enterprise solutions, mobile applications, technologies

Picking a platform for enterprise mobility

The right platform: key in getting you where you want to go.

This year’s mobile news has at times seemed dominated by smartphone Operating Systems: which has the most users, which is the most advanced, which is the most flexible and developer-friendly.  But outside of consumer bells and whistles, how many platforms are ready for the serious test of enterprise deployment?  We spoke to TBS Enterprise Mobility’s Managing Director, Steve Reynolds…

Q: We’re hearing more and more about smartphone operating systems and particularly the rise of the Google Android OS. How much impact is this having on enterprise solutions?

SR. What we’re seeing in the marketplace is a lot of focus on innovation in consumer smartphone operating systems. There’s a lot of noise out there which, as always, can make it tough to gauge what’s significant and what isn’t. What isn’t in dispute is that the smartphone market growth is phenomenal. It’s quite possible that we’ll see another 1000% growth on top of what we have now.

Q. What does this mean for device manufacturers?

SR. Manufacturers are at the point where they need to differentiate through genuine innovation. LG is launching its 3D phone, and there’s been considerable attention on the birth of smartphones with integrated Near Field Communications (NFC) functionality this year.

Manufacturers need to also be aware of form factors creeping up on the smartphone. At executive level in the enterprise space many devices like tablets are used covertly, or ‘unofficially.’ It’s only a matter of time before enterprise demands more from manufacturers’ technology stack, and consumer functions formally and securely percolate through to enterprise class devices.

Q: Why has Android become the consumer OS of choice?

SR. It’s the consumer OS of choice for many reasons. Android is an open source platform that’s been adopted across device manufacturers who are each seeking to differentiate and the open nature of the system gives greater opportunity to do this. High end, sophisticated devices are being produced alongside entry level, affordable smartphones like those from Samsung. This has defined the consumer difference.

Q. Is Android ready for use in the enterprise?

SR. There are considerable challenges for the Android OS before it is fit for enterprise purpose. With open source systems come legitimate concerns over lack of control. The current Android marketplace for distributing applications has a minimal form of quality testing, with reports suggesting that as many as 4 in 6 applications risk breaching data confidentiality regulations. Added to this are challenges around security, remote device management and whether Android devices are more vulnerable to being hacked. We don’t want to see another Sony PlayStation scenario with mobile data.

But there is promise. Developers can program enterprise applications to protect businesses from these threats. The next 12 months will see enterprise-focussed organisations like TBS develop applications which are sensitive to OS weaknesses.

Q: With the breadth of choice, what should I consider in selecting an OS for an enterprise solution?

SR. We should be careful to distinguish between enterprise solutions and field mobility here.

For many in the corporate space, enterprise solutions can mean email and messaging systems alone. These requirements can be adequately accommodated in iPhone and Android systems – provided there is an appropriate level of security installed on devices. Perimeter passwords offer protection, while technical policies can control the types of applications which can be downloaded.

However, field mobility organisations demand the flexibility to grow and adapt their solutions according to tight specifications and specific business needs. Rather than purchasing applications from a marketplace, many organisations select developers who can provide bespoke applications which future-proof investment through innovation roadmaps.

Remote device management and perimeter security has been a key requirement for enterprise based solutions over the last decade. For those managing large fleets of vehicles or construction teams in remote environments, this is critical. Windows Mobile 6.X has largely stood alone in supporting these requirements up until now.

Q. Are businesses limited by the availability of operating systems and devices, or is there enough choice?

SR. If anything there is too much choice at the moment. Everything from Android’s rise, to Palm’s Mobile OS, to Nokia’s disposal of Symbian hints at an overarching consolidation which could ultimately converge to just 3 or 4 systems.

Multiple OSs with multiple Software Development Kits makes for a frustrating and confusing development experience, but the advent of HTML 5 heralds a real cross-platform development leap forward. Notwithstanding current limitations in its low level control of devices and an absence of rich control, in time it will lead to more fluent programming.

Q. What is the TBS development strategy for accommodating the OS market evolution?

SR. It’s imperative for TBS that we support as many smartphone operating systems as possible to give our customers the chance to innovate. To this end we have an intensive programme underway to provide solutions on all of the major smartphone systems, in addition to tablet devices. With device boundaries set to blur in the future, our goal is to ensure TBS customers can use multiple form factors and are given the ultimate flexibility to adapt solutions in line with their businesses.

consumer experience, technologies

Who’s in charge? – a new application frontier

Charging within free applications: the implications

The power of free versus paid was put under the mobile application spotlight again last week, with Apple’s announcement that iPhone developers can now capitalise on payment within free applications, as well as in paid applications.

