Mobile in 2013

As we wrap up 2012 and edge ever closer to 2013, I would like to share some trends I’m seeing in the mobile space and also offer up two inter-connected predictions for next year which are based on what I’m observing with mobile applications.

From talking to dozens of customers, it is obvious that seismic changes are brewing. Perhaps the biggest of them all is how employees are using their smartphones and tablets, and the driving force behind this is the application ecosystem. The app ecosystem, which was largely unknown in the early Blackberry days, is flourishing on iOS and Android so much so that over a million applications are now available for your mobile devices. According to analyst, users are downloading an average of 40+ apps onto their devices. Just rewind a few years and contrast that with your Blackberry device and you will notice how usage patterns are changing. VMware is noticing that no matter who buys the device (corporation or employee), most phones will have personal applications and data alongside corporate applications and data – making all devices dual purpose. Users expect to have the freedom to download any apps they want to, whenever they want to – and organizations that try to prevent this employee behavior is a losing the battle. This user freedom is having a profound impact on enterprises and how they think about security and management of mobile devices.

Now let’s look at this from IT’s perspective. In the pre iOS era, employees used their Blackberry devices mostly as an email device. The mobile app ecosystem wasn’t in place then so employees largely used what came with the device. Given that the device was corporate issued, IT leveraged the policy framework that RIM provided to manage the entire device – device password, device wipe, etc. came into our vocabulary then.

With the introduction of the iOS, the app ecosystem was born. Users wanted to download games, navigation apps, culinary apps and sky was the limit and people started downloading a lot of apps to their mobile devices. Once Active Sync clients were available on iOS and Android devices, they become legitimate corporate devices from a user standpoint but for IT to support these devices, security was required. Therefore, the first wave of security and management for iOS and Android simply replicated the Blackberry model of securing and managing the device. The mobile device management (MDM) industry was thus born.

Once IT organizations started purchasing and rolling out MDM solutions, they realized that these solutions were not quite what is needed. They then realized that the usage patterns changed and therefore, their old-school methods of securing and managing devices were no longer in line with usage patterns or user expectations. That being said, my first prediction is that the MDM bubble will burst in 2013 as new ways to secure and manage corporate content on mobile devices will allow end users and IT to reach a truce – security and manageability without compromising usability or device capabilities!

A significant percentage of the million+ apps available for mobile devices today are consumer oriented. Many ISVs have now developed mobile front ends to their apps but what is largely missing is the quantity of mobile applications created by enterprises for enterprise use. As the proliferation and acceptance of mobile devices as tier 1 platforms increases, my second prediction calls for a significant up-tick in enterprise mobile apps – apps of enterprises, for enterprises, by enterprises. I expect you’ll see users in 2013 not only using corporate email and consumer apps but also dozens of internally developed apps.

IT will start to re-think how they develop internal applications. In the PC era, large teams of IT developers developed big monolithic apps over a period of 12-18 months and rolling it out using standard deployment methodologies. These apps have generally been hard to use and maintain as they tried to do everything for everyone. However, based on the types of apps employees are using in their consumer life, the usability bar has risen to new levels. Therefore, IT will need to develop dozens of smaller single-purpose apps with usability at the front and center of app development cycle rather than simply putting lipstick at the very end of the development cycle.

While I’m excited to see how these trends shake out next year – it’s important for us to keep in mind that the smartphone and tablet industry is still in its infancy with things evolving at a rapid pace. It is a great time to be part of such paradigm shifts and here’s hoping 2013 is successful to each of us!

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