When Taking Your Time Planning Goes Too Far

I had a chance to chat with a friend recently and catch up on what’s going on in his life. The last time we talked was about a year or two ago and we just hadn’t connected since then due to a variety of scheduling issues and a general lack of trying.

When last we spoke he had mentioned that his company was mid way through doing a top to bottom analysis of what they needed to mobilize their business. Low and behold, they are STILL at it some two years later. Seriously?

The term analysis paralysis comes to mind. They are so concerned with evaluating everything that they have lost sight of the original reason they started this process: Find out what they need to know to move QUICKLY on a mobile strategy. I guess “quickly” means different things to different people but even the government doesn’t usually consider 2+ years “quick.”

My friend is very frustrated because he has seen plenty of lost opportunity and even inroads into their customer base from their competitors due to a lack of mobility. They are slower at responding to customer requests, unable to automate their field force, and have had nothing but problems offering additional value-added services that their customer’s actually need. The short story is…they are being left behind.

What I find odd about this entire process is that they realized earlier than most people that they needed to consolidate their mobility focus and make strategic decisions while using specific projects and applications as tactical steps toward their overall goal. The problem is that they can’t make a decision to save their own lives and it is killing them.

Do you have a mobility plan at your company? Are you executing on it or just planning it? Have you been at it longer than a congressional election cycle? Are you analyzing every possible “what if” scenario no matter how unlikely and tangential the possibility is?

Are Low-end Tablets a Wise Enterprise Investment?

Businesses have traditionally lagged behind consumer markets when it comes to adopting new devices, but tablet sales in the enterprise are set to grow substantially in the next few years, according to Gartner.

Indeed, Gartner has heralded the devices as the “key accelerator to mobility” for the enterprise, and predicts that businesses will have purchased 53 million tablets by 2016 (click here to see how tablets and a very special Antenna solution accelerated Eaton Corporation to mobility in 2012).

Truth be told, tablets are not a new phenomenon – they’ve been around for years as a computing device for field workers not able to tote around laptops in extreme or highly mobile environments.  In fact, it was in the early 2000s that Microsoft coined the term Microsoft Tablet PC; however, it wasn’t until 2010 when Apple launched the first iPad that tablets achieved their celebrity status as a popular consumer device. Apple’s dominance of the tablet category is likely to continue in 2013, thanks to the strength of its brand and a rich ecosystem of content comprising 600,000+ apps. But other Android-based models have emerged as viable alternatives due to their competitive price points and powerful capabilities.  Take for example, Google’s Nexus 7 – which has a quad-core processor and 720p display, and is priced quite a bit below the iPad. Nevertheless, putting in a large order for tablets has – until now – been prohibitively expensive for all but the largest enterprises. ‘Until now’ – because a new range of low price, low-end tablets are now trying to steal market share from the big boys.

On the Road – Mega Show Recap: MWC and CeBIT

I’ve been on the road a lot in the past few weeks, particularly spending time at some of the largest wireless and technology conferences on this side of the Atlantic.  Both Mobile World Congress and CeBIT were great conferences and shows we participated in with some of our leading partners – IBM and Huawei.

MWC keeps getting bigger and better, packed with great technology, cool ideas and super smart people – estimates suggest that 72,000 delegates attended this year.

The new venue was a vast improvement on recent years.  Admittedly the spectacular back drop was has gone but the venue afforded modern, spacious, clean and well organised accommodation with plenty of flexible seating to conduct meetings, although some would argue a tad soulless.

Neither Microsoft, Google, nor Blackberry had a stand this time and, as usual, Apple declined to participate.  The vacuum left by these organisations was impressively filled by organisations like Airwatch (MDM vendor) who, on the back of a $200m funding round, set about spending some of their newly acquired cash on a stand the size of Wales.

I must admit there seemed to be more of an Enterprise feel to the show this year.  Of course consumer technology hunters were not disappointed but the increased attendance from software vendors, systems integrators and consultancy firms definitely pointed to a substantial focus on the Enterprise customer.

Above all though it was the year of the API.  It was apparently obligatory for every single delegate to mutter the word API in every single conversation.   Jokes aside, the true innovators seem to be assembling technologies like Lego blocks in order to extend, improve and differentiate their product offerings.

Guest Blogger – MWC Recap, Part 2: General Lessons Learned

By Stuart Newstead 

This is Part 2 of a two-part blog series recapping Mobile World Congress 2013 by guest blogger, Stuart Newstead.  

When you walked into the new venue for the GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC2013), everything was unfamiliar.  Indeed it only became properly clear that this was the MWC when a big screen reassuringly started to show four middle-aged white men in smart suits talking earnestly about how it was vital that the European mobile operators should be regulated less.  It was good to see some Congress traditions being maintained.

In this second of two posts on MWC2013, we’ll take a look at the main themes coming out of Barcelona.

