Sunday, January 13, 2013

What last year tells us about enterprise mobility in 2013

People turn to vastly different sources to predict the future.  A crystal ball.  Tea leaves.  The Mayan calendar.  Industry analysts.  Those sorts of things.
For IT trends, I like to look at patterns from the past year.  It may not be 100% foolproof, but we all know how the predicted Mayan end-of-the-world thing turned out, so I figure it’s worth a shot.
Here are some things we wrote about in 2012 that I think are going to play a big part in shaping enterprise mobility in the year we’ve just started.
In 2013, I think:
Mobile device innovation will be marked by incrementalism.  Tablets and touch-based smartphones already exist as categories, and they now seem to be evolving, rather than shaking the industry to its foundations with every new announcement.  The iPhone 5 announcement didn’t revolutionize the phone.  The iPad Mini filled in a form factor that someone else had tried first.  Neither shocked the world.  In fact, they both drew some collective yawns at the time.
This trend will continue.  Devices won’t create new categories, but rather fill in all the holes and niches in the market that look like they might work.  Some actually will.  Given some of the sales numbers I’ve heard, the iPad Mini is already proving this to be true.
New ways of looking at enterprise mobility will get increased visibility. The existing approaches weren’t built with mobility in mind.  It’s going to be rough to retrofit.  Application development for new platforms isn’t free.  So, organizations will look for compelling new alternatives.
For example, Gartner helped coin a term for a new category last year – workspace aggregators – for one of the new software approaches to mobilizing applications.  It’s still very early days, but 2013 should see a bit uptick in interest and attention for new alternatives to things like VDI and existing attempts at enterprise mobility.  I'm betting workspace aggregators will be one of the innovations in the center of that discussion.
Microsoft will begin to make its mark on mobile, but not necessarily how the market – or they – expect.  The folks from Redmond announced and delivered the Surface last year to a bit of fanfare as well as a bit of skepticism (including from some of us here at Framehawk – though not our CTO).
It’s a pretty tricky offering.  It’s certainly not as simple as the iPad, but maybe that’s the point.  2013 will be the year that Microsoft has a real impact on this space.  We’ll start to find out whether they are playing the right game, or whether it’s going to be rough going.  I’ve seen at least one glowing review of the Surface Pro coming out of CES already.  I’m betting on a slow but steady bit of progress into enterprise mobility for them, as they try to weave mobile into their existing business model.
Actual usage of the new iPad, iPad Mini, Microsoft Surface, and others will begin to make some waves -- industry-shifting waves.  While the tablet category isn’t brand new, it’s having a real impact:  PC sales are down.  And, tablets are causing workers themselves to evolve and change the requirements for how they want to use their devices and do their work.  IT is facing a choice as to whether they want to just “pave the cow paths” by simply letting things happen, or do a strategic re-think about what these devices mean – and how they can best be included in the enterprise environment, regardless of whether they are corporate- or personally-owned.
Speaking of ownership, BYOD will continue as a red-hot topic.  Enterprises will have to give up ignoring it or going through bizarre contortions.  IT will have to address BYOD head-on.  Phones are one thing, but it will become especially important to sort out BYOD policies for tablets.   It might take lawyers.  But IT will be best served making the answer low-touch for the employee and non-disruptive.  These employees of theirs are just trying to do their work in new, more effective ways, after all.
The question for 2013 will be how to make untrusted devices secure enough.  “Trust” for mobile devices was certainly on peoples’ minds last year (and definitely goes hand-in-hand with BYOD), but some clear paradigms will likely shake out this year.  Mobile device management (MDM) in its current form will be seen as only an early step into mobile-enabling an enterprise.  Eventually.  I’m betting the MDM vendors will still have a great year, but enterprises will start to realize that a broader answer would be better.  The MDM vendors already realize this.
When it comes to mobile application development, there will still be lots and lots of questions.  Organizations will continue to question whether they should re-build or modify existing apps for mobile access.  And what approach they should take for brand-new applications.  There are lots of options that need evaluating still.
Oh, and the  HTML5 honeymoon will be over.  Facebook very publically turned its back on HTML5 this year and decided to build their system as a native app.  Salesforce did the opposite.  Many, many enterprises will be able to get a lot of benefits out of HTML5.  They certainly would like to.  They just have to realize it’s not the silver bullet they crave for mobile application development.
As for Framehawk in particular, we have big things planned.  In 2012, we came out of stealth, picked up a “Peoples’ Choice Award” at the Under the Radar event, and one of our customers (UBS) had some great recognition for the work we’re doing together.
Hopefully, this is all just the beginning.  We have big plans for 2013 and expect that when it comes to mobility, most enterprises do, too.  Watch this space for more details about us, and commentary on the fast-moving enterprise mobility space as the year progresses.
And check back next year at this time to see if we were at least more accurate in our predictions than the Mayans.
This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

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