In the week preceding July 4, Microsoft killed the Kin and T-Mobile killed the Sidekick. And sometime soon, other well-known smartphones will fade away, such as the iPhone 3GS and the original Motorola Droid.
This in itself isn't surprising. After all, smartphones have stepped onto a treadmill of constant change as a way to keep sales up and customers interested. Meanwhile, technology is evolving at a breathtaking pace, and that is also helping to drive the rapid turnover of smartphone models.
You can already see those changes taking place. Palm, now that it's owned by HP, is clearing out its inventory of smartphones by simply giving them away for the price of a two-year contract. Apple has reduced the price of the iPhone 3GS to $99. You can get a Droid on a two-for-one deal from Verizon Wireless. Again, no surprises here. All of these devices have had their time in the sun, and that time is past.
But the risk to an enterprise comes when this constant churn doesn't enter into your planning. If you base your enterprise smartphone use around a specific platform, for example by developing applications for a specific version of a device or even a specific level of operating system, your mobile application strategy will go down in flames in months, if not weeks. Even deciding on a single class of smartphone, such as the iPhone or an Android device, is fraught with danger. It only takes some mandatory upgrade to break your application and put you out of business.
This means that while it might be tempting to take advantage of the iPhone 4's new multitasking operating environment and create a custom application for your company, you should think twice. The same is true before you build something for Android 2.2 or Palm's WebOS. The future of devices running all these operating systems is unclear and, one way or the other, these platforms will certainly change. You need to be ready to deal with that change.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you have to steer clear of applications that work for your business and also run on smartphones. What you need to do is avoid depending on any one single platform.