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Mobile devices & IT

The choice of what tablet to use, if any, will come down to criteria like available applications, robustness and user friendliness.

November 1, 2010  

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I have to remind regular readers that I have an iPad — and I love it. That said, I am what is known as a “sole proprietor” for tax purposes (or “chief cook and bottle washer” to the rest of us). So I have no concerns over remote management of my technology.

In fact, if somebody else is managing my devices, I prefer to be there to see what they are doing.

But that is not how business operates. (I had a good example of this the other day at the bank. My teller had trouble logging into her wicket’s PC. She called IT and we watched together as someone somewhere else moved her mouse curser about the screen, clickin’n’fixin’. I am not used to seeing this and to me it looks like the computer has been possessed. Since this was just before Halloween, that is somehow appropriate. But enough of this: Where was I…)

When it comes to mobile devices, remote management is a key selling point for Research In Motion. RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server is considered by most to be the gold standard for managing smart phones in big companies and governments.

It is therefore likely that many companies looking to provide their executives, sales teams, technicians and other mobile workers with the advantages of an iPad will look to RIM’s solution — the PlayBook, announced earlier this year and due to ship in 2011.

Other companies have been upgrading their mobile offerings to appeal to IT departments. To cite one example, the operating system in Apple’s iPhone 4 supports remote management and by the time you read this a new operating system should be available that does the same for the iPad.

Companies will have to make their own decisions about which device — RIM’s, Apple’s, or someone else’s — is the best choice for both the needs of their mobile workers and the peace of mind of their IT team members.

Smart companies that can afford to will run tests of devices from multiple makers before picking a winner, to solicit feedback from those who want use them and those who have to manage them.

Providing security and remote management concerns have been addressed — those will be minimum requirements for any IT department — then the choice of what tablet to use, if any, will come down to criteria like available applications, robustness, user friendliness, and so on. In other words, all the stuff that such a choice should be about. (An analogy might be made to the automobile world, where vehicles have to meet certain criteria regarding bumper design, air bag engineering, seat belt performance, fuel efficiency, emissions and so on. Drivers have no choices when it comes to those things. But they can pick the style and capabilities of the vehicle — whether subcompact or SUV, for example — based on what they want to do with it.)

The great news here is that the market and the technology have both evolved. A couple of short years ago, few took tablets seriously.

Now they are not only accepted, but cool. That means competition, and as we all know that means innovations will go up even as prices come down.

(For similar reasons, I welcome the introduction of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s latest kick at an operating system for mobile devices. I am perfectly happy with my iPhone, but I know the pressure that Microsoft’s new operating system will exert on the mobile device market will continue to compel Apple to improve its own offering. Those using phones powered by Google’s Android or BlackBerry’s operating systems should likewise rejoice. But back to tablets…)

Better offerings at better prices will drive adoption. And as with every technology advance, the real fun begins when the device moves beyond the “early adopter” stage to become a mass-market product. That is when the magic happens, because that is when people who are not technologically adept start figuring out how to use a new technology to make their lives more rewarding, whether it is increased business productivity, better quality of life, or just more fun. CNS

Trevor Marshall is a Toronto-based reporter, writer and observer of the Canadian wireless industry. He can be reached (on his mobile) at 416-878-7730 or (via his iPad) at