Like most trends in technology, the growth in mobile devices for a host of enterprise uses has been sudden and surprising. The features and capabilities of these devices has evolved drastically, catapulting their presence in many organizations from niceties for the top brass to essential hardware for staff in many positions.

The number of OS platforms, including those now usable in an enterprise space, has also been steadily increasing. As a result, mobile management console providers are increasingly supporting multiple platforms in the same package.

Conceivium Adds Windows Mobile Support
Conceivium has been offering a management console (Mobile Analyzer) for supporting and monitoring BlackBerry devices for years, but they have just recently taken the plunge to also start supporting Windows Mobile thanks to a partnership with Odyssey Software. With BlackBerry and Windows Mobile support, Conceivium is now equipped to handle the vast majority of enterprise mobile management needs.

"We've noticed a break in the last year where customers who were once standardized on RIM products, \[BlackBerry Enterprise Server\], and BlackBerry devices are now starting to open up and provide a wider option for, or acceptance of, different types of wireless devices within the corporation. Specifically, devices using ActiveSync in the backend," said Greg Fleet, vice president of global sales for Conceivium.

Zenprise Mobile Manager
Zenprise announced that its Mobile Manager solution, originally capable of managing BlackBerry and iPhone devices, will now also be able to manage Windows Mobile devices. While the Zenprise and Conceivium solutions are similar in form and functionality, Zenprise seems to be banking on the so-called "consumerization of enterprise" to push organizations to seek its solution thanks to its ability to manage iPhones. However, Mobile Manager slots in at a higher cost than Conceivium's Mobile Manager, based on conversations with the organizations.

How Big is the Mobile Management Need?
The explosion in mobility from the smartphone revolution is likely forcing many organizations to look ahead and prepare a solution that will not just suffice today, but 2–3 years into the future. That's a difficult thing to do in this market, but can we draw any conclusions about what the future holds for the mobile market? Here are a few questions and points to consider.

How many enterprise mobile platforms will we have to deal with? In addition to Windows Mobile and BlackBerry, possible enterprise contenders include Palm's webOS, the iPhone, and Google's Linux-based Android. While iPhone OS and Android are still largely untested in a business arena, organizations may look for a solution that can manage just about any device, so they're not forced to do an overhaul, should one of these platforms pick up speed.

How many people really want smartphones? This is an important question to ask. While smartphone growth has been huge, it has primarily been among the early adopters. Not long ago, even the decision to purchase a cell phone was a big deal. (Family plans have helped get a lot of less-interested individuals in the market.) Smartphones incur significant costs over basic phones, both in the cost of the device and the extra $30/month or so for the data plan. A recent study by Wirefly indicates that the features on phones customers purchase are often far beyond what they actually want.

  • 94 percent of cell phone buyers purchase a phone with a camera (what phones don't come with one?), but only 25 percent consider this a requirement for buying
  • 71 percent purchase phones that can play music, but only 5 percent consider it a "must-have" feature
  • 64 percent purchase phones that can browse the web, but only 15 percent cite the feature as necessary

This doesn't prove anything, but it does seem to indicate that most individuals don’t have much need for the robust capabilities of a smartphone right now.

For now, it will be a bit of a guessing game for organizations. But, being prepared certainly can't hurt.

"I think \[Windows Mobile and BlackBerry\] will continue to be the standard within the organizations for a number of reasons, a lot of them legacy reasons. They're already proven, already accepted, a lot of the security protocols have been signed off. These are not easy things for new entrants to go through--it takes a lot of time and effort to go through that," said Tom Robinson, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Odyssey Software. "But, given some time, you can't count out an organization like Google and its Android offering. So I think if you call immediate future within the next year or 18 months, I think we'll stay where we are. But take 2 years and some market acceptance, a new player could emerge."

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