  • The show was fairly grounded in reality.  Little hype or hysteria – apart from a heavily-promoted but poor NFC experience across the venue.  For example, no talk of the wonders of 5G.  Instead lots of ways to deliver 4G/LTE efficiently (and even ways to let people have voice conversations on LTE networks)
  • Not quite hype, but certainly buzzwords struggling for clarity, included “big data” and “the internet of things”.  These are real enough subjects, so clarity and relevance will emerge
  • The mobile ecosystem is very broad: creation of digital content, management of the content, distribution of the content, payment for the content; voice calls are increasingly just another piece of content
  • The “mobile” part is primarily about managing the interface across the ever-decreasing distance over the air between a device and a controlling box, which could be a 3G/LTE cell, a WiFi router or a combination of the two
  • As cells are getting smaller, so the difference between a fixed network and a mobile network is reducing.  Both are starting to look like a big fixed pipe attached to a box that talks wirelessly to devices.  Microwave backhaul provides an interesting counterpoint though.
  • MWC no longer is the place for big launches of devices.  Generally competent displays, especially of lower-end smartphones, by the likes of ZTE, Nokia, Huawei, plus some impressive themed “hubs” by Samsung.
  • It’s hard to compare against someone who is not there, but a general feeling that the Apple devices and ecosystem are starting to look tired, though this could be the burden of carrying round $137 billion in cash all day every day.
  • A more “mature”, somewhat conservative, atmosphere, perhaps due to the lack of scantily-clad dancing girls explaining the intricacies of Operational Support Systems, or maybe the lack of “adult content” in the App Planet

Guest Blogger – MWC Recap, Part 1: Specific Lessons Learned

By Stuart Newstead 

This is Part 1 of a two-part blog series recapping Mobile World Congress 2013 by guest blogger, Stuart Newstead.  

Entering the doors of the GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC2013) – still in Barcelona but at a larger congress centre – was a bit like walking into your local supermarket and finding that all the shelves have been rearranged.  What used to take a few minutes to find now takes hours to locate, and some things aren’t there at all.  A lot of “proof of ID required” just to look at the goods.  A lot more “Made in China”.  A new product line called WiFi.  But no Apples (again), and no BlackBerrys (unless you knew who to ask).

As with MWC2012, it is clear that the show is now about the mobile “ecosystem” – the whole range of competences needed to bring content and communications reliably to a device that is being powered by a battery.  The role of the mobile operator in that ecosystem remains unclear, though it is evident that the role is not that of the Lion King.

In this first of two posts on MWC2013, we’ll take a look at what Barcelona was telling us about different parts of the mobile ecosystem.

Opportunities for revenue growth in the ecosystem

  • No major new themes, more of a shake-out of claims at previous shows.
  • Firefox for Android was officially launched.  Its rallying cry is:  “bring the next billion smartphone users online”.  This, combined with specific devices such as the Nokia Asha 305, and the backing of Firefox by major operators, shows that one source of mobile growth is likely to be the simple addition of more users.
  • “Big data”, or more pertinently “making sense of whatever data you have”, is still under development.  One of the most convincing use cases was from Redknee – the BSS/billing provider, who showed how their data analysis allows the identification of “mavens” – those people seen as experts at the hub of personal networks, the classic early adopters – and therefore more targeted marketing.
  • More paid apps, with Android in the ascendancy.  Specific operator initiatives to be part of the payment chain, such as WEVE in the UK, weren’t visible.
  • Mobile World Capital, Barcelona.  More of a vision than a plan, but Barcelona is seeking to use mobility at the core of its operations, eg health, wallet, smart city.
  • Security, be it encryption of information, or secure wiping of devices, is a growing topic.  In theory, more mobility + more personal data + more storage capability + nasty phishers = growing demand.
  • Mobile enterprise is back in fashion.  IBM had not one, but two stands, and a strong engagement on managing enterprise devices and applications.  Airwatch, a mobile device management company, had a huge stand.  Even Samsung had at least three of their “hubs” devoted to different aspects of their “Samsung for Enterprise” program.

Is 2013 Ready for HTML5?

Sometimes it takes a while for something really good to catch on. Take for example the critically acclaimed TV show Arrested Development. This show was filled with a great cast, good writing, was smart and was funny. The critics loved it but the American public, hmm not so much. Maybe it was the lack of laugh tracks, or people just didn’t want to have to think about their comedy, regardless the show was dropped from network TV after 3 seasons. Now after a 6 year hiatus, the show is being resurrected by Netflix. So what does Arrested Development have to do with mobility? Well nothing, however, it got me thinking about HTML5 and how 2013 may finally be the year that it truly finds its footing and gets the respect it deserves.

Looking back on the last couple of years, HTML5 was poised to take over everything.

