Enterprise mobility for the masses

10 Apr 2006

If you survived the taxi-rank-at-dusk, the mushy sandwiches, the search for non-existent 'Hall 3,' the Scottish Bagpiper and a certain beachfront nostalgia, you've earned your 3GSM Barcelona spurs. Not to mention a better insight into the new energies shaping the enterprise mobility market going forward.

3GSM saw the industry alert to a new opportunity for low-cost mobility within the smaller business sector, with a heavy emphasis on applications. Once the reserve of the large corporate community, mobile enterprise is headed downstream. Players should listen up for the new 2006 enterprise mobility buzzwords: low-cost, self-provisioning, enterprise segmentation, deeper enterprise penetration, hosted services, mass corporate market and - above all - software.

The five big enterprise mobility events of the show put all these buzzwords in context, and all five flag up the emergence of the 'mass business market.' The idea is that simpler, cheaper and better self-serviced solutions, applications and services will make mobility less elite and the productivity gain argument stronger in a higher-volume context.

Few stands commanded as much interest and noise as Microsoft's demonstration of its all-software push email solution. Simultaneous announcements of pan-European deployments from Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile helped solidify the significance of this announcement in the audience's mind. Microsoft's long-awaited true push email solution spells a sea-change in the push email market, away from dedicated application infrastructure and hosted servers to a lighter, more cost-effective model that markets the benefits of wider-enterprise deployment over security granularity.

Apps beyond email

Mobile push email will be a key theme in 2006, but at least one mobile operator is getting to grips with the provision of 'other' mobile applications in a GPRS context. At 3GSM this year Orange unveiled what we suspect is the strongest operator-led initiative to date to get small businesses using sales force, account and data management applications, with a simple, self-provisioning and all-inclusive portal across the UK, Belgium and (soon) France. This portal sets the bar high for competitors in the beyond email app market.

T-Mobile International was heavily plugging the benefits of FMS at 3GSM, alongside a new, voice, data and international calling mobile VPN service for businesses, which spells a first in the UK market and a blueprint for others. The all-in-one service allows groups of up to 250 users to 'share' a pre-figured monthly bucket of voice minutes, SMS and data, while enjoying free calls between colleagues.

Once again, the target is the SME, and the bait is cost savings. T-Mobile UK's Business 1-Plan will certainly challenge voice-only Mobile VPNs such as O2's Mobex (which relies on options for data usage) and Vodafone's Wireless Office (which has a less defined policy for data), and it is likely that we'll see more aggressive FMS mobile VPN initiatives of this kind from the mobile operator community.

Enterprise-grade IM

Steve Ballmer's keynote announcement of the mid-April arrival of the Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile suite will set the pace for the development of enterprise-grade IM and presence-oriented services between the PC and handset in 2006. After years of veiled threats and false starts, Microsoft's mobility story demonstrated real promise at 3GSM, and its low-cost, software-centric focus is right in step with the spirit of the times.

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