Industry surveys, analyst commentary, our client and partner conversations all suggest that “Mobility” is the hottest concept in enterprise IT, possibly surpassing “cloud” which has dominated the IT agenda in recent years. But haven’t we always been mobile?
We may be in danger of speaking about ‘Mobility’ as if its a new concept even though we’ve had mobile work styles and solutions for at least the past 20 years! What is changing, and what we need to focus on is how technology, user demands and innovation are driving solutions that in turn drive a whole new value proposition around mobility and its application potential across a much broader area. In doing so, we need to reset our definition of “Enterprise Mobility”
Our Mobile Journey
A mobile worker was once a “road warrior”, based from the company car, armed with only a work diary they would conduct the majority of their working week away from the office – meeting clients, taking orders and writing up notes that they would then have to process on their return to the office and “got connected”. This was how you achieved customer intimacy, but with glaring inefficiencies and challenges that seem so alien to us now.
True, IT mobility started in the laptop era. As hardware became more cost effective businesses could unshackle key users from a fixed office location. Dial up RAS was the first mobile solution, as long as you were near a telephone line! It was better, but still not efficient or flexible. With the emergence of broadband technology and WiFi, mobile working joined the mainstream and with the prevalence of mobile phones users could be connected and contactable. Suddenly users became mobile, productive and contactable! The really important people were also given a Blackberry, the epitome of mobility.
It would be difficult to say that we weren’t mobile, albeit in the early days it could be an inefficient and frustrating experience
Consumerisation: Redefining Mobility
The mobile workforce was contented, technology was enhancing and connectivity was improving as we moved into the 3G area. Then came an explosion of consumer led technology – devices and cloud services. This moved “mobility” to the next level, and before we knew it, this technology found its way into the corporate world.
Device platforms and form factors changed, but more importantly the technology was much simpler to operate and fashionable, and with strong connectivity it all started to come together:
We can work anywhere, on any device, and at any time.
The only lingering problem was that this was starting to occur under the radar; users were driving this trend rather than the IT department. The term “shadow IT” was coined to define the trend, and is now explains the significant challenges facing the IT department.
Challenges and the Future
The future mobile world is a complex mix of all of the things we’ve discussed – devices, connectivity, services, applications and data. We want to be able to work from multiple device types, at any time, in any location and for it to be consistent and at/for our convenience. The nature of work has also changed significantly, competition in the market, globalisation and the demands it places on employees and the strive for home/life balance and key examples where we as users have had to look towards new technology to help us “keep up” and achieve the right balance
The demands are unprecedented, and require we architect and think about mobility in a whole new way:
- Abstract the user and their services from the devices that they use
- To support a much broader range of device platforms and form factors
- Mobilise applications and data content
- Govern, manage and secure the services to protect the company
- Put the user needs and experience at the forefront of the design
Those are the guiding principles by which we’re developing our Mobility and Workplace services; Mobility isn’t new, but the challenges and opportunities it now offers businesses are bigger than ever before.
The only really big problem with annual leave is that at some point you have to return to work. Well, I’m back, and following 2 weeks in Florida, the resulting jetlag is the reason I’m writing this at 5am. Still, it’s not all bad, as I’m writing this on my new Microsoft Surface RT. So how is it? Why did I buy one? What will I use it for? And importantly, how does it compare to an iPad?
Before we begin though, let’s start of by saying that I’m not going to discuss the device/hardware and app store, let’s just leave it at ”the external reviews on hardware are all about right”, (it’s beautifully designed and executed), the touch keyboard really is very workable and usable, and far superior to any iPad keyboard, and there aren’t loads of apps yet, (come on, it’s only been out two weeks, give it 6 months. iPad had no apps for ages either, and up scaled/stretched iPhone apps don’t really count), those that there are beautiful on the whole (think flipboard cool).
So, why did I buy one? Well, my iPad is just over 2 years old now, and to be honest, it’s not been performing well of late. Since I moved to IOS 5, application crashes are very frequent, and I’ve found it less and less enjoyable to use. Perhaps time for a new iPad then or maybe something else? Well, I checked out Nexus 7 (and they’ve just released Nexus 10), a good product for sure but whilst in US I visited a Microsoft store and well, the rest is history. I was won over by the device after 10 minutes, add in a nice dollar/pound rate and the deal was done.
What will I use it for? Well, it’s a consumer device, (as is iPad), and I anticipate using it for a mixture of consumer stuff, and some day work usage. When I recount what I used my iPad for, I used it for the same, email at home, and a day trip device, rather than carry a full laptop. What I didn’t use it for was any creation, (I’m not a big fan of iPad keyboard and autocorrect), so as a basic consideration does Surface do those things well enough?
How does it cope? Surprisingly well…… Surface comes with Office 2013 installed (preview to be upgraded to full version soon), so document creation is easy. (this article was written in Word 2013, then copied into the WordPress RT App). Integration into corporate exchange by ActiveSync is faultless. Mail and Calendaring application, (it doesn’t have outlook), are as functional as iPad versions and the calendaring function is more reliable than iPads. Integration into Office365 is really excellent, (both Lync and SharePoint document access easy in addition to email) Citrix receiver is also available, though I’ve not tried that yet.
