and utilise consumer and business applications; which brings them the easy functionality of both personal and professional services.
However, as Tablets evolve, new hybrid devices are emerging. Intel's new Ultrabook category will not simply be thin notebooks but will also include designs in which the screen is a self-contained Tablet that can be detached or folded on top of the keyboard section.
It is important to note that these products may be Windows machines or may become dual operating devices where the combined unit runs Windows while the detached screen section could run Android.
Due to popularisation of hybrid devices, these devices will be driven by mobile-first (handheld and Tablet) usage patterns, as opposed to transportable desktop (i.e. notebook) patterns.
In future, hybrid devices may support multiple operating systems, which will lead IT to pursue application designs that can easily move from operating system to operating system, to ensure that development investments are leveraged.
(Ken Dulaney is vice-president and distinguished analyst of Gartner Research)