Digital Business Initiatives Transform Mobile Usage
Two distinct classes of opportunities are emerging in the mobile computing space for solution providers. The first is a more difficult, mature market in which solution providers compete fiercely on price for everything from mobile computing devices to the hardware that connects those devices to the internet and corporate networks. The second is a more application-centric approach that increasingly is fueled by numerous digital business initiatives.
In the latter scenario, the first tangible outcome of a digital business initiative often is a new set of mobile applications. For example, rather than simply focusing on connectivity to access email, solution providers are developing custom mobile applications with the hope of developing deeper relationships with customers.
In fact, more mobile applications than ever are being deployed as part of efforts to transform entire vertical industry segments, said Jack Gold, principal analyst for J. Gold Associates. "The first step always involves mobility," he said.
These new mobile applications aimed specifically at business processes are driving some vendors to rethink how they segment the overall market. Aerohive Networks, for example, has launched Aerohive Connect, which offers wireless access points managed via the cloud for $229 per access point. The offering makes it possible for the company to compete more effectively against rivals at a lower price point and address more robust use cases involving digital business applications with its higher-cost Aerohive Select, said Michael O'Brien, the company's vice president of global channels.
"Our partners tell us we've lost deals over pricing," said O'Brien. "This approach will make it easier for them to build a farm team of customers they can later upsell."
Solution providers must determine how deeply they want to pursue mobile opportunities, as there's not much money to be made reselling mobile devices along with internet access. Because of that, some solution providers, such as Accent Computer Solutions, now resell network hardware that customers can either purchase or subscribe to as a managed service.
With the service approach, the solution provider owns everything, from the mobile endpoint to the wireless network. That enables the solution provider to ensure the quality of the mobile computing experience being delivered, said Kenny Riedell, director of professional services for Accent Computer Solutions.
That managed service, said Riedell, is anchored around a management platform Xirrus, a provider of wireless network hardware, created for its MSP partners. As customers find themselves using mobile applications and devices to access a broad range of back-end services, demand is rising, he said. "Wireless networks are now mission-critical," he added.
Multiple Downstream Effects
That shift in customer mindset also is having multiple downstream effects on issues ranging from vendor alliances to the quality of the application experience customers now demand.
Samsung Electronics America, for example, just expanded its technology alliance program to provide partners with access to third-party applications that would allow them to craft higher-margin solutions, said Jim Heesacker, vice president of strategic alliances for the business unit of Samsung. "We're trying to court technical partners, systems integrators and ISVs," he added.
But as solution providers start crafting more complex mobile computing solutions, many of them are discovering that creating and delivering these solutions are much more complex undertakings than they initially thought, said Paul Kopacki, chief marketing officer for Realm, a provider of an application development platform designed to create interactive mobile applications.
Users, he pointed out, have come to expect mobile applications to provide a level of experience on par with Uber. However, Uber has the benefit of thousands of developers, as well as access to a lot of capital. Solution providers that want to build similar types of applications need access to tools designed from the ground up to support highly interactive mobile applications.
"Realm includes all the middleware needed to build those types of applications," said Kopacki.
The adoption of mobile computing applications and devices is even helping to accelerate the shift to cloud-based communications systems, which are replacing traditional PBX systems. Dialpad, for example, is starting to build out a channel for its cloud-based communications system that integrates with Microsoft Office 365.
"We see an opportunity to expand into the Microsoft channel," said Dialpad CEO Craig Walker. "People now want to be able to do everything from their mobile phone.”
Mobile computing has become so foundational that some vendors no longer distinguish between mobile applications and other types of apps. SAP, for example, now includes mobile application development tools as part of its base offerings, said Senthil Krishnapillai, global vice president and head of development for Digital Experience Services at SAP.
"Mobile is the platform for digital business; it's not just a catchphrase," said Krishnapillai. "In most new application deployments, it's not mobile-first; it's mobile-only."
Solution providers now face the challenge of figuring out the best way to go about segmenting all those mobile computing opportunities at a time when mobile computing and digital business initiatives now and forever go hand in hand.