Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Your next computer - duh!

The only print magazine that I still receive for business purposes is InformationWeek. Actually, the US Postal Service sends me a printed magazine also, but you can't expect them to move to RSS feeds, can you?

I hadn't checked my work mail in the last few days, so I'm sure this article is old news to you, but the printed cover declares "Your Next Computer: How the smartphone is becoming a portal to enterprise apps."

While I have written extensively about the use of various consumer applications on smartphones (here is the first post in that series), I haven't really discussed enterprise applications. This is primarily because, with the exception of electronic mail, secure access, and instant messaging, I haven't made heavy use of enterprise applications. Our division is a little on the periphery of my Fortune 500 employer, and we still tend to use some older applications that do not yet have mobile equivalents.

Since e-mail and IM are probably covered elsewhere, I'll talk about the RSA SecurID Token for Windows Mobile. In effect, this allows me to get into my employer's network from any computer, which bailed me out during my Louisville trip when I needed to access a file from a FedEx Kinko's.

Because of the limited screen size and difficulties in data entry, smartphones are best suited for simple applications such as dashboards and simple data entry applications. However, in some cases, e-mail gateways serve as an effective substitute (I contribute to a blog behind our corporate firewall, and I've found that e-mail is the best way to do this.)

InformationWeek noted that convenience is a major factor in smartphone application deployment:

Smaller shops are more likely to have anted up to the mobile application pot already. At Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, the Palm Treo 750 is being used by some 50 field sales representatives to access the company's back-end CRM database.

The company's field-sales reps tried laptops and tablet PCs, but their battery life was too short and rebooting took too much time on sales calls, which number 20 to 25 a day, says Mike Corby, director of direct store delivery. Dreyer's reps also found the laptops to be too bulky to tote around, "not to mention the theft worries with notebooks visible on their car seats."

Jennifer Chappell concluded:

My Palm smartphones could probably replace my laptop for a number of tasks such as email, reading and writing word documents, categorizing photos, setting up appointments, and downloading software. I still rely on my laptop for surfing the Internet and watching videos. However, when I had my iPhone, I could pretty much depend on that device for those two activities. I think that when more smartphones have larger displays and better web browsers, more and more people like me will rely on their smartphones almost entirely. But for now, would I leave my laptop at home while traveling for business or pleasure. Not a chance. I'd have both my laptop and my smartphone with me.

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