Pocket PC Integration

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-12-23 Print this article Print

We also saw the first integration of Pocket PC capability into communications devices from providers such as T-Mobile USA Inc., with positive response from early adopters and plummeting prices (quickly falling to as low as $299 after rebates).

All forms of wireless connection enjoyed growing enterprise mind share in 2002, with built-in 802.11b antennas becoming checklist items in new laptop machines and with new antenna technologies—from energy-focusing phased-array installations to Pringles cans—enhancing the range and improving the privacy of transmissions.

Wireless insecurity, more a function of sloppy administration than a fundamental flaw in the technology, hampered deployments in 2002 but will be addressed in 2003 by stronger encryption and more-streamlined management tools.

More wireless bandwidth is also on the way. While 802.11b clearly became a pervasive standard this year, as defined by such informal metrics as breaking the $100 price point at Frys, the higher-capacity 802.11a (54M bps in the 5GHz band) and 802.11g (with speed comparable to 802.11a but more compatible with 802.11b because both use the 2.4GHz band) gained traction with equipment providers and standards bodies. By moving to the higher radio frequencies, 802.11a escapes much of the growing congestion on the band also used by everything from Bluetooth to baby monitors; equipment builders have been quick to provide dual-band (802.11a and 802.11b) devices that may blunt the appeal of 802.11g before it enters the market.

Higher on the IT stack, the operating systems arena saw Windows XP selling 32 million retail and pre-load installations in its first six months, gaining quick acceptance in the home market but a cautious response from enterprise buyers. Intrusive license provisions in areas such as digital rights management, introduced by stealth along with the first Windows XP Service Pack, cemented the resolve of many enterprise buyers to retain Windows 2000 indefinitely—or consider non-Microsoft alternatives.

The subject of service packs remained a sore point with enterprise IT administrators, who told eWeek Labs that a growing fraction of their time was being consumed in identifying, evaluating, accommodating and deploying software updates.

Kevin Baradet, an eWeek Corporate Partner at the S.C. Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., used apocalyptic language to describe the problem. "The patches came up all over the land of computing," Baradet told eWeek, "and settled in all the territory of applications and OS; they were very numerous. There had never been so many patches, nor would there be again any less."

We noted during the year, however, that the September 2001 Nimda outbreak is still being cited by many vendors of patch management and other security tools, leading us to wonder if prevention and remediation—firewalls for the former, improved tools for the latter—are breaking the back of this problem. If so, an oft-cited argument for adopting an alternative platform will lose some of its vigor, especially given the increase this year in successful exploits aimed at non-Microsoft targets.

One such alternative, receiving surprisingly little attention from all but the Apple Computer Inc. faithful, was Apples Mac OS X. In 2002, the company did what the IT community has been demanding from other providers for years: It upgraded the Unix-based Mac OS X this fall to whats now clearly a ready-for-prime-time Version 10.2, which Apple will promote in 2003 to become the default Mac OS environment rather than an early-adopter experiment.

Apple is offering developers a reliable Unix-family platform with substantial open-source elements, fronted by a mainstream graphical interface and an end-user market complete with applications including a native version of Microsoft Office. Large-scale Mac OS adoptions, such as the state of Maines statewide seventh-grade iBook program (funded in part, ironically, by a Gates Foundation grant for associated teacher training), should be watched closely by enterprise buyers who want to know if they still have an operating system choice.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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