Apple's "There's an App for That" iPhone campaign is opening a Pandora's box for mobile service management. Apple's App Store offers more than 25,000 applications, and the site saw more than 800 million downloads in just eight months. This means that consumers are going to expect to have multiple applications running on their smartphones-and where consumer computing goes, so does corporate endpoint computing.
Successive waves of consumer technology have always found their way into enterprises. This time, smartphone applications have serious allies in their corporate infiltration. RIM has launched Blackberry App World, a Web-based marketplace for software running on their Blackberry devices. Not to be outdone, Google and Microsoft are racing to deliver the same capabilities.
Even with the rigorous application approval processes from device suppliers, network providers and enterprises, I guarantee you that in about 9-12 months, these companies will find themselves in a customer service management conundrum. Why? Because in my 14 years of covering how new technology impacts infrastructure management, I've seen the same pattern over and over again. New applications or services get rolled out and things seem great in the beginning.
Then, enterprise customer and technical support processes begin groaning under the strain of problems they are not designed to solve. Eventually, serious outages begin to occur, which impacts a revenue stream. Then business executives start grumbling about service quality. Only when business pain occurs does IT management get the green light to turn their attention to optimizing their service management processes and solutions.
The evidence suggests that the tidal wave of smartphone applications will follow a similar pattern. There are iPhone application development courses and Java development tools for Blackberry. It's only a matter of time before corporate applications have smartphone front ends, which will be in the "I can't live without it" category for mobile business users (and, unlike the iFitness or Flick Fishing applications, these applications will probably not get discarded after a month of use).
Then there are vague reassurances about IT manageability from the device manufacturers. For example, RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said, "Blackberry App World aggregates a wide variety of personal and business apps in a way that makes it very easy for consumers to discover and download the apps that suit them, while preserving the appropriate IT architecture and controls required by our enterprise customers."
Hmmm, where have I heard this before? It sounds like the same promises I heard from various desktop and laptop software providers in the 1990s. I also have recollections of research studies documenting enterprise management costs of $8,000 per PC per year (and that was with a single operating system dominating the market). Those costs skyrocketed because PC technology stressed problem resolution workflows and organizations that were designed for supporting large servers. Smartphones, with their seemingly endless variety of hardware, software and network providers, are poised to stress support workflows and solutions designed to support desktop PCs.