Cover Story: The Mobile Technology Revolution

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Talk about a revolution. Apple iPads and smartphones with Apple iPhone leading the way accounted for the largest platform solutions growth in 2010 for solution providers. iPads outpaced all categories with a whopping 32 percent sales growth for solution providers, followed closely by smartphones with 28 percent sales growth, according to a new mobile technology study by CRN parent Everything Channel.

The robust tablet and smartphone sales growth, which is just as striking this year, is a sign of the radical and pervasive influence the iPad and iPhone have had on the solution provider marketplace. Apple’s game-changing products have redrawn the battle lines for corporate computing. And in many cases, tablets and smartphones are opening the door to big solution sales from client/desktop virtualization to the data center.

Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y., solution provider, said Apple’s influence on the market has been far-reaching. Future Tech’s iPad sales are up double digits this year and Venero expects those sales to double again in 2012.

“Apple is encroaching on longtime PC maker territory with iPad, iPhone and the Macintosh,” said Venero. “There are more iPads, iPhones and MacBooks in corporations than ever before. With the onset of the iPad, Apple has sparked the largest new me-too product onslaught in the history of computing, with every major PC vendor releasing tablets.”

The iPad along with the iPhone has led to a mobile technology revolution that along with client device virtualization is reshaping how business gets done.

Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, ViewSonic, RIM, Toshiba, Acer and ASUS all have entered the tablet game, alongside some noteworthy newcomers. At the same time, Hewlett-Packard shocked solution providers on August 18 when it disclosed plans to kill off its WebOS-based TouchPad tablet PC just six weeks after it began shipping.

It's not just hardware makers changing their product set to play in the new marketplace. Everyone from software makers to peripherals vendors has come to the table with new products. No product segment has gone untouched.

Future Tech’s Venero said 60 percent of all his sales today have some facet of a mobility focus, and that figure will only get larger next year. “Mobility for every VAR is now the largest percentage of their sales,” said Venero, a 15-year solution provider veteran. “Whether you are server-focused generating content for mobile workers, storage-focused providing storage that feeds mobile devices, or even security-focused securing smartphones and tablets, it doesn’t matter what type of solution provider you are, the majority of what you touch impacts the mobility solutions of the organization you are serving.”

Mont Phelps, CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based NWN, said the mobility revolution has just begun. “This market is about to explode,” he said. “I fully expect this to be 25 percent of our business in two years.” NWN has even created a small business unit within the company that is doing mobile application development. “Without applications and business solutions, these devices are just bricks,” said Phelps.

Phelps said mobility fundamentally changes how work gets done in businesses of all kinds. What’s more, he said, it is creating huge infrastructure opportunities for solution providers. “You need infrastructure to support all these devices including server back ends, wireless networking and then you need to secure and manage these devices you are now walking around with.”

With that in mind, CRN looked at 10 segments that have been forever changed by mobility.

—Steven Burke

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