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Old 04-26-2006, 01:26 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Is mobile device adoption being held up by security concerns?

While this isn't exactly breaking news, one has to wonder why we hear such differing views of the spread of mobile devices. First we hear that the future of mobile computing is cell phones, and everyone will have a smart phone. We hear that internet usage on cell phones will outpace desktop internet usage.

Then we hear that people don't want the complication of a phone that does more than just phone calls. Whoops, not so fast! A recent survey says people love the extra features. In fact, they want more. And we are seeing all kinds of new devices coming up, such as special ESPN phones, video camera phones, music phones, etc. What are we to think about our beloved high-powered combination handheld devices? Talk to some and the future is full desktop power in something like an OQO or an Origami device.

Let's look at the business side. We heard that the Treo was going to be hot with business customers once Palm adopted Windows Mobile along side PalmOS. Microsoft is much more palitable for businesses we hear. RIM was pretty much in trouble. No wait, they resolved their legal problems and they're back again, aren't they?

As Michael Mace has said so elequently, we're not very good at predicting the future of mobile technology over the long run. We get close with our predictions 5 years out, but more than that and you can pretty much forget it. We end up talking about possibilities more than predictions.

And earlier this month we saw the news that really started me thinking - Security Fears Hamper Mobile Devices, which based on a new survey, says "Around 60 percent of businesses are shying away from deploying mobile devices primarily due to security concerns." But businesses are afraid of the security risks of camera phones, iPods and thumbdrives also. And we don't see their adoption hampered by security threats! I think it's a factor, but I don't thing it's the problem.

I'm starting to believe we can't see the forest for the trees. So let's take a step back and look at a few simple observations about the big picture. I think you'll find it interesting.
  1. People do like connectivity through mobile email, messaging, and voice calls.
  2. People generally don't like to be continually expected to be available at all times, and always responsible for responding to company or personal business. Unconnected downtime is important. But so is the choice to be connected.
  3. Consumers hate complicated devices that are hard to use. This is a huge factor when someone is considering a purchase. Typically they either need to see some feature they can't live without, or they need to have a friend use it and say how wonderful it is. Then they believe they can use it also. And if "Fred can do it" then they just might work all the harder to figure it out themselves.
  4. Technology will improve so that the converged device interfaces and usability will become better than all the existing single-purpose devices of today. Some would argue this point, but I think it's hard to disagree. There are some things due to the form factor that limit usability, but that's not our biggest problem right now. Our "sucky" software and limited hardware is the real problem. Sure, it's spectacular compared to what it was, but it's horrible compared to what it will be.
  5. People don't want to spend a week's salary on a gadget.
  6. Prices come down with massive adoption and economies of scale.
  7. Large scale business adoption would drive the market forward, and fast.
  8. It's not simple, not cheap, and not safe to roll out powerful mobile devices in a business right now.
  9. Business people need to be connected when they're on the move. Even email and voice are important mobile functions.
  10. Powerful mobile devices are lots of fun. People just don't realize it yet. <Okay, that's probably not a universal feeling. But I'm sure most of our readers would agree!>

Now rather than come up with my own conclusions, I'd be interested to hear what you think this all means about whether mobile devices are going to be popular, what sorts of capabilities they will have, and what it will take to see the average businessman and businesswoman (or the average joe on the street) using a multipurpose and powerful computing device that fits in their pocket.

And I wonder. If we do believe it's coming, then will it be an overnight jump like we imagine the iPod success to be, or will it be a progressive adoption like the way phones made it into our homes (and then pockets) in the first place? And come to think of it, why don't we think of other technology adoptions such as VCRs, CDs, TVs, cell phones, computers, etc to be overnight like the iPod? Has Apple marketing pulled another fast one on us?!

Let us know what you think. Nobody seems to have these topics nailed down yet, so it's fun to speculate.
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Old 04-26-2006, 01:58 PM   #2
Antoine of MMM
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Kinda neat. In the framwork of Mobile Ministry Magazine, we look at tech in a few ways in additon to those that you listed:

- ministers in 1st world countries who have the access and use the tech want to better use it
- ministers in 1st world countries who are afraid to use it yet have the access to
- ministeries in 2nd world countries that could use mobile tech be need a better training and economic backbone to support it (this is really where accessilbity comes into play)
- the viability of any computer tech on the mission field
- the developments within tech that further or hinder ministries (technological, social, political, etc.)

And while many will agree with your #1, my #4 and your numbers 2, 3 and 4 are the biggest hurdles that any tech has to face.
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