Monday, November 19, 2012

Impact of iPad Mini: Apple as follower and the new shape of BYOD

Apple announced exactly what everyone thought they would a few weeks back: the iPad Mini.  But what does it mean for the iPad to suddenly have a new little brother on the block?
Apple’s marketing materials don’t call it a “shrunken-down iPad,” but rather a “concentrated” version – everything you had before, but in a smaller package.  One industry pundit, Rob Enderle, said the price and size puts Apple in the “worst of all possible worlds.”  Despite comments like that, Apple seems to have had a pretty successful debut weekend, selling 3 million of the new devices.
So what does the iPad Mini mean for Apple – and for the enterprise?
One place it definitely puts Apple is into the role of form-factor follower.  That’s something new.  As Tom Kaneshige mentions, Apple has so often been the opposite: the idea creator.  They are usually the ones so far ahead of everyone else that their ideas themselves send everyone else scrambling to catch up.  And that goes for the actual implementation of the device as well.
Not so this time.  They are now filling in the gaps.
As Simon Bramfitt noted on Twitter during the iPad Mini announcement event, maybe Apple is becoming "what it once set out to overthrow."  The question is:  how close are they to succeeding at becoming just like everyone else?
This was a major question for Apple following the loss of Steve Jobs.  Would they lose their product design and idea creation mojo as well?  It’s easy to throw stones, but it’s certainly safe to say that the iPad Mini (and iPhone 5) announcements were not ones that re-defined the industry.
This seems to feed into something I wrote about a little while back: it feels like we have entered an era of mobile device incrementalism, in which there are lots of new devices, but no game-changers.  The market-defining moves (like the creation of the tablet in the first place) have already been made.  The “next big thing” is actually a collection of pretty small and relatively minor changes.
Now, there are plenty of very powerful new use cases that this smaller iPad enables (@derek32smith tweeted some good ones).  And having seen the iPad Minis that have already shown up here in the Framehawk offices, it may not be a new form factor, but it seems to be a useful one.
Enterprises: getting a handle on BYOD with so many different (yet similar) devices
How does this current incrementalism affect what IT must do to mobilize its enterprise application environment?  And here’s an even more profound question: what if tablets become cheap and even more ubiquitous?  Reports of $45 Android tablets coming out of China or $20 tablets coming out of India make me pretty convinced that tablets will be everywhere.  And not all of them will be Apple’s.
The trouble for the enterprise is dealing with employees who want to work on this increasing variety of devices.  And, generally, the answers that IT has pursued have been device-specific, sometimes looking to provide limited “official” BYOD options (with IT saying “you can bring your own device – as long as what you bring is an iPad”).
But, there has been a huge number of new devices of note (no pun intended) released recently:  the iPad Mini, the new Galaxy Note, the Kindle Fire, and Microsoft Surface.  And more are on the way.
More and more devices from more and more manufacturers means a device-centric approach to BYOD is not feasible now, if it ever really even was.
Instead, the enterprise approach to BYOD needs to be something that allows device independence, but also allows quick delivery of access to existing applications without having to start from scratch.  And without requiring armies of device-specific developers to write code that you might have to throw away.
One other thing for IT to consider is finding a way to test what users need (and want) for accessing enterprise applications via mobile devices.  It would be ideal to be able to get something started quickly, and then measure user adoption.  This goes for particular applications as well as the support for specific devices.  (Who wants to put effort into supporting the Surface, for example, until we know whether it will be a phenomenal success or a dismal failure?)
Sure, there may well be things your enterprise wants to rewrite fully from scratch or specifically for one device.  But wouldn’t you want to know some usage patterns help you make those choices?
As you might guess, the Framehawk solution takes these issues into account.  You don’t have to rewrite your applications for each new device as it appears.  In fact, you don’t change your applications at all.  Ping us if you want to know more.
In the meantime, brace yourself for another wave of new devices to hit the enterprise.  Especially after the holidays.  Consider all this a message to enterprise IT:  a device-based BYOD approach is getting to be a worse and worse idea with each new device.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

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