Steve Jobs famously signaled the end of the Flash era in his 2010 

memo banning flash from all iOS devices and hailing HTML5 as the next step in technology. There were many naysayers back then, but many saw this as HTML5’s chance on the big stage. It was easy to use, low cost and cross-platform. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it to the big time right away. Sure there were a number of great apps being developed, but the general developer community’s view…hmm not so much. There were also some famous failures for HTML5 that many pointed to, none more famous than Facebook abandoning HTML5 in early 2012. However, when you look at why Facebook abandoned HTML5, it wasn’t necessarily what many thought as can be surmised from the following post from The HTML5 Center:

When Facebook abandoned HTML5 for its mobile app earlier this year, detractors pointed to CEO Marc Zuckerberg’s statement: “I think the biggest mistake we made as a company is betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native” as proof that HTML5 was just hype. Later reports made clear, however, that the problem wasn’t so much that HTML5 could not deliver what Facebook needed, but that its team didn’t have the expertise to accomplish its goals.

Introducing…Mobile Musings

When it comes to mobility, there’s a lot to think about. And as a man on the front lines of enterprise mobility at HP, there is always something in the industry that gets me pondering, so I decided to share some of my musings with you all here on Mobile Masters. I’ve been writing and speaking about the topic for quite a while, and I’m looking forward to bringing those thoughts to all of you.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some interesting blog posts I’ve written recently for my own blog, since I think they’re pretty relevant to some of the topics other bloggers here have raised. So while you wait for my first ‘fresh-out of the oven’ Mobile Masters’ post, feel free to check out these earlier posts of mine:

Trends for Mobile Workers (What are they asking for?)

Tizen – A Death Blow to All but Android?

HP Discover Panel Discussion: Empowering the mobile workforce: BYOD and beyond

Is Apple Losing its Grip?

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported worrying news that Apple had cut orders for iPhone parts due to weaker-than-expected demand. This, in combination with lower-than-expected iPhone sales, led to a 10 percent drop in the company’s share price following the tech giant’s most recent earnings call, which was the company’s largest drop in share price in four years. For the company which transformed the smartphone market with the first iPhone, and who for so long in the Jobs-era could do no wrong, this comes as just the latest in a growing chorus of underwhelming headlines.  And earlier today it was reported that Apple will likely lose its app store dominance by 2016. 

Apple’s challenge comes in the face of increased pressure from Samsung and other Android device manufacturers that crucially offer many more handsets at a wide range of price points. Samsung’s success has led many to speculate that Apple needs more than one iPhone to compete – something Cupertino seems to be resisting. Apple’s products have always been ‘high-end’ and even in the critical Chinese market – which it has still not cracked – Apple would rather allow Chinese consumers to buy its products on credit than entertain the idea of building a ‘cheap’ iPhone. Still, as The Atlantic recently commented, Apple’s high margins leave a giant target on its back from competitors who want a slice of the rapidly-growing smartphone and consumer tech market… and let’s not forget about Microsoft and BlackBerry trying to fight their way back into the party…

MWC 2013: enterprise mobility bigwigs predict the renaissance of the IT department

The new venue for Mobile World Congress 2013 (Photo:Natalia-Grau)

Once upon a time, IT men and women ruled over the enterprise, doling out hardware and software upgrades to their colleagues just as the kings and queens of old gifted precious gems, stately houses, and lucrative sinecures to their most trusted followers. Yes, IT departments reigned supreme – unchallenged, even if resented (and occasionally travestied). But then BYOD and BYOA rose in the west, and the power of the race of IT men and women waned. Some fought to retain the status quo, and issued increasingly stringent policy proclamations; some merely watched as the water pooled around their feet and rose up to their necks; and some, recognizing the trends as net positives for their businesses, joined the revolution.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but in a way that’s been validated by hundreds of surveys and thousands of opinion pieces – as anyone who reads the IT press can attest. The question is: why am I recapping? The answer: because IT departments are on the verge of making a comeback. At least, they are if the panelists on Nick McQuire’s Mobile World Congress enterprise mobility panel are to be believed.

The stage is set for another Mobile World Congress panel discussion

The event, which took place yesterday, was entitled, ‘Future of the Enterprise: Can Mobility Transform the Business?’ and the aforementioned panelists included Antenna’s own Jim Somers, José Luis Gamo, CEO of Telefonica Multinational Solutions, Nick Brown, SVP of mobile strategy and solution management at SAP, John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, and Tarun Nimmagadda, co-founder and COO of Mutual Mobile.

The event kicked off with a slick visualization of the spread of mobility across the world – a visualization backed by thumping house music intended to convey the dynamism of the GSMA. Once our ears had stopped ringing, McQuire came on and assured us that the companies he had picked to speak perfectly represented the enterprise mobility space as it is composed today. He then introduced the format: short presentations from each company followed by a panel discussion.

