Mobility has become increasingly important as smartphones and media tablets have matured, and cloud-based service delivery has added an important link. Increasingly, the mobile world has come to be dominated by Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating system, both on smartphones and tablets. Microsoft has only recently entered this area, and has yet to make its mark here. Mobility is enabling new concepts and changing the way applications are viewed, creating a wide array of opportunities for resellers.In addition to increasingly powerful processing and the availability of an enormous volume of apps, mobile devices provide inbuilt resources which extend their usefulness.
Standard capabilities include the presence of one or two cameras with video, touch screen GPS, gravity sensor, sound recording and playback, video playing and recording and multiple communications capabilities, from wi-fi to 3G and 4G cellular.
It is the combination of these components with cloud access through readily available apps that makes the devices particularly important. This combination has spawned a new ecosystem of mobile capability and cloud access that creates whole new ways of doing things.
Mobile devices are entering the business as employees bring into the office the devices that they have come to rely upon at home. This bring your own device (BYOD) trend has pulled in not only smartphones and tablets, but their whole ecosystem and mode of operation, including cloud-based apps, habitual mobile usage of social networks and a range of communications styles based on instant messaging, SMS, MMS, and video sharing. According to analyst firm Gartner, the collection of interconnected devices available to the individual is replacing the PC concept with a device-independent vision of a "personal cloud," based on seamless interconnection and cloud-based applications and data.
Meanwhile, new modes of business usage are beginning to appear, particularly with the power of tablets providing easy modes of remote information gathering and information sharing. Of particular note are apps for areas such as business intelligence and CRM that are particularly useful in the field. Many, if not most, enterprise applications vendors are providing SaaS versions of their products and are extending that access to mobile devices through purpose-built apps.
For resellers, mobility associated with cloud IT provides opportunities at every level from apps development to creation of SaaS hosted services targeting mobile devices. There is also a wide range of implementation issues that provide possibilities for new offerings. These include fitting of mobile devices to existing networks, applications and infrastructure; ensuring that communications with these devices is secure; and consulting on new capabilities that can provide specific advantage to business clients. Today's mobile market also has some significant differences from more traditional IT, particularly in the development of the two "closed" ecosystems of Apple and Google Android, which sell and screen apps through their respective online stores. Apps are also different from PC applications, and have a range of development issues that need to be addressed in moving into this side of the market. Another important factor is the tie-in with carriers for some devices, such as the iPhone, which imposes limitations on direct sale.
Vodafone has a long history in the mobile sector, and it is one of the world's largest cellular communications companies. Its New Zealand operation has been providing innovative solutions in this market for many years. The company continues to pursue emerging trends in business and mobile usage. "In order to flourish, business needs to embrace a mobile strategy that allows it to transform and gain competitive advantage," says general manager of business markets, Becky Lloyd. "It can do this by mobilising people, information and processes to the point of customer interaction making it more productive, reducing cost, empowering employees, getting closer to its customers, and being more resilient when faced with business impacting events. Vodafone defines this as becoming a true real time enterprise."
The emergence of the real time enterprise is a global phenomenon that is encouraging trends toward mobility which already existed in the consumer area. As people bring their own smartphones and tablets into the enterprise in the BYOD movement, companies are moving to embrace the possibilities.
"The growth of BYOD reinforces the desire for Kiwi employees to become more productive," says Lloyd. "In order to mobilise people, data, applications and processes, business managers need to feel comfortable that corporate information and remote devices are secure. We have a competitive portfolio of connectivity services, that includes the most recent technologies. For example, Vodafone Secure Device Manager (VSDM) allows devices to be effectively secured and managed across all platforms. Device management solutions can now manage multiple operating systems, offering users choice and a more future-proof IT strategy."
Another significant development is the increasing importance of cloud based mobile applications.
"Vodafone NZ has launched a number of cloud-based services for mobile customers, including MyAccount, Vodafone Guardian and VSDM," says Lloyd. "We will continue to introduce relevant cloud based services for both consumer and business customers based on our customers' needs."
