Enterprise IT in the Mobile Era

Back in the 80s we saw IBM change the world with desktop computers with more power than the older mainframes. During the 90s we saw the dot-com movement and a mass migration from the traditional systems to browsers and web-based applications. Now, more than a decade later, we are witnessing another paradigm shift in enterprise. The constant connectivity era of mobile is here and IT departments and CIOs are scrambling to adapt to the way this new era is changing business and the world.

Years ago, Blackberry earned popularity among corporate organizations largely because of its security capabilities. Additionally, the devices were easily managed, and the connectivity was controlled by IT administrators. But now with the advent of iPhones, iPads, and other smart devices, enterprises are learning that they can no longer limit their support to the Blackberry alone. We are seeing enterprises approaching mobile device management (MDM) with new hardware and software installations that help manage a variety of devices, all of which require connectivity to their network.

Apple and Google are aware of the challenges organizations are facing and in order to build their share of the enterprise market, they are finding ways to solve the security challenge. They are developing devices that integrate into an enterprise network and enable the IT team to manage the devices more effectively. If necessary, the devices could be shut down, erased or locked. This helps insulate the organization from potential security breaches caused by employees or external individuals because all information is secured and controlled by the IT team via the wireless network. With more security features and measures like this, CIOs are feeling more confident about supporting a growing list of mobile devices.

As these challenges are addressed, we will see laptops disappearing from the enterprise landscape in favor of smart phones and tablets. Sales teams are ideal for this paradigm of shift. With connectivity to their company network, they could present product and services information, answer questions, close sales and place orders on their mobile devices, without having to lug around their laptop. While this use of mobile devices may seem inevitable, it raises questions about the use of enterprise applications. Should employees be provided with a device running company applications, or should organizations simply deploy the enterprise application to the employees’ personal smartphones? The latter idea is gaining traction and has coined the term, “bring your own device.”

The IT team and CIOs are always going to feel pressure to support the newest device. With an ever-growing list of mobile products, enterprises will have to become flexible enough to support a wide range of devices. In this sense, “bring your own device” may make the most sense. It is more cost effective, because the enterprise is not buying and upgrading devices for all of their employees; and employees often prefer to use their personal device so they are not saddled with carrying multiple phones or tablets on the field. However, employees will also have to be comfortable with a loss of privacy on their personal device. With enterprise applications running on a phone or tablet, the IT team will ultimately be in control of that device.

This decade – 2010 and beyond – is the “Mobile Era.” With advancements in connectivity that far exceed the capability of yesterday’s Blackberry, IT teams and CIOs will have to expand their mobile device management strategy to meet the technological needs of their employees.

Good, better, best. Never let it rest.

‘Til your good is better and your better is best.

-St. Jerome

Products are released every day, many with no notice and some with great success. The Apple iPad is an example of well-managed marketing, extreme anticipation and high customer satisfaction.

The Windows Archos 9, JooJoo and HP tablet all are efforts to beat the iPad. The recent release of the Blackberry Playbook is one that held high expectations but met with unexpected disappointment. Blackberry’s maker, RIM had hoped to take a big chunk out of the tablet market but it appears their rush to do so caused them to compromise their quality. Apparently, the tablets have a flaw in the operating  system that can make it impossible for users to set up the device. About 1,000 Playbooks were recalled as a result.

We see product recalls regularly – toys, snowblowers, baby seats, fitness products – the list is long. Recalls are costly to a company because they often require replacing the recalled product or paying for damage caused by its use. They also can result in less trust in a brand name or manufacturer (see: Toyota).

Quality control is a factor in business as well as life. So how can we reduce the risk of recall, or put more positively, assure excellence in a final product? Some essentials: well-defined goals, processes and procedures, and stop gaps to check quality as a project progresses. Teamwork and clear definition of roles and responsibilities are also important factors.

When competition is fierce and quick turnaround vital, the risks must be managed even more closely. Taking time to think through the process first, noting goals and metrics to be met along the way, is crucial. Double- and triple-checking each step ensures the final work will be a masterpiece of excellence. Don’t sacrifice best for fast or cheap or good enough.

RIM can rebound from the Blackberry Playbook recall. It may take special incentives to bring customers to trust the company and take a chance on the product. Efforts to take a little more time to make sure the product was functioning properly in the first place would have prevented the headaches and frustration of an unfortunate and preventable mistake. We don’t know what specific goals were not met and where the breakdown of proper procedures happened. We DO know that had a recall not occurred, Blackberry would be in a stronger position against iPad and other similar products.

