Wireless Grows Up, Seeks Enterprise Role

Mobile computing is well beyond the gadget stage and must be integrated with enterprise networks and applications. So say speakers at this year's Comdex Chicago 2002.

CHICAGO--Mobile computing is well beyond the gadget stage and must be integrated with enterprise networks and applications. So say speakers at this years Comdex Chicago 2002 here.

The show, formerly a large national event and now a much smaller regional one, served as the backdrop for Research In Motion Ltd.s announcement of the Blackberry 5810, which adds voice, Web browsing and support for 2.5G wireless networks to the wireless e-mail device.

Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM, said the 5810 is the product of extensive customer surveys.

"Wireless data is all about complete solutions. Things are moving from single-function to multifunction … and were ready to move from 2.5G to 3G," said Balsillie in an interview. Balsillie added that RIM continues to be committed to lightweight devices that rely on a virtual machine architecture that allows them to be updated and managed centrally.

To that end, RIM plans to launch a new Java development environment for Blackberry devices at the upcoming Java One conference in San Francisco, Balsillie said.

Sanjay Kumar, president and CEO of Computer Associates International Inc., of Islandia, N.Y., led off Comdex Chicago 2002 with a pitch for his company as a purveyor of just the kind of integration wares that are needed by mobile computing users.

"Seventy percent of [mobile computing] adoption is driven by corporate customers," said Kumar. Because of that, he added, "infrastructure is key."

Citing an International Data Corp. study, he said, "The need to manage mobile computing is the top IT concern."

In management, Kumar added, the top concern is security, which because of user demands, is a difficult problem to solve. "Wireless users will want to come and go without being reauthenticated when sessions are disconnected," he said. "The back end must accommodate this."

He also said current applications wont be scrapped and rearchitected for mobile users. "We dont believe its realistic to rearchitect and rewrite applications for wireless. Instead we will re-engineer and rehost applications."

He noted several CA customers deploying mobile computing, including Universal Health Services, which has built an application that lets doctors use mobile devices to get at patient histories as they roam throughout a hospital.

In another instance, Scandinavian Garment Services has deployed an application that lets field staff confirm clothing orders and shipping information via wireless devices.

Kumar underlined CAs commitment to supporting mobile devices across its product line. "We are revamping our own strategies and product architecture. Our common services layer has now been extended to support the mobile environment."

Kumar made two announcements: a partnership with Sprint PCS and CompuCom to offer CAs Unicenter management software as part of a mobile service desk package; and the beta release of Advantage Wireless Integrator, a set of mobile application development tools.

Dean Douglas, general manager of wireless e-business services for IBM Global Services in Somers, N.Y., also sounded the theme of wireless and enterprise integration.

"In the past, we saw a strong gadget focus," he said in a speech. "There is a different degree of sophistication now."

According to Douglas, IGS is piloting a wireless LAN implementation at Shell service stations called "e-Stations," in which a wireless LAN collects information from pumps, tanks, car washes and convenience stores and sends it to regional headquarters, allowing the station to be managed remotely.

At IGS, "the underlying premise is to solve business problems, and there is undeniably plenty of ROI [return on investment] for the companies involved," he said. The single largest area of mobile business integration for IGS is field force automation, followed by sales force automation, said Douglas.

He said IBM is bringing its considerable research and development resources to bear in the mobile arena and is currently at work on a project to unify wirelesss communications so that users can seamlessly roam across wireless LANs and WANs. Currently, different software must be used for each kind of network.