JudsonSteel is an Auckland-based mobile apps developer, principally working on bespoke projects for local businesses. "The New Zealand market for custom apps has been good. Apps are now on everyone's radar," says director Mike Judson. "We primarily develop for iPhone and iPad, using the Amazon cloud to host and provide back end services. We have done Android, but that market is too fragmented at the moment, and we don't feel we can get as good a return on investment with Android apps."
JudsonSteel apps include the BikeRide crowdsource cycling app, the 101 Gluten-free Recipes app, the innov8nz digital directory, and the ASB mobile website. The company recently won Ireland's Innovation eGovernment Award 2011 for its Visit Dublin app.
As a developer, Judson believes that each device has its uses. "Use of the iPad versus the PC really depends upon what you have to do," he says. "But developments such as ultrathin keyboard sleeves for iPad could make a difference for many who would have hesitated in relying upon the iPad for serious work before."
For the immediate future, Judson believes that developers will need to limit the devices that they support, since New Zealand is a small market, and creating an app for every device is expensive. "Upcoming changes to watch include Microsoft's moves to re-invent itself in the mobile space, and the upcoming release of iOS 6, which will bring a range of new features to the market," he says.
Polycom is a major player in the videoconferencing and unified communications space. The company has been moving into the mobile space for the past several years, with its RealPresence videoconferencing platform. "Over last nine months, we have launched our RealPresence Mobile application," says James Brennan, director of unified communications in NZ. "Prior to that, for years we have had software clients for PCs and laptops. Now we have software clients on a range of devices, available from Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. The client is free to download, and can communicate with other devices using the software for free. It also connects with any standards based video capability."
Polycom uses a "freemium" model of software distribution, in which a limited version is provided for free to aid in the development of an ecosystem. Polycom's goal is to make video ubiquitous.
"The real power comes from connecting to corporate video usage," says Brennan. "Paid deployment unlocks enterprise class features, such as 128 bit encryption, ability to share content, ability to share your desktop, and access to corporate directories, so a user can call anyone regardless of what platform they are using."
The link between mobility and cloud IT is also important, and Polycom is tailoring its offerings to meet a vision of the Mobile cloud. This vision provides some unique opportunities for resellers.
"The channel is critical, and cloud delivery will be important," says Brennan. "Service providers are optimally set up to sell cloud-based applications like this. They have the networks, and are in a great position to host services that provide premium capabilities. For other channel providers, we have announced RealPresence Network, an end-to-end cloud based environment, offered as a 'white label' capability for partners that don't have network hosting capability."
Polycom continues to advance its RealPresence cloud capability. Recent acquisition of ViVu for advanced HTML5 capability extends web-based capability, providing technology to embed high definition videoconferencing into any web pages such as CRM systems and social media sites.
"The capability that we have today uses content sharing, with a secondary video channel to share additional data," says Brennan. "The next piece we are working on is extending capabilities in Microsoft Lync to do two way real time sharing, from within a videoconferencing application."
For this type of solution, cloud is the only way to deliver these capabilities en masse over the long term, says Brennan.
"In New Zealand, the RealPresence client is new. We are seeing significant uptake from enterprise customers, government, and corporate. It is still early, however, at a proof of concept stage. Companies are still testing BYOD. We are also in talk with major carriers and major reseller partners."
There are significant opportunities for resellers in providing services from the white label cloud platform. There are also new possibilities emerging as the technology matures.
"Mobile opens a possibility that is different from room based video conferencing," says Brennan. "Customers are coming up with new and unique ways of using this, with applications such as remote troubleshooting, remote security, remote education and emergency services. Our focus is on enabling software development community for apps and infrastructure."
SonicWall is a network security and firewall company that was recently acquired by Dell. It has been involved in the complex issue of mobile security for the past several years. "We saw the trend toward remote access, mobility, and working from home since 2007," says ANZ country manager, Sandeep Joshi. "Now we have Mobile Connect to support smartphones, PCs and tablets. We want to enable the mobile workforces around the globe, and ensure they do not compromise security. We have launched Mobile Connect for iOS, then one for Android."
SonicWall products are deployed in datacentres as well as in the enterprise, and some partners offer cloud-based solutions.
"In Australia and New Zealand, our operations are 100 percent channel," says Joshi. "We work with 25 to 35 channel partners, in a two tier programme. There are positive changes from the acquisition by Dell, including significant support in managing the channel, and boosting it."