I first blogged about the potential of the in-app upsell and “Freemium” after a Juniper report a few months back, and this development from Apple now represents a meaningful step forward.

It essentially means upselling within free applications is a possibility. To get the premium version of a lite application or game you’re playing, you don’t need to browse out to the App Store and buy a whole new app. One or two clicks gives you the next level, or a new area of content, which you’ve paid for.

News organisations will have a desperately needed new way of monetising premium content. High profile columnists or bloggers with a substantial and loyal audience might provide an opportunity for subscription fees or one-at-a-time access charges to unlock a zone within a free application.

It might also help to unlock the lower spending end of the application consumer market. Mine is only anecdotal evidence, but a small number say they never browse outside of the Top Free application charts. Paid is perceived with nervous caution, or as a slippery slope to be avoided and never grazed on, even if it’s only a 59p application.

So exposing rich applications as Free may present a substantial new market, (or I may just have cheapskate friends). Once downloaded and snared with content, making simple micropayments to release additional content could become all the more irresistible.

Perhaps this is most significant for games providers, at least in the short term. According to a Mobile Entertainment item, a number of games publishers have already announced games which will be permanently free and funded by in-app payments, while others are set to be retrospectively released as free.

Developers have much more to play with thanks to this progress, but presuming the user experience of making payments is as smooth as we’ve come to expect from Apple, of course it remains the consumers that are in charge.

Publishers should tread carefully about precisely what content is monetised. If too much of it is what we’ve received for free until now, and what we still can get for free elsewhere, then it will turn consumers away. Unique value must be transparent.


(For the record: yes, the iPhone does still only represent a small fraction of the market. But for apps, it remains tricky to deny its trailblazing status.)

consumer experience, regulation, technologies

0870 app breaks into top 5*

(*number 5 in on-device App Store; 6 in iTunes)

Last Friday saw the end of a 429 day wait for Simon Maddox’s 0870 application to be approved by Apple – during which time it’s saved UK-based Android customers over £84,000.

Launched back in January on Android, Simon’s 0870 app converts numbers beginning with 08 — such as 0870, 0845 and 0800 which can cost up to 35p per minute to call, on top of already contracted minutes – into standard rate 01* or 02* numbers, which come out of your allowance, or are cheap on Pay As You Go.

0870 in action, saving cash
0870 in action, saving cash

Download link (opens in iTunes) – or search for 0870 in the App Store

During those 429 days when 0870 knocked humbly, yet persistently on the door to Apple’s magical kingdom, only occasional mumblings were received back, mentioning concerns that it circumvented carrier policies.

There’s speculation, still ongoing, that 0870 was rejected because O2 and BT were troubled by allowing iPhone users to make phone calls to 08* numbers, using subscribers’ existing call allowances. This is despite the fact that the application depends on dynamic access to a database of openly available numbers.

Or perhaps Apple wanted to check, and it took a while to get a definitive answer. But getting a simple yes/no definitive and unified answer out of O2 and BT couldn’t possibly take that long, could it..?

Simon was originally told by O2 and BT wouldn’t be happy with the service, but after further abstract exchanges, it appears they relented. And once this happened, Apple approved the app within hours.

However, Guardian reporting states that O2 denied outright that it was the blocker. So it WAS just sitting in Apple’s queue all the while? The issue is clearly a muddy one. But now thankfully academic.

When it eventually came to launch last Friday, 0870 was propelled by commentary from The Telegraph and The Guardian’s technology blogs, helping it to land a whopping 3,140 downloads by the end of that day alone. The weekend saw it surge up the free apps charts into the top ten, and by Monday morning it had rocketed to number 5. And having slapped some trusty admob advertising onto the app, it’s not without a revenue stream.

It’s also supported on other platforms. Thanks to collaborator, Kieran Gutteridge, 0870 is now also available on Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, LG and Blackberry devices as a JavaME app.

Known as one of the most talented and amiable chaps on London’s mobile developer scene, patience has certainly been a virtue for Simon, and his understandably glowing jubilance was there for all to see as he delivered a session at Over The Air, a mobile developer conference at Imperial College last Friday. Nobody would begrudge him this success.

Well, apart from O2 and BT perhaps.