It wasnt so long ago that information technology managers were slamming the door on employees asking for mobile access to corporate-based information. The IT folks had just gotten through the headaches of enabling remote dial-up, and that was a hassle. With its security implications and countless standards, mobile access is an even bigger headache.
If the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Associations show a couple of weeks ago is any indication, the attitude among the IT crowd is changing. Either theyre tired of being browbeaten by co-workers, or theyre getting messages from above with instructions to untangle mobile access.
Corporations may soon issue smart phones or wireless-enabled personal digital assistants as often as they issue laptops today. Its fairly common for companies to give laptops to employees. Microsoft charts 2.7 computers per employee. Many of those PCs are laptops, and many users only travel as far as the office.
The mobile device will be a bit different and, in the beginning at least, wont be standard. Today, many Palm users — about 60 percent — buy the device themselves. Some other handhelds, such as Research In Motions devices, are being bought in bulk by companies. But because so many people want to use devices they have already bought, software companies are building solutions for IT managers that can accommodate a variety of devices, so the IT department can manage them centrally. In the future, corporations will standardize on one or just a couple of wireless-enabled handheld devices that they will buy and manage for workers.
I expect to see a battle among the companies that build different pieces of the puzzle. There are countless such companies, each with a unique business model. The market wont support so many providers, so they will consolidate and possibly get scooped up by traditional software companies that are already behind the firewall. Big dogs such as Microsoft and Oracle are busy creating their own mobile access solutions, but they may instead acquire some of the more innovative start-ups that have been emerging.