Sybase gave an update on the current state of enterprise mobility at a recent London event, telling an audience of customers and IT professionals that managed services are the future, and that companies must get used to the fact that employees want to choose their own device instead of officially sanctioned handsets.
Alison Henderson, director of Sybase iAnywhere in northern Europe, said that enterprise mobility had been predicted to explode 10 years ago, but that this had not happened for various reasons, including complexity and a lack of bandwidth and suitable devices.
"Back then, it was single applications running on a single device, dominated by blue collar work, with decisions on devices made by the IT department," she said.
"Today, there are many more devices, and these change every six months, while people are bringing their own devices into the workplace and expecting the same applications they have on their laptop to be supported."
In particular, Henderson cited Apple's iPhone, which is being brought into many organisations through the back door despite having numerous attributes that count against it as an enterprise-grade device.
"Many people did not expect to see the iPhone in the enterprise, but it's there, and it's showing up in large numbers," she said.
A straw poll showed that the iPhone was the device most in use by attendees of the event, while Windows Mobile and Symbian each represented about a quarter of those who put their hands up.
"The lesson of the iPhone is that its icon-based interface shortcuts many of the usability problems people had with mobile applications before," said IDC analyst Chris Lewis at the event.
Nokia devices still account for the majority of mobiles in the enterprise, but companies should "keep an eye out for Android", according to Lewis.
"Many chief information officers like Android for its openness and see it as a streamlined way of getting [web-based] applications to users whenever they need to," he said.
Several audience members questioned Sybase on when support for Android will be added to tools such as Afaria, which seems to indicate that business interest in the platform is growing.
However, Lewis said that the mobile platform will increasingly become irrelevant with the advance of middleware capable of mobilising business processes from back-end enterprise applications, which will mean less need for enterprises to standardise on one device.
This in turn means that organisations can afford to be more relaxed about allowing users to make their own choice of mobile client, although there will always be industry sectors where security and data compliance regulations will require IT departments to enforce the use of authorised equipment.
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