Our lesson is to remember to slow down enough – even when required to move quickly – to ensure the best outcome is obtained.

Android tablets will take a bite out of the Apple pie

It looks like Apple’s iPad is finally getting some serious competition,  In fact there is a real frenzy of tablet manufacturers and application developers in the marketplace as all the key players jockey for position and market share.  The most notable and important contenders being the Android tablets. Every major device manufacturer is getting in on the action – Motorola, LG, Samsung, Dell, ViewSonic, Panasonic, Toshiba…It seems like there are product announcements every day, often several in a day. Sony, for example, knows they may be late to the early adopter market, but they are securing a spot in the line-up with their recent public confirmation of plans to use Google’s tablet-specific Honeycomb OS. Companies like Hewlett-Packard are close behind, and high-quality, competitively priced tablet options will be mainstream by the end of the year. At Vensi, we keep our finger on the pulse of all industry trends, and the Droid tablet market is no exception. We thoroughly research and evaluate each of these tablets, and while some tablets are definitely better than others, we see some consistent and significant trends in hardware that indicate Android tablets could soon overtake the iPad in market share.

In a market created and currently dominated by the iPad, many consumers jumped on the Apple bandwagon.  No doubt iPad is a solid product and it has set the bar pretty high with software that still leads the industry in quality, security and user experience. However, many consumers, especially those people buying a tablet for business applications, should consider the array of Android tablets.  For instance, many Droid tablets offer (or promise to offer) higher camera and display resolutions, faster processor speeds, USB ports, and of course a more open operating system. All of these features would enhance the work experience and increase professional productivity, thereby fitting the needs of a business consumer better.  Even the US military seems to think Android is a better fit for their needs.

When comparing the plethora of tablet options now and in the near future, it will be important for consumers to think about the features they want and need. The iPad has set the standard, but competitors are looking to take bites from the Apple pie with features that differentiate them from the iPad and from one another. One important vulnerability iPad has not overcome: The iPad has been criticized for not supporting Flash, so if the “full web experience” is important to a user, a Droid tablet that supports Flash should be a consideration. Another possibly critical feature would be battery life. For some, the iPad standard of ten hours is enough, for those who travel frequently though, removable and spare batteries will be key selling points for the Android tablets.

Android and iPad tablets are a quantum leap in our computing experience, and here at Vensi we are creating innovative, world-class mobile applications that will fully utilize the available features of any platform, including tablets. While it is not clear which operating system will ultimately dominate the marketplace, we will certainly be providing top tier  applications for either platform.  May the best OS win!

Windows Mobile 7 May Become a Key Player in the Mobile Market

The Windows Mobile device hasn’t been able to get much of a foothold in a mobile market dominated by the iPhone and Android. Even Blackberry has held on to its niche better than many expected (probably because of its security that is favored by corporate and government users). However, Microsoft has an enormous installed base of users that are accustomed to the look and feel of the Windows environment. While we haven’t seen a surge in interest in application development with Windows Mobile 7 yet, as a mobile application development firm, Vensi believes Windows Mobile 7 may very well take off very soon, so we are spending some quality time with the technology and exploring its capabilities.

Nokia obviously also sees the potential, since they announced plans to drop their proprietary O/S platform and partner with Microsoft to power the new Nokia smartphones with Windows Mobile 7 software. This partnership is a surprise to many of us who have watched Nokia and Microsoft wage epic battles for a decade in what The Economist so eloquently called “The Fight for Digital Dominance”. In the mobile world, it seems even staunch enemies can become friends in an effort to survive and ultimately thrive. As mobile application development experts, Vensi thinks that if these two one-time opponents can truly extend the olive branch and appreciate and leverage one another’s strengths, they could solve the IOS/Android conundrum and create unprecedented opportunities in the mobile industry.

In addition to the promise of tremendous synergy with the PC (and a huge enterprise market), there is another key advantage we see with Windows Mobile 7: an environment rich with possibility for truly ingenious mobile applications. Microsoft has nurtured strong relationships with programmers and developers over the years, and that has created tremendous loyalty in their programming ecosystem. Further, from the point of view of developers, the platform is quite similar to .NET, and there is an abundance of .NET developers out there who can easily start programming apps for Windows Mobile 7 immediately. A rapid pace for new apps and Microsoft’s pervasive marketing machine could give Google and its Android a run for their money. As for the iPhone, we know Microsoft has successfully taken on Apple in the past, and even Apple is not invincible, especially without Steve Jobs at the helm…

Some suggest that Windows Mobile 7 could surpass the Blackberry and challenge the Android and iPhone in sales and adoption by mainstream users. At Vensi, while we don’t believe this will happen overnight, we believe it could go even further and expand the mobile development market as a whole by bringing in many new end users and there’s always the possibility that Microsoft can even reinvent the playing field. This kind of competition is great for our entire industry, and we are ready!