Telefonica’s Gamo was up first, and he set the pace with stats that proved that the cannibalization of the PC is an “unstoppable trend.” He then claimed – if unsurprisingly, that mobile operators are best placed to solve the BYOD, social, OTT, LTE and Wi-Fi problems brought about by the rise of mobile. Some of them, certainly – but all of them? Anyway, he did a good job of demonstrating that businesses investing in mobile must take a holistic approach to re-designing their infrastructure.

Telefonica's Gamo in full flow during Nick McQuire's enterprise mobility panel at Mobile World Congress 2013

John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, followed, and spent most of his presentation showcasing the undoubted successes of his company since its inception. He did make one comment that caught our ear though: apparently Hurricane Sandy prompted massively increased interest in BYOD from NYC-based companies. You might be able to ignore the doom-mongering IT press but a super-storm that strands your employees and cripples your ability to operate is another matter entirely.

Nick Brown of SAP followed Marshall and gave a disinterested but confident and interesting presentation. His thesis was that IT service providers had historically built software around specific hardware rather than the end-user and that that had led to overly-complex solutions that were as expensive to train people on as to develop. He recommended that mobile business service providers focus on the end-user and increase the take-up of their services by giving end-users an app that “delights them”.

Antenna’s Jim Somers began his presentation with a counter intuitive thought: “contrary to popular wisdom we live in a world where there ISN’T an app for that.” Like Gamo he emphasized the scale and difficulty of the task facing businesses looking to mobilize themselves; ‘going mobile is not just a case of “one and done”’, he said. Like SAP’s Brown he spoke about the importance of the end-user experience – ‘there’s a reason why our tagline is “deploy happiness”, he added. He finished by looking to the (near) future: “we’re not going to be talking about ‘mobile’ for much longer. We’re going to be talking about ‘information’.”

5 Great Expectations For Mobile World Congress 2013

Today the world’s largest mobile trade exhibition kicks off. That’s right – after several months of planning, Mobile World Congress 2013 is already upon us, and with the world’s leading mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors and content owners present, it’s set to be a treat. Perhaps most anticipated, however, are MWC’s infamous hardware showcases. Here are a few suspected unveilings that I’m particularly excited about.

The Mid-Range Tab – Samsung GALAXY Note 8.0

The Galaxy Note 8.0 is one of my most anticipated entries. As well as a 5MP camera and a quad-core processor, another key feature and exclusive to the Note is the digitizer stylus S-Pen. I know what you’re thinking: “the 90s called and they want their Palm Pilots back” – right? But this stylus is much more impressive than you might imagine. With touchless magnetic recognition, users don’t even have to press the stylus to the screen. The sleekness of their design is certainly part of the reason why styluses have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late. But even if this doesn’t appeal, at $400, the Note 8.0 could be a fantastic alternative to Google’s mid-range Nexus 7 and that alone makes it one to look out for, even if it’s more speculation than fact at this point.

The Mozilla Special ZTE Firefox OS

ZTE might be the very first company to show off the capabilities of a Firefox OS phone. Firefox OS is one of a number of new smartphone operating systems that will start competing with Android and Apple’s iOS in the next 12 months. Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, has hailed this project as somewhat of an experiment. We all know that experiments often go terribly wrong, so this is definitely one to watch.

The High-end Tab – Sony Xperia Tablet Z

So, Sony’s latest tablet has been labeled as ‘top-end.’ But with its slim build and relatively standard specs, I’m inclined to categorize it as a mid-range tab. That said, it offers a full HD 10.1 inch screen, is super light and water resistant, making it one of the sleekest entries available, if rumors surrounding the machine transpire to be correct. Given these potential capabilities though, it certainly won’t come cheap. But perhaps that’s what makes it ‘high-end’.

The Mystery Guest - Huawei WP8

Huawei’s latest entry has been rumored to make its debut at MWC for quite some time now. The problem is, nobody knows what they are launching exactly – although it has been reported to be very thin. But whilst the details of Huawei’s new WP8 handset remain somewhat unknown, its mysterious nature has created some intrigue. What is confirmed, though, is the imminent arrival of its new Windows 8 Phablet, which will boast a large, 6.1 inch touch-screen display. This will quell my disappointment if Huawei’s teasings prove to be nothing more.

The Low-end Tab – Asus MemoPad 10

The Asus MemoPad 10’s specs won’t inspire any sonnets. With a low-res 1,024 x 600 pixel screen, single-core 1GHZ and 8GB of memory at entry level, it’s easy to see why. That being said, I’m excited to see how the latest in budget tablets performs at MWC this year. Even if it performs marginally better than expected, I’ll be very excited by future prospects in the low-end market.

Mobile Masters bloggers Jim Somers and Steve Harding will be attending and checking in here on the blog about their favorite things at the event, so be sure to check back!