an Francisco?The organizers of this year’s CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment conference aren’t trying to mask the show’s blatantly dualistic character. In fact, with its theme, “One Show. Two Personalities,” right out front, it’s fair to say that the mobility industry is coming to terms with the fact that it is a slave that serves two masters?enterprises and consumers?in nearly equal parts. Half of the convention was geared towards companies marketing to the burgeoning wireless entertainment market, with ringtones, games, and killer multimedia apps, and the other half towards enterprises trying, finally, to usher in the true age of the ubiquitous “mobile worker.”
Not since the glory days of Comdex has a big business conference had such a degree of crossover, but it seems the wireless device boom?and the subsequent proliferation of entertainment applications?is precisely the event that is actualizing the “mobile worker” concept in the enterprise.
To wit, the marketing vision chosen for this conference (“What You Want, When You Want It”) focuses on demand?demand that blends personal and professional needs. In a session Tuesday about mobile e-mail in the enterprise, Visto CEO Brian Bogosian demonstrated a cell phone interface featuring tabbed browsing?a tab each for your email, phone, and messaging contacts, and spoke of rules that would allow you to set varying privacy levels?going into a meeting and setting your phones to only accept calls from your wife and instant messages from your boss, for instance.
In a session focusing on next-generation mobile video delivery, Global VP of Multimedia Business Sales for Nokia, Mark Shelby, discussed how rabid fans of British television’s reality show Big Brother bought into a program in which they were alerted by text message that a contestant was about to enter the diary room?thus notifying them of an impending “confession.”
Meanwhile, in a session on emerging wireless technologies, a panelist discussed his company’s implementation of location-based advertising, delivering 40 percent off coupons for Big Macs whenever you pass a McDonald’s.
Applications like these are ones that mobility analysts have been predicting for years, but it’s the delivery, rather than the promise, that is solidifying mobile adoption?and thus, mobile business apps?in the enterprise. As companies work to make our wireless devices more useful and entertaining to us than our wallets, radios, stereos, computers, and televisions combined, office workers are lured into the heart of the mobile age and are providing new ways to work in the bargain.
Indeed, quite a bit of airtime at the Mobile Enterprise track sessions was given to announcements that the enterprise is poised to go wireless any minute now. But the statistics bandied about seemed confused: One Yankee Group estimate ensures an 82 percent mobile email-enabled workforce by 2008; a Seybold survey stated that only 6 percent of businesses surveyed planned to have “seamless mobility” by 2006.
The Problem of Wireless Security
But down the hall, where 180 people had gathered for a CIO panel to discuss the state of enterprise mobility, the sentiment couldn’t have been more different. The panel, including CIOs from Intellisync, Turner Broadcasting System, Verizon, Cisco, and Fidelity Investments all agreed that security is no more an issue for wireless networks than it is for wired networks. In fact, Intellisync’s Said Mohammadioun said in many cases, wireless is more secure than wired, because wired apps take the firewall for granted. Wireless apps, he says, are built from the ground up with security in mind. An informal survey of the attendees present revealed fewer than 10 who said they were worried about security as they planned their enterprise wireless implementations.
Reed Hundt, a senior advisor at McKinsey & Co. agreed, calling the belief that wireless networks are inherently unsecured a “perception problem”?one which may not matter very much longer. Moderator Andrew Seybold pointed out that the efficiency of wireless solutions was proven when they were used to solve the problems that stemmed from the communication breakdowns during the recent hurricane-related disasters in the Southeast United States. That, he says, may clear up reservations about wireless security faster and more efficiently than any public relations campaign. Wireless technology is the best way “to develop a coast-to-coast ability to coordinate a large number of people in an emergency situation,” said Seybold.
The infrastructure is there and so is the technology. “It’s going to happen,” said Mohammadioun. “Our job is to find out what we can do to smooth the road.”