September is always a busy month for mobile news, this year highlighted by impressive new iPhone and Galaxy Note releases, an iOS update and even an unorthodox new Blackberry phone. These events have led me to ponder the use of mobile devices, whether smarthphones or tablets, in business where these now-indispensable consumer items (e.g. more people carry a smartphone than wear a watch) are still supplementary and subordinate to PCs in the workplace. The question is why? Why have smartphones – indeed, the mobile device market is utterly dominated by phones, more so than ever with the rise of large-screen phablets – become the preferred and often exclusive information and communication platform for younger people yet often remain accessories at work? In a recent column, I attempt to answer these questions and provide guidance for business professionals thinking about turning their iPhone or Galaxy into the primary work platform and solo travel companion — and yes, it is actually possible, I cite an existence proof.
Smartphones have evolved into the do everything Swiss Army information appliance most people are never leave home without, yet they remain glorified PDAs for most business users. Why the dichotomy? Are mobile devices and their all-important apps inherently optimized for lightweight, ephemeral consumer needs and thus unsuitable for the heavy lifting of memo writing, spreadsheet analyzing and database mining of business? Or is this a case of the mobile business ecosystem following the early money and large market into consumer-oriented features and applications with business needs relegated to a second wave of mobile development? I think both hypotheses are true, but the net is that adapting work styles, processes and software to mobile devices presents an enormous business opportunity.
In the column, I explain why, in an era of smartphones with PC-class performance, ever-present high-speed wireless networks and rich backend cloud services, there’s no reason why business execs must remain tethered to the evolutionary descendent of typewriters.