@Gartner Wireless Summit: Waking enterprise up to the world of mobility

**As published in RCR Wireless News** SAN DIEGO – In the closing keynote at Gartner’s Wireless, Networking and Communications Summit, the research firm’s VP and distinguished analyst, Nick Jones, offered his take on where mobility should fit into the general roadmap of enterprise. Looking out, five years down the horizon, Jones told the audience via video Web cast that while many industries are transitioning to a more nimble communications environment, many technologies are intersecting to create more opportunities for business. “This is a critical time,” he said. “No one can afford to skip up. If you don’t establish your presence in the next year or two you may never establish a presence.” Those businesses that wait much longer will find that others, including their competitors, will be much further ahead in implementing an enterprise mobility strategy and may find it difficult to narrow the gap. “Think about where you are as compared to your peers,” Jones said. Businesses that are misaligned with their peers’ approach to a mobile strategy – either too far ahead or behind – should review their plans.

Based on the roadmaps currently being followed and the general needs of each industry, Jones walked through a list of 10 categories of business and ranked each according to the position of mobility in CIO’s technology priorities (in that field) through 2013. From top priority to lowest it went: transportation; retail, software developers/publishers; healthcare, utilities; agriculture/mining/construction, education; media; government, manufacturing, services; financial services; business/consumer services; and energy. The wide-ranging keynote had something for everyone. Attendees that are just scratching the surface of mobility went home with an overview of where Gartner sees the industry heading over the next five years. On the flipside, wireless veterans had the opportunity to drill deeper into certain technology choices and other issues that require guidance from outside their own company. While it’s not just an issue unique to the enterprise world, Jones took time to address the market position and future landscape of wireless operators. “The biggest question for wireless operators is ‘what are they going to be when they grow up?’” he said. “To be brutally honest, I don’t think they know what they are going to be in five to ten years time.” Even as operators move toward next-generation technologies they will face some immediate dilemmas if they try to position 4G services as a unique service offering, Jones said. Consumer and enterprise markets won’t embrace any flavor of 4G if carriers choose to package it differently than existing data services or charge more for access to the faster network. Without providing much detail, Jones simply encouraged operators to be “smart pipes.” He also reiterated Gartner’s unapologetic take on WiMAX. Calling it “very much a niche technology,” Jones said the firm expects WiMAX to only capture maybe 3% of the smartphone market by 2013, despite being first to market and ahead LTE by at least a year or two. About halfway through his presentation, Jones took on what he calls “the third age of mobility.” One of the defining features of this oncoming transition in the mobile space will be context, he said. Simplified, context is hyper personalization, Jones said, adding that Gartner expects there to be three generations of context. The first generation was basic presence, “not amazingly exciting,” but the first step toward where things are already moving. The second generation – which the industry finds itself mid-swing through now – includes location, identity, proactive alerts, barcodes and last but not least, contextual advertising. Jones said he expects many contextual ad firm startups to emerge by the end of this year. Finally, the third generation of context and the one Gartner is understandably most bullish on will be people centric, he said. This wave of context in mobility will essentially deliver “what you and I need at any particular moment,” he added. In conclusion, Jones left the audience with a series of recommendations or wake-up calls, depending on where you’re standing, intended to guide chief information officers and IT staff through the fast-moving transition to enterprise mobility. “The future of collaboration … is going to be defined by your children and the teenagers that have joined your workforce,” he said. “They will come into your workforce with an expectation that this stuff is there for them,” Jones added. “You can love them or you can hate them, but the future of enterprise mobility is going to be defined by consumer vendors.” Most of all Jones encouraged businesses to wake up to the world of mobility and begin expecting every worker to be more mobile and more autonomous. “You may not like this whole idea, but that’s the way it is.”