Solution providers big and small are
tackling the explosion of mobile
devices in the enterprise, whether
those devices are proliferating via employer
purchasing or through BYOD policies.
And unlike the PC, there are plenty
of options for operating systems, hardware
designs and device sizes.
But that immense wave of choices can be
a double-edged sword, as companies attempt
to navigate a widening field of platforms
and hardware to find the right mobile
solution for their business. Enter the
mobility-focused solution provider, which
is establishing itself as the lone beacon to
help guide companies through the maze.
Boston-based iCorps traditionally made most of its revenue
around the data center, but in the past couple of years
the business has shifted more toward mobility solutions. The
company now works with a wide range of vendors, including
Microsoft, Apple and BlackBerry, in the growing mobile
market. Jeffery Lauria, director of technology at iCorps,
said he's seen an enormous shift in how corporate America,
whether small and midsize businesses or large enterprises,
look at mobility.
[Related: Top 5 Best-Selling Tablets By Brand]
"We're seeing a lot more companies that were very restrictive
about technology and devices open up more," Lauria
said. "Having the latest and greatest technology helps
companies attract younger talent. Plus, a lot of companies
don't want to be in the business of purchasing devices for
The mobility market has become so big that some solution
providers say it now rivals the growth and opportunity
of cloud computing. Karl Volkman, chief technology officer
at SRV Network, Chicago, said cloud and mobility are now
neck and neck as SRV Network's two biggest businesses.
Volkman said the two biggest drivers of mobility are the
diversity of devices and operating systems and the lack of
any real mobility strategies or BYOD policies in the majority
"Most companies we see don't support BYOD policies just
yet," he said. "They may be allowing employee-owned devices
into the office, but they don't have any sort of plan for device
management, security and data protection."
A recent study by the Ponemon Institute, commissioned by
data backup vendor Acronis, revealed that 60 percent of companies
don't have a BYOD policy, while 80 percent of companies
haven't educated their employees about mobile devices or
BYOD. And even when businesses deploy a BYOD strategy and
empower employees to select and purchase their own mobile
devices, solution providers say most companies recommend
choosing from a small range of devices or platforms.
And those recommendations usually come from the solution
provider. So how do mobility-focused VARs decide which
mobile OS, device and apps are the right ones for clients? CRN
takes a closer look at the boom of smartphones and tablets in
the enterprise to see how solution providers are influencing the
NEXT: BYOD And Mobile MoneymakersSolution providers agree that BYOD, in no uncertain terms, has
radically changed the mobile device landscape—even for companies
that haven't deployed a true mobility or BYOD plan. The
consumerization of IT has put the focus of mobility less on office
environment compatibility and more on the device itself (ease of
use, performance, functionality, interface and even device size).
Richard Cheston, master engineer and
distinguished inventor at Lenovo, is one
of the chief architects of the computer
maker's products and believes consumerization
has put the focus back
on the user experience. "Users are
driving mobility," Cheston said, even
when it's the enterprise that owns
the devices. "It's more attention toward
the user to be more connected
and productive. Mobility is rippling
through organizations as the main
Steven Findlay, president of
Noratek Solutions, Prince George,
British Columbia, said even if employees aren't technically
allowed to bring their own mobile devices into work, they're
making their preferences known to IT decision-makers.
"At the end of the day, BYOD is really benefiting the Apple
and Android devices because that's what younger people
want," he said.
XMatters, an application vendor that specializes in alert
and notification management for mobile devices, has seen
the mobility market shift drastically over the past decade.
Abbas Haider Ali, chief technical officer at xMatters, said the
shift from BlackBerry to Apple and now to Android in the
commercial market with BYOD has complicated the mobility
landscape for businesses.
"Unfortunately, there are very, very few customers with
any kind of real enterprise mobility plan, whether it's BYOD
or employer-driven," he said. "We don't see many companies
with mobile device management services or support, and the
ones that are usually are using first-generation tools and don't
have a lot of experience with the different mobile OSes."
But that void, solution providers say, is an opportunity. Brian
Dagan, senior systems support engineer at Connected Work-
Place Solutions, Washington, D.C., said CWPS traditionally
concentrated on managed services for corporate infrastructure.
But now, he said, the company is moving beyond server and
workstation management to mobile device management.
Why? Dagan explains CWPS has approximately 100 customers
for its managed services practice, with a total of 6,000
servers and workstations. While that number may seem big, it's
nothing compared with the sheer volume of mobile devices being
used by the employees of those clients. "MDM is the new
cloudlike buzzword," Dagan said. "It's a huge opportunity."
NEXT: Android Functionality, Flexibility And FerocityIf there's one thing that has further complicated the mobile device
landscape for businesses, it's been the extreme growth and
popularity of Google's mobile operating system. Android initially
was viewed in the commercial market as a fragmented platform
and a potential security risk, due to plenty of bad press about
malware disguised as legitimate apps in Google Play.