The Future of BlackBerry

On August 1, 1981 MTV broadcast their first music video and changed the music industry forever. The launch of that video  – “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles – turned out to be quite prophetic and literally changed the way an entire generation of listeners was introduced to music. The iPod has certainly done the same for another generation of listeners.

Here at Vensi, we’re beginning to wonder if yet another revolution is in the making. Now that Verizon can offer the iPhone to its 94 million subscribers, will it spell doom and gloom to other smartphones? While we don’t foresee Android disappearing, we do believe that many others will be scrambling to stay in the game. There’s no doubt that this long-anticipated new iPhone option will steal the limelight from AT&T and from Android, but quietly trying to hold on to even a small market share is BlackBerry.

From a mobile application development perspective, Vensi sees the necessity of BlackBerry. Not only does it offer an option for the touchpad-phobic (and believe it or not, there are many), but it still offers the best security for those who use their mobile phone for confidential corporate or government work. (Even President Obama uses a BlackBerry).

The question is, can BlackBerry survive this new surge of competition from a Verizon-wired iPhone?

If the BlackBerry is going to survive, it will need to maintain its differentiation and hone its competitive edge. To do that there will need to be some real transformation involved that makes BlackBerry attractive to more users – and there is some speculation they have a survival plan that could make the people over at iPhone more than a little nervous.

The rumor is RIM is considering the possibility of using a Java based VM – most likely Dalvik – for their upcoming tablet PlayBook as well as for future smartphones. The advantages for BlackBerry would be enormous: Not only would it streamline application development, but if they do go with the Davlik VM that the Android uses, it would open up a world of Android apps to BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook users.

Ideally, RIM will work out an agreement with Google to get their blessing on taking this approach, although they might do it even if they can’t get the ok from Google. Google though, has nothing to lose and everything to gain by having an even larger market for their apps. What could save BlackBerry could also ultimately benefit Android and Google.

Update 3/24: A great news article discusses BlackBerry here!

The Future of Mobile Technology: How it will improve everything we do

There is a world in the not-so-distant future where a mobile device will be completely customizable to the taste of the end-user. Maybe you want a camera, e-reader, access to every version of “Spoonful” ever recorded, and various apps but no phone. Maybe you want to videoconference and simultaneously monitor your child napping in his crib. Maybe you need an add-on blood sugar monitor to manage your diabetes. For the greenies out there, surely there will be an app for recharging your device with the wind outside your train window. Cloud computing, augmented reality, geolocation – the options are limited only by our imagination and our paradigms.

There are some who are frightened by the changes, quoting Orwell and holding their day planners close to their chests. The fast pace of change today amplifies this phenomenon, creating an even wider gap between those who send handwritten letters and the teenagers who don’t know that written words once had vowels in them. However, the learning curve for new technology is much less steep now. We used to look at new technology and have to learn to adapt our behavior (remember those folks that printed their email to read it?) Now technology anticipates our behaviors; we look at an iPod and exclaim: “What a great way to store and access all my music! Where do I buy more?”

Today, right now, mobile technology pairs beautifully with the trend toward simplification in our lives. We can eliminate the clutter by traveling with paperless tickets, banking online, using GPS instead of maps, presenting digital coupons to store clerks, and reading eBooks. It is only our sense of nostalgia, and to some extent our fear, that keeps us clutching to a security blanket of paper. Who knew mobile applications could help clear the way to a state of Zen?

This brings humanity to the biggest change.- the change in perspective and how we approach the moments that make up our lives. Mobile technology helps us preserve our past with digital images, art, music, blogs… so that we can let go. We know that it is there, accessible from any place at any time, and we can get on with the business of living our lives. In living a moment, we can use the mobile applications to embrace every element, giving the experience more texture and color. We can click on an app and learn on which slope the grapes in our Riesling were grown. We can hold our mobile device up to the sky and learn the name of the star we have wished upon since childhood. We can connect with a dear friend and share a funny thought that reminded us of a shared experience. Our lives are richer, fuller, and more connected to one another in so many beautiful (and really cool) ways.

