Growing biz apps give mobiles enterprise boost

Increase in business applications for atypical enterprise phones like the iPhone, are helping devices become more suited for enterprise use, notes analyst.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

The increasing proliferation of business applications even for atypical enterprise handsets such as Apple's iPhone, are making mobile devices more enterprise class, according to an analyst.

Claudio Castelli, senior analyst at Ovum, explained in a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, that in the past, the number of enterprise-specific tools and applications a user has on an office desktop or laptop were "much greater" than those on his mobile. Application vendors, he added, traditionally also developed apps for platforms such as Symbian, Windows Mobile or Blackberry, but increasingly, enterprise apps are being developed for a "broader" spectrum of devices, notably the iPhone.

Citing Cisco's recent announcement of a security app developed first for the iPhone, Castelli said the Apple smartphone is increasingly gaining acceptance by businesses compared to two years earlier when it first launched. "Important vendors such as Salesforce.com and Cisco, as they develop applications for these devices, [make the devices] more and more enterprise class."

Turning the mobile into a trusted platform

Gartner recommends businesses adopt a "managed diversity" approach to deal with mobile devices in the enterprise.
Under this strategy, mobile devices are categorized into "unsanctioned", "tolerated" and "trusted", Robin Simpson, the research analyst's research director for enterprise mobility, said in an e-mail.
Unsanctioned mobile devices typically lack security, manageability and compatibility with corporate systems. Requests for IT to support such devices could be granted by way of a "concierge" service, where the user bears the full cost of IT support such as security and management tools.
In the case of tolerated appliances, "best-effort" IT support is matched with devices of employees who do not deal with sensitive data. The devices usually include a basic level of security control, and are used for general purpose apps such as e-mail and Web browsing.
Trusted devices have the highest level of IT support and are matched for employees that require custom applications or the highest levels of security and governance. They typically have additional security and mobile device management software.

Cisco's SIO (Security Intelligence Operations) To Go app for the iPhone and iTouch, which was released earlier this month, is targeted at security professionals. The company had also previously released an iPhone app for its WebEx videoconferencing and collaboration technology.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, Cisco's security marketing manager Michael Weir reported that the SIO To Go app was downloaded 20,000 times within the first three days--far exceeding the networking giant's expectations.

"Our decision to develop for the iPhone first was because Apple has a great application delivery process that worked well with what we wanted to deliver in the application," he said. "We are evaluating the entire mobile ecosystem and are considering developing the application for other platforms as well including the Blackberry and Android."

Consumers form smartphone demand base
In an e-mail interview, John Strand of Strand Consult said that the smartphone market was overhyped, and that consumers, not enterprises, formed the demand for advanced mobile use.

Voice and e-mail, which have remained enterprise killer apps for mobiles, as well as other features that enterprise users may require such as access to information, could all be handled just as well by "classic feature phones", he pointed out. As for access to corporate systems and real-time enterprise data, smartphones may not have the edge over laptops or netbooks.

"We believe that a lot of people are hyping the smartphone market, and forgetting that the most advanced use of mobiles is amongst normal consumers, and not in the enterprise market," said Strand.

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