While the security concerns are still there—a recent
study by British Telecom claimed one-third of Android apps
contained some kind of malware—Android's market share
has skyrocketed behind growing popularity with consumers
and a range of supporting vendors such as
Samsung, HTC, Lenovo and others.
Like many solution providers focused
on mobility, Colorado Computer
Support has seen Android take off in
the corporate world. Blake Schwank,
CEO of Colorado Computer Support
in Colorado Springs, said a year or two
ago Apple was the clear leader in the
mobile device market. But today, that's
not the case. Schwank, like others, sees
about a 50-50 split between Apple and Android today, with
Google's mobile OS growing at a faster clip.
"BYOD is absolutely driving Android growth," Schwank said.
"Android as an OS has gotten a heck of a lot easier to use—
and cooler—in the last couple years compared to iOS."
The numbers look even better for Android on a worldwide
market scale; according to IDC's first-quarter smartphone market
share study, Android and iOS combined for more than 92
percent of the entire OS market—but Google's OS earned an
amazing 75 percent of the smartphone shipment share, leaving
Apple with just 17.3 percent.
The numbers are nearly as strong for Android in the tablet market: IDC's first-quarter numbers show Android with 56.5
percent of all tablet shipments, as opposed to just 39.4 percent
one year ago. Apple's iPad, meanwhile, saw its fortunes reversed
as its share fell from 58.1 percent in the first quarter of
2012 to 39.6 percent this year.
So why has Android made such gains? And which vendors
have most benefited from that growth?
"It's very easy to use and manage and develop for, so it's the
most popular choice with the IT guys," Findlay said.
Noratek Solutions works with all of the major mobile platforms,
from iOS and Android to BlackBerry 10 and Windows
Phone, and Findlay said he's seen a definite trend around
"It's a toss-up between Android and Apple right now," Findlay
said. "And I think it depends who you're selling to, if it's IT
department or if it's line of business.
If the IT guys are involved, they almost
always go with Android. If not,
the executives go with Apple."
XMatters' Haider Ali agrees. He
said xMatters still sees the majority
of its customer base going with iOS
devices but said Android's popularity
and adoption recently have surged.
"We've seen an overall trend of
Android being the popular choice for
consumers and tech-savvy people,
and Apple for executives who prefer
ease of use and a simpler experience,"
On the device side, Samsung has emerged as the strongest
Android player with its Galaxy family of smartphones and
tablets. According to IDC's first-quarter market-share study,
Samsung owns 41 percent of the Android smartphone market
and trails only Apple's iPad in total tablet market share with
nearly 18 percent.
Samsung isn't alone, however. Lenovo and Asus have
competing Android tablets, and the market has gotten more
crowded recently as HP introduced its first Android device, the
HP Slate 7.
Samsung is faring even better in the smartphone market. The
company recently released its newest flagship smartphone, the
Samsung Galaxy S4. Samsung is hoping to capitalize on consumer-level
demand with a new B2B marketing campaign this year, which
will in part promote the company's Galaxy brand around
BYOD and MDM trends in the enterprise.
Lenovo’s Cheston said he has seen more and more customers actively utilize smartphones in the business environment. "I can do work related things, access company resources and I can improve my productivity at work and away from work." Cheston said. "And they've started getting a lot,of traction [among]
NEXT: Ease Of Use: The Apple AdvantageApple'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."
NEXT: Business Class: Windows And BlackBerryAs Apple and Android duke it out on the consumer end of the
mobility spectrum, two other companies are chipping away on
the business end.
BlackBerry once owned the smartphone market but has
fallen on difficult times as its keyboard-based devices were
eclipsed by touch-screen devices such as the iPhone. Black-
Berry is making a comeback play with its new BlackBerry 10
operating system and new touch-based smartphones.
iCorps' Lauria said BlackBerry is still a popular choice in
certain verticals such as financial services and legal services,
which have a greater focus on compliance issues and regulations.
"For companies that really need to keep track of their
emails and IMs and data, BlackBerry 10 is a
strong option," he said.
But if employees are given the option of
choosing their own smartphones, Lauria said,
the vast majority will choose between the
iPhone and an Android device. "BlackBerry
still has a strong brand in the corporate market,"
Lauria said, "but that's not who's buying
the devices now."
If BlackBerry smartphones aren't winning
over users, then how is BlackBerry staying in
the game? The company has made a strong
push in the MDM software market with its
BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 and Black-
Berry Secure Workspace for Android and Apple devices, and
Lauria believes the company has a strong future there.
But the MDM push, especially with Secure Workspace,
could work against BlackBerry's smartphone business by
giving Android and Apple devices more protection and thus
eliminating a key differentiator for BlackBerry 10 devices.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has a different dilemma. While Microsoft has the desktop monopoly, the software giant hasn't been
able to translate that to success in the mobile world just yet.
Windows Phone is battling BlackBerry for the third spot behind
Android and iOS, and the smartphone platform has shown some
signs of life lately; IDC reported Windows Phone shipments
jumped more than 133 percent in the first quarter and surpassed
BlackBerry for the third spot in the mobile OS smarket.