Where Surface works really well is the new combination of Windows 8 RT and the keyboard/touch interface, you end up evolving your interaction with the device, combining the Windows 8 UI and charms and touch/keyboard options. As an example, when using the browser if you want to move to another page, you touch into the text box and then type. If you want to go back a page in the browser, well that’s just a sideways swipe. It works really easily and beautifully, though there is a learning curve which is much steeper than iPad.
Keyboard and kickstand make the device lap or desk friendly, stable, and very usable. The really useful piece for a corporate addendum device comes in the fact the device has some really useful helpful features. Firstly it’s got a USB port, so you can add devices to it. Although it doesn’t have an Ethernet port, you can add one via USB, a useful feature given most companies in the UK don’t have wall to wireless. Secondly, when I returned home and added the device to my network, it scavenged the network, found my wireless printer, and automatically installed the drivers for me. Printing without challenges. Try and do that on an iPad.
So, what’s not so great? Surface is most certainly not a portrait device as it sports a 16:9 ratio screen, unlike iPad’s 4:3, (think old television versus new flat panel ratios). Designed for watching films and such. It can run in this orientation, but it feels odd. If you’re an organisation that’s invested in MDM products, it’ll be a little while till Windows RT is supported I expect. Microsoft licensing on RT means in theory you can’t legally use it to create documents in a work environment, (silly idea, I know). Corporate integration fully is just as painful as iPad, it can’t authenticate against AD, and you can’t just point at your CIFS file servers or SharePoint servers. The apps catalogue is thin on business tools and whilst it supports handwriting, there’s no digital stylus to actually handwrite into OneNote or Evernote (both of those apps are available already)
Is Surface a better addendum device than an iPad, in many ways, yes! In some ways it provides exactly the same challenges for corporate integration, though with less MDM integration options in the short-term. It’ll be my new addendum device for a while, (neither iPad or Surface RT could be your only device) and we’ll see how it pans out, though what’s really exciting is going to be the full Surface Pro (and other Intel based devices), which will be available in Jan/Feb and will come with the same strengths as RT, and fix many of its challenges.
One thing’s for sure though. It’s going to make for some interesting challenges for selecting the right slates/tablets in 2013 for your business.
In two weeks’ time, you’ll start to hear the marketing machine for Microsoft move into overdrive as they launch Windows 8 into general release. Not only will you hear from them, but also from the hardware manufacturers who are primed and ready to simultaneously release a whole new slew of products that will support and embrace the new functionality of Microsoft’s new baby. The question remains though, certainly for many corporates, what’s Windows 8 for? Shall I stop my Windows 7 deployment, or should I not even start Windows 7 and deploy Windows 8 instead?
So let’s start by covering (very briefly), what’s the big differences between Windows 7, (released this time in 09) & the new upstart are. Windows 7 & 8, are in many ways the same, though of course, Windows 8 has clearly evolved and the product has improved and been polished; it’s more secure, performs better and many other details have been added and enhanced, but fundamentally under the skin, it works and runs the same. So, whilst it looks different, (and it does, very different), it’s just as easy to integrate, manage, deploy and support as Windows 7 is right now.
Since Windows 7 was released, the world’s been taken by storm by a certain consumer product called the iPad, which started a whole new generation of tablet technology. The uber cool gadget has sold by the bucket load, and really caught Microsoft a bit off guard, as there desktop/laptop product just couldn’t provide a slick “touch experience”, and the hardware that the OEMs touted as competitive alternatives, frankly were anything but.
So what’s Windows 8 bringing? Microsoft have taken iPad, and it’s touch OS, and it’s integrated it’s strengths, added it to existing keyboard & mouse support than Windows did so well, and has also continued and developed digital stylus integration into the platform (hand writing to you and me). Effectively, Windows now supports touch and non-touch optimised applications; as well as work as usual with your existing corporate applications (it’s Win 7 underneath remember).
To make this all the more interesting, The next version of Office, (expect this Feb 13), will also support these modes, so as an example you’ll be able to annotate notes into a working document, or handwrite notes in a meeting and so on, then go back to your desk and dock your device and start working with it as a fully functioning PC. No more addendum devices required is the Microsoft vision, and probably one that works very well in reality.
This is where the OEM’s come in. You’ll start to see a whole new slew of devices shipping, Slates, and Ultrabooks that incorporate all these new features. They’ll be fully functional, fully powered devices, and with the design changes that have been developed, the improvements made in technology and manufacturing will mean you’re about to see thin, light, cool looking Windows devices that can empower and embrace a whole new way of working.
So, where’s this leave a customer in their wider deployment decision? Well, unless you’re planning on deploying touch screen enabled applications, (which clearly will come in time where appropriate) touch screens to support the new interface, there’s probably little immediate value in delaying and readying for Windows 8 and thus Windows 7’s still going to be your primary choice. Secondly, the application compatibility is excellent between Win 7 & 8, and so any work an organisation is doing here is only going to benefit them for Windows 8 in the future anyway.
No, Windows 8 right now is going to be all about Slates, a new sub-genre of device (part tablet/laptop/ultrabook) that’s unquestionably going to make a lot of organisations think about iPad, and whether it’s just going to be easier, simpler, and overall cheaper to just embrace and deploy a Windows 8 slate into their environment. I’ll let you know how I feel about this further when I get mine in the next few weeks.