Vensi To Develop Application for Legal Community

Vensi develops a wide variety of mobile applications for all of the major, growing platforms, including iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. Our developers work with clients from a number of different industries, including legal services, to build effective and creative mobile applications. Technology and the law are sometimes on opposite sides of the courtroom (just think about the recent lawsuits involving illegally downloaded songs and copyright infringement) but most members of the legal community see technology in much the same way as Vensi sees it: as a tool that can empower businesses of all kinds to be more efficient and effective in their efforts to reach customers, build brand identity, and be accessible.

Until now, there have not been very many applications developed specifically for the specialized needs attorneys have. As attorneys begin to seek the advantages of 21st Century solutions, Vensi is leading the way by helping the legal community develop a better understanding of how technology can work to enhance their services.

Vensi is currently developing a powerful mobile application will help attorneys be more accessible to their current and potential clients by making it possible for them to easily provide contact information, a detailed profile, and Google map directions on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry platforms. The application also allows attorneys to upload video footage, assisting them in reaching their potential market more effectively.

Mobile technology assists lawyers by providing them with the tools they need to be successful in a highly competitive market. Vensi is pleased to be partnering with WebPerseverance and GetLegal to develop mobile application solutions that will allow attorneys to provide better and more efficient services to their clients and improve intra-office communications and information management. From time management and billing to law library access and rich media on the go, mobile technology empowers the legal community and enables attorneys to be more efficient and effective with all of their efforts.

Today, over 40% of all consumers use a smart phone.  In five years, that number is expected to reach 80%.  Legal services, like any other industry, can benefit from becoming more visible and accessible on the web by providing mobile solutions to their clients. Vensi is proud to be on the forefront of this transformation; building mobile applications to help the legal community put the power of technology to work in ways that will help them streamline their services, conveniently manage their billable hours, and effectively market their services.

Why Blackberry Is Still in the Game

While it may seem as though iPhone and Android are battling it out for the top spot as the must-have phone OS, many businesses still prefer the reliability, security, and functionality of the Blackberry. What this means for mobile platform developers is that it is still important to develop applications for the BlackBerry platform and not focus exclusively on the other ‘Big 2’. Vensi is uniquely positioned to provide superior mobile applications for businesses that can be used across all three of the major platforms.

More than 14 million users, including the U.S. Government, rely on BlackBerry for everything from phone calls to calendar management to email. The BlackBerry offers users an integrated package that uses push technology using the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) to provide quick access to email and corporate networks without compromising security. BlackBerry’s security encryption is what made the platform the government’s first choice for a wireless solution. The data contained on a BlackBerry remains safe even if the phone is lost or stolen.

While many mobile platform developers have stopped creating applications for the BlackBerry, Vensi believes that BlackBerry will continue to be a viable and necessary platform to support. Blackberry apps have been around for a long time — long before iPhone and Android apps. A properly designed app for BlackBerry can be reused with other mobile phones running J2ME. For example, a J2ME app can be ported to BlackBerry by reusing some core logic. Similarly, a BlackBerry app can be ported to J2ME phones.

Even though the iPhone is a large draw for mobile application developers, followed closely (and perhaps soon to be overtaken) by Android, the BlackBerry is still critical. And because Blackberry follows the Sun Java standards, they’ve had no issue with Oracle, which could pose a problem for developers. Oracle just filed suit against Google regarding Android. With fewer mobile platform developers even providing development for the BlackBerry, Vensi’s decision to develop applications for all three platforms sets the company apart.

From our point of view, since Blackberry has the largest market share, developing mobile applications for the BlackBerry is a must, particularly for business-to-business and business applications that foster productivity. The learning industry (companies that focus on providing training) should focus on BlackBerry as well, since they are the phones most businesses have. If you want your app with the top-level executives for sales trainings, business compliance trainings, and other learning apps, Blackberry is the way to go.   

For those who think Blackberry is all business and no fun, we suggest taking a look at Blackberry’s social networking feature. Blackberry’s BBM (Blackberry Messenger) app rivals its counterparts in the social realm. BBM™ allows users to send and receive messages with no character limits and choose a display picture that is sent with the messages. The app turns the phone into a mini social network by allowing users to share photos and videos with several contacts at the same time.

As well, RIM recently acquired QNX, a popular operating system in automotive known for its reliability. We’re betting BBM™, QNX and its existing infrastructure, as well as the efforts Blackberry is making to reposition themselves to capture the less corporate crowd will keep them viable and competitive in the coming years. It’s our hunch that BlackBerry will rise to the top as the most reliable phones.