There is a race going on among the suppliers of smartphones, such as Apple Computer's recently announced iPhone 4, to create handheld devices that can replace both a mobile telephone, a GPS, a music and video player and, for some functions, a mobile computer. My colleagues here on ZDnet are all over this announcement (see iPhone 4: Apple raises the bar; AT&T pushes it back down and Good job with iPhone 4, but the Sprint HTC EVO 4G is staying for a couple of examples).
Although I have some strong opinions about the device and AT&T's terms and conditions, pricing and overall customer service, I'll just focus on one aspect this announcement and announcements of competitive devices coming from RIM, HTC, Nokia and others. That aspect is that these devices are introducing cloud computing offerings to many who might not otherwise care. The folks purchasing these devices don't really care about all of that, however. They just want a slick looking, highly functional device.
Most of these devices rely heavily on network based applications and services to deliver the experience the device suppliers flog. Easy and instant access to everything from telephone directories, lists of local restaurants, directions and maps are only the beginning.
We're seeing for-pay access to television, streaming movies and other entertainment services. We're also seeing Software as a Service products, such as customer relationship management, banking and other applications, being made available through these devices. Suppliers, such as Citrix, have made access to corporate applications easily available as well (their demo showing an executive getting an alert on the smartphone, looking up data on their laptop computer, and finishing the deal on the desktop system is outstanding).
If we look at survey data that explores how organizations are adopting cloud computing, we see that small and medium size organizations and developers have rushed in where large companies fear to tread. They're not as concerned about compliance, security and integration with a large number of established systems. The large companies say that they're holding back until these issues are addressed.
If we look at what they're doing and ignore what they're saying for the moment, however, we see that many of their employees have personally purchased devices such as the iPhone and competitors. Whether the IT organization likes it or not, important company data and contact lists are already in the cloud.
The iPhone 4 and its competitors are like a siren song calling staff to take steps into the cloud. The promise of anytime, anywhere access to just about everything is leading them on.