Anytime, anywhere, anyhow

Anytime, anywhere, anyhow

This special ARN supplement focuses on one of the biggest drivers of the day for many businesses regardless of size or industry - mobility.

The ability to access information remotely has become a 'must-have' rather than a 'need to have' for a wide range of senior management, sales executives and specialist workers. At the same time, the convergence of technology and telephony is opening up new opportunities for resellers and integrators to extend their sphere of influence with existing customers.

As this trend continues, we are headed for a world of unified communications where we can contact our colleagues, customers and personal contacts seamlessly in a wide variety of ways via a single network. But today we are still a fair distance from realising this dream and there are plenty of issues that need to be sorted out along the way.

Right in the middle of this debate is the range of devices becoming available and the blurring of boundaries between phones and computers. Smartphones can now provide users with all sorts of essential business information like quotes, sales targets and appointment updates via the web, email and synchronised contact information.

In fact, smartphones have come so far now that many senior executives will not take laptops on business trips anymore if they are only travelling for a couple of days. There's just no need to lug one about and have the inconvenience of getting through airports with it when you can access web and email information through something that fits in your pocket.

Mobile computer manufacturers have responded to this assault on their territory by building ever smaller and lighter models with longer battery life to reduce the burden of carrying a laptop wherever we go. Advances in connectivity options through services like Skype are seeing other business travellers use their laptops for IP-based calls while overseas and avoiding the expense associated with making lengthy calls home to family via a mobile phone.

The long-term question is whether we will ever get to a point where one device is enough. Will they eventually meet in the middle? The majority of people today still argue that this won't happen but imagination may be the biggest barrier. Yes you can do significantly more with a laptop today than with a handset, but smartphone functionality continues to improve rapidly. Screen size is the biggest hurdle they will have to overcome but it isn't insurmountable. Who knows what the future will hold?

Whichever form of mobile device you prefer, the vast majority of people are using more than one today. All of these hardware options come with a variety of security and connectivity implications that present challenges but also opportunities. In the pages ahead, industry experts tackle a range of issues ranging from security concerns and notebook purchasing decisions to wireless troubleshooting and the future direction of connectivity.

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