Smart Money: Where There's Mobility, There's Margin


Apple's iPhone and iPad, however, have been the dominant devices in the commercial market for some time, due to iOS' popularity with executive users.

Ben Greisler, president of Apple partner Kadimac, Exton, Pa., believes it's the ease of use and general lack of hassles of the iOS experience that appeal to users. It also, he said, has the advantage of being older than competing platforms like Android and Windows Phone. "IOS is a maturing platform," Greisler said, "and better usability comes with that." But many solution providers believe that in terms of functionality, Android has leaped ahead of iOS. Colorado Computer Support's Schwank levies a frequent criticism at the mobile OS of late: For all its ease of use, iOS has failed to keep up with advancements of other mobile platforms, specifically Android, in areas such as multitasking and application management.

"There's no doubt in my mind that iOS has fallen behind Android as a mobile OS," he said. "Apple no longer has the majority in the commercial market. When you look at iOS, it really hasn't changed much at all over the years until just recently [with iOS 7]."

Usability and stability are still huge selling points for the iPhone and iPad, according to solution providers. But a couple of key differentiators for iOS in the past have become less relevant today. One of those was Apple's decided advantage with apps.

Solution providers said mobile applications were a key factor years ago in selecting the right smartphone, but apps have become less of a factor for a variety of reasons. First, the app market, which once favored Apple, has leveled out and more developers are building or porting apps for other mobile OSes (in the case of BlackBerry 10, the platform actually allows native Android apps to be easily ported to BB10).

The second factor, according to Greisler, is that businesses today have a better idea about what applications they need for their mobile devices. "Typically customers already know what kind of apps they need on their mobile devices," Greisler said. "A year or two ago, that wasn't the case. But now we spend more time integrating iOS and the mobile devices' data to the office environment instead of working on the apps."

IOS' second and more important differentiator is security; while Apple's mobile OS is generally considered a safer platform than Android, iOS recently has seen its share of high-profile security vulnerabilities and targeted attacks. In addition, there are a number of security tools and MDM software that allow solution providers and MSPs to protect both the device and the corporate network.

"We can secure and wipe and lock down an Android device today the same way we can do with other devices, so in that respect security isn't as big of a factor," Schwank said.

That's not to say security has become irrelevant in the mobile device revolution; solution providers say it's a key piece of their overall mobility solutions practice. For example, IBM launched its MobileFirst program, which ties together existing IBM products and services with a mobility focus, earlier this year with a focus on enterprise-level security for mobile devices.

"Our key recommendation for our types of customers at an enterprise-level conversation starts with, ‘How do I secure everything?' " said Caleb Barlow, director of application, data and mobile security at IBM's Security Division.

But even though security is top of mind at companies such as IBM that are deploying and managing those mobile devices, it's not as big a priority for users. The consumerization of IT has created the "pro-sumer"—a professional-consumer hybrid user—and that's blurring the lines between enterprise and consumer use of mobile devices.

"The short answer is there isn't a difference [between enterprise and consumer]," Barlow said. "Let's put it this way: Most devices are consumer devices first."

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