Even with Microsoft's recent struggles with Surface and
its mobile push, the company has a large partner base that's
committed to making Windows 8 a success. Toronto-based
Evron Computer Systems is one such partner.
"We recommend Windows 8 and Windows Phone for all of
our mobile device deployments," Amit "Sunny" Sahni, vice
president and CTO at Evron, said. "We have a strong mobility
practice with a full-service management solution that works
with Apple, BlackBerry and Android, but we recommend Windows
to our clients especially if they're already a Windowsbased
Sahni said he's frustrated by Microsoft's channel strategy
for its own Surface line of tablets (Microsoft has restricted
Surface authorizations to just 10 U.S. large account resellers
so far), but that hasn't deterred him from promoting other
Windows 8 tablets and hybrid devices.
Tropical Computer Consultants, Hobe Sound, Fla., is another
Microsoft partner. James Elkins, president and owner of Tropical
Computer Consultants, is a believer in Windows 8 and
recommends the operating system on tablets for clients because
of its security features and business-class functionality.
But Elkins admits that in the tablet world, Windows 8 can
be an uphill battle because, despite its attributes, Microsoft's
OS is lacking when it comes to the actual platform experience.
"Windows 8 tablets may be more functional from a business
standpoint," Elkins said, "but the ease of use and interface
aren't nearly as good as Android."
Elkins has seen strong sales of Lenovo's Windows
8-based ThinkPad Tablet 2, for example,
but overall, the consumerization of IT is driving
more people toward iPad and Android tablets.
"You can tell customers that Windows 8 tablets
are more functional than iPads or Android
devices, but they don't care," Elkins said.
"They like using those devices, and they think
they can get by with them from a business
As for the integration advantage of having
a complete Windows environment, solution
providers say that's less of a factor as well.
Colorado Computer Support's Schwank said
there are plenty of software tools and MDM platforms—not to
mention expert solution providers—that can bridge the gap between
a Windows office environment and different mobile OSes.
"There are challenges with any platform, but you don't
have to have Windows devices if you have a Windows office
environment," Schwank said. "In this day and age, most
things play together."
NEXT: Device DilemmaSo, the mobile OS has been chosen. But what about the actual
device? In the case of iOS and BlackBerry, the decision's already
been made—the OSes are tied to proprietary hardware. But when it
comes to Windows and Android, there are a host of OEM offerings
and therefore more decisions to make, especially on the tablet side.
While solution providers say most business users prefer a
10-inch display, there's a growing movement to smaller tablets.
D&H Distributing, for example, said it's seen a huge increase in
sales of 7-inch tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 from Asus.
And with the growth of smaller tablets comes pricing pressure.
"The $169 price point for HP's new [Slate 7] Android tablet
is very aggressive," said Jeff Davis, senior vice president of
sales at D&H, "and I think we're going to see more of that as
the year goes on."
Consumer-focused Android tablets are selling for as low as $99
today, while on the high end of the scale, models like the Microsoft
Surface Pro with 128 GB of storage can top $1,000. It's
quite a range, but solution providers say pricing tends to be less
of a factor with tablets than PCs. Why? In the case of the shift
toward BYOD, users are willing to pay more for what they want.
"It's more expensive for corporations to buy devices, but
people have passion around their device and applications
around it," said IBM's Barlow.
As for size and form factor, there are also larger tablets like
Samsung's Windows 8-based ATIV Smart PC, which boasts an
11.6-inch display. Despite its name, the ATIV Smart PC is a
tablet that can connect with a docking keyboard station and
it's one of many new hybrid tablet-notebook models to arrive
this year. HP, for example, recently unveiled not one but two
new hybrid devices—the HP Split x2 for Windows 8 and the
HP SlateBook x2 for Android.
Bill Hair, president of My Computer Guy in Rockwall, Texas,
sees big potential for hybrid devices that combine the functionality
of a notebook with the portability of a tablet. "Hybrids are
big right now," Hair said, "and I think interest is growing."
There are more form-factor criteria to be considered, too.
Some tablet vendors are focusing more on battery life to appeal
to business users. For example, the HP ElitePad comes
with an expandable battery jacket and docking station, while
the Dell Latitude 10 Windows 8 tablet is one of the few tablets
around that has a replaceable battery.
All in all, there's a plethora of Windows 8 and Android tablets
that are challenging the iPad's dominance. Solution providers say
Samsung and Lenovo are two of the stronger contenders.
"Lenovo is extremely popular right now," said Rob Robinson,
owner and president of Computer Upgrade King in
Midlothian, Va. "Along with Samsung, I'd say they're the two
that are doing the best in the tablet market."
But that demand could shift depending on the next great
device or platform innovation, which is probably lurking just
around the corner. If the mobility revolution has taught the
channel anything—aside from the margin lesson—it's that
things in the mobile devices market can, and probably will,