No Method, Just Mobile MadnessBy Michael Vizard | Posted 2006-05-30 Email Print
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Opinion: The mobile computing industry must band together to explain the technology's value to enterprise customers, or it will head toward low-margin madness.
For all the hype surrounding mobile computing and the general acceptance of wireless networks, this whole area still has lots of unfulfilled potential in corporate environments.
In fact, a recent survey of 143 IT executives by Baseline magazine, a sister publication of eWEEK Channel Insider, found that while the average business only expects to increase spending on mobile computing between 1 to 4 percent, organizations with 1,000 or more employees expect to increase spending in this area by 5 to 14 percent.
What's driving this increased interest in mobility in corporate environment is the simple fact that business leaders are finally recognizing the transformative business power that mobile computing brings to their organizations, most notably in the form of flatter management because fewer executives can now keep track of more business activities because they are always connected.
In the Baseline survey, 81 percent of the executives surveyed cited better communication and collaboration as a major driver of mobile computing adoption, followed by 60 percent who also cited increased response to customers as a major driver.
Clearly, that means that mobile computing is moving well past the executive toy stage as it becomes a mainstream part of the IT computing landscape.
The trouble is that before that can actually happen, the industry needs a more holistic approach to marketing the benefits of mobile computing apparent to the business community.
For the most part, the industry-wide push behind mobile computing largely consists of a hodgepodge of efforts led at different times by Intel, AMD, Cisco, Verizon, RIM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft or Toshiba.
The problem with that approach is that it typically results in a lot of point product marketing rather than the type of marketing that helps drive the general awareness of the value of mobile computing in the first place.
So at the end of the day, most business executives think that if they have a notebook computer, they must have a mobile computing strategy.
This, of course, tends to limit the services opportunity for solution providers, which in turn impedes their ability to create more demand for mobile computing applications and solutions. So the question is: What should be done to help solution providers create more demand for mobile computing solutions?
Right now we are on the verge of the next generation of mobile computing. In a survey of 257 readers of CIO Insight, another sister publication of eWEEK Channel Insider, 56 percent said they were evaluating, testing next generation WiMax networks, while 40 percent said they were evaluating, testing or had deployed mesh networks.
Another 53 percent said they were evaluating, testing or had deployed 3G wireless services as well.
But as usual, it seems that the industry is content to simply let this process follow the usual multiyear evolutionary process rather than working with solution providers and distributors on marketing efforts designed not to sell products, but rather the business value of mobile computing.
That may require a few vendors pooling their resources to create something like a mobile computing institute or a distributor taking the lead by bringing a number of vendors together to create a concerted campaign.
But in whatever form it takes, this is a critical activity that needs to happen if vendors in this space want to sell something beyond the low-margin mobile computing products that dominate the retail space.
Otherwise, the whole cycle of adoption of the next generation of mobile computing products is simply going to follow the usual extended Darwinian low-margin curve toward madness.
And if that happens, the vendors will have nobody to blame but themselves.
Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media's Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.