After a long gestation and a drawn-out childhood, palmtop technology is blossoming into the grown-up world of business. It's no longer the sci-fi tool of the future, but something you had better start clearing a space for on your network.
Much of today's fanfare is about how small devices can make Wap connections to the internet, but this is small change compared to what your network has to offer. Expect all of your gadget-hungry executives and sales reps to start banging down your door demanding support to plug these devices into the business.
They will have no sympathy for your concerns about them making a mockery of corporate security. No matter how sincere their reassurances that they won't leave the device (and consequently unlimited access to confidential corporate data) in the back of a Bangkok cab, be warned: if you don't get with the program, then they will go either behind your back or over your head for access.
Becoming a business mainstay
The cost and the convenience are just too compelling to resist, and the share-buying market knows this. Take Palm, the 3Com unit that develops the PalmPilot. It made its initial public offering last week to a hungry, frenzied market and 3Com's own share price rose 24 per cent in sympathy.
While the palmtop has enjoyed hi-tech gadget appeal in consumer markets, its place in the corporation has been limited to basic diary functions.
But companies like Microsoft and 3Com have been busy making their offerings business friendly.
The current market fervour is being driven by promises from the likes of Palm to give its users wireless access to corporate data. In addition to onnectivity to Sun's iPlanet services and Star Office portal, assurances of entry into SAP's ERP applications and Lotus Notes databases, mean the writing is on the wall, and confirms the handheld as a direct rival to the laptop, the PC and the mobile phone.
Tailoring palmtop PCs to suit the suits
Siebel Systems has been busy schmoozing with Palm to offer handheld ebusiness products tailored specially for mobile salespeople and other company field reps, because for those on the move, size and convenience really does seem to count. And, in an industrial setting, why opt for data entry on an immovable dumb terminal when it can all be punched in on the line.
AOL and Oracle have not been asleep either. AOL has pledged to provide mobile email, content and services through the Palm, while Oracle has launched a web portal to business applications for the Palm, and is simultaneously providing the tools to re-map content from regular web pages for the new Wap format. So my advice is to open up your door, open up your mind, and open up your network - but don't forget to open up the eyes of the management team who might have overlooked the security implications of all those tiny flesh wounds in the IT infrastructure.
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