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What is the Ultimate Ruggedized Mobile Device?

The most rugged mobile communications device 100 years ago was armored, ran on gasoline, and sported a huge cannon. Not surprisingly, a lighterweight solution became more popular. That parallels the evolution of mobile technology today, especially tablets.

Analyst Kevin Benedict had a funny quip during a webinar on the future of enterprise mobility hosted by IT Toolbox on Thursday (and sponsored by my parent company, SAP). Talking about some of the ways that messages were transported in the past, Benedict showed this slide:

Apparently, all of the above were considered military-grade, mission-critical methods of communication 100 years ago. But while the most ruggedized method of them all had to be, as Benedict pointed out, the armored tank, the most successful was the least-rugged, most agile - the carrier pigeon (which were used as late as World War II).

There is a parallel with the rise of tablets today. Tablets started off as rugged devices for heavy-duty industrial and field-service usage. But it's the less-rugged, lighterweight versions that have taken off for corporate use.

Benedict also pointed out something that makes a lot of sense: with the proliferation of devices as well as their short lifespan (figure a mean of 18 months versus 3 years for a PC), mobile devices have become a disposable commodity.

This is bad news not just for landfills, but also for companies trying to formulate a sensible strategy.

"Enterprise mobility isn't about devices. You don't want to create your strategy around the device in your pocket today, because next month, it might change," he said.

Case in point: Steffen Schwark, a consultant with mobility integrator, Bluefin Solutions (and one of the contributors to Sybase's Enterprise Mobility Guide 2011) says he recently met a potential customer, a "large outsourcing business" that had 20 different mobile solutions all based on different technologies, that naturally had become too expensive and time-consuming to manage. Which is why they were seeking Bluefin's help them consolidate.

Seeking to be strategic doesn't mean that companies shouldn't avoid potential tactical wins, like the ones below:

Or these.

But it does mean that with so much turbulence and change in the consumer end of mobility, most enterprises would do well to seek a rock-solid foundation, which an integrated platform can provide, says Sam Lakkundi, an enterprise mobility architect at Sybase.

And Lakkundi says that you should ask that platform will continue to progress and grow with your needs.