Mobility. It's the utopia to which IT aspires. And why not? The idea of traipsing around the country untethered, email and network at hand, is infinitely appealing. It's why mobility is a driving force across the ICT industry and mobile devices proliferate on a seemingly exponential scale.
No longer the realm of a select few, mobile solutions are filtering down through the enterprise and into the SMB space. Yet the channel faces a conundrum when talking about mobility – and it has a lot to do with the breadth of its definition. Mobility covers a host of technology, devices and applications and the challenge lies in providing clarity to customers in order to take advantage of the opportunities.
"The problem is you start off with a generic definition of mobility – being able to work and do business regardless of location or device," IDC program manager for telecommunications," David Cannon, said. "That's fine, but mobility comes in different shapes and sizes. The Utopian definition is great but the reality is it doesn't apply holistically.
“We all use laptops and sales of laptops in the enterprise as a desktop replacement is an active trend. But am I able to pick up this machine and go anywhere and do my work as though I was in the office? Not particularly. It depends on the type of Web-based access supplied."
The other part of the mobility equation talks around the mobilisation of applications. The poster child for this 'wave of mobility' is email. Cannon argued the first wave of mobility was voice, and that opportunities still exist around mobile email services. It's a very different proposition to notebook sales, and yet it also resides under the mobility umbrella. Intel national sales manager, Andrew McLean, agreed the mobility moniker is "a pretty broad church".
"It's a big market in Australia and there are plenty of opportunities. If you look at the different market segments, mobility has lagged a little bit. But we are seeing growth in 2009 and we are prediction more in 2010, particularly in notebook sales."
Worldwide, the smartphone market defied the global financial crisis, reaching record shipments. Vendors shipped 43.3 million units during the third quarter of 2009 according to IDC's quarterly mobile phone tracker, up 4.2 per cent from the 41.5 million units shipped in the same quarter year-on-year, and up 3.2 per cent from shipments of 41.9 million units in Q2. Incumbent players, such as Nokia, Research in Motion (RIM) and Apple, continue to grow and release products and new players continue to emerge; Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson have all recently released Android-based handsets and Dell has announced plans for its new Mini 3 handset, designed around the Android platform, as part of its continuing push into mobile Internet products and services.
But while smartphones may be the sexy technology of the noughties, they do have limitations – screen size and keyboard being key considerations. Notebook sales remain strong and a range of new products are set to make their mark.
"Smartphones will only get you so far," Intel's McLean said. "The mobile Internet device [MID] sits between the notebook and the smartphone form factor. It's a true device – it runs an operating system such as Windows and has a full screen display of the Internet, so you are seeing pretty much what you would see on your desktop. It could be an interesting one and it gives resellers a whole new device to take to market.”