Mobile platforms and business — part 2

August 7, 2010

Sometimes you write a blog entry where your point is quickly understood.  And then there are those “others”…

My earlier post on mobile platforms and their use by businesses probably falls into the second category… But I still think the point is worth discussion, so here we go again…

Many companies issue smart phones or provide the back-end infrastructure to enable their employees to use their favorite Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Windows Mobile device to manage their email, contacts and schedules.  I think we can all agree on this point.

However, this is just a small percentage of the business opportunities that exist for mobile devices.  Consider two examples:

  • I was recently visiting a friend in a major Boston-area hospital who was scheduled to have some surgery performed.  In the 30×30 foot room there were provisions for 6 patients — and each patient area included 2 laptops.  In addition, there were 3-4 laptops on mobile carts that were wheeled from one patient area to another to record data collected by medical professionals.  And on this floor, there were over 10 additional rooms just like this one.  In other words, a single floor in this hospital had approximately 160 laptops — and each laptop’s sole purpose was to provide access to the back-end servers.  In other words, the laptops were nothing more than terminals.  Imagine how many laptops must exist in the entire hospital.
  • Last month I had the “opportunity” to have my car repaired and spent some time chatting with one of the technicians.  He said that they spend several hours each week in e-learning courses which are often very frustrating to watch.  Apparently each video course is on a laptop in a room far away from the cars — so it is difficult to connect the instructions in the video with the relevant parts in the car.  He said it would be much easier if he could view the video while he was actually under the car.

These examples have a few things in common:  (1) Windows laptops are the primary device being used, (2) only a very small portion of the laptop’s capabilities are being used, and (3) the portability of the device is very important.

Thus I ask — What prevents a company from using an iPad (or similar device) instead of the much more expensive Windows laptops?

I think the answer is “infrastructure”.

Companies can only afford to support a certain number of devices, because each new device requires its own set of back-end support software, trained support personnel, spare parts, etc.  Thus, Windows laptops are often used in situations like this because the company already has many years experience supporting Windows computers, including laptops.

Thus, as the consumer market for mobile devices continues to get more and more crowded, I believe that the device manufacturers will include more capabilities designed to make their devices acceptable to business environments.   In fact, I don’t believe they have any choice.  Consumers are notoriously price-conscious and manufacturers must achieve a certain profit level to stay in business.   Therefore, the manufacturers will do more to make their mobile devices acceptable to businesses, but only a few of these manufacturers will be successful.

The key question then becomes “Which mobile devices will businesses embrace?”



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