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Looking back, Trends worth talking about

The start of a new year is always a rich time for backward looking analyses. “How did we get here?” and “Where are we going?” In this spirit, RIM’s high profile stumble with the Playbook tablet has had me thinking about the evolution of mobile devices.

This year’s big winners in the mobile technology space were unquestionably Apple’s iOS and Android. Apple has methodically and seamlessly built a personal electronic device portfolio that started with the iPod, steadily expanding and maturing from that origin. As a result, iPhone owners are very likely to choose iPads for their tablet computing needs, MacBook Air for their notebook needs and Macs for their desktop needs. This is important, because while there aren’t a lot of people that will want to own all of those, certainly many will see value in simultaneously owning a couple of them. Likewise, Android phones are making huge inroads as well as some very credible Android tablet products. Ergo, Android phone owners have a well defined upward growth path, as do Android software developers. If Google can keep from abusing its hardware developer partners, this is a very substantial foundation on which to build a version of the multi-device connected mobile future.

RIM, meanwhile, withers. At least in part, this is because it has failed to offer users a clear path forward in mobile device evolution. This is hard to explain, because RIM is an enterprise focused technology, and for enterprise, tablets are the future of the mobile business process. This is no secret; evidence of it is everywhere. Large scale government programs like the US Census Bureau are making long term technology plans based on tablets. This is a key trend because government procurements can dramatically influence adoption rates in the private sector, bringing economies of scale to budding technologies and driving down prices for everyone else. Unsurprisingly, the Census Bureau is heading straight for Apple and Android powered tablet solutions.

Given this gathering momentum, here are my mobile workplace predictions for 2012 We are going to get the benefit of some consolidation in mobile operating systems soon. Android and iOS will be solid bets near term. This will accelerate enterprise mobility solution adoption because it should make mobile app development less costly. It will also help to aggregate a codebase that has some durability, much like personal computer software blossomed once Windows and Macintosh platforms established themselves. At the same time, we are going to see a lot of innovation in mobile devices, resulting in a variety of form factors and rapid evolution of display technology. “Bring your own device” policies will flood enterprises with a variety of tablets and convergence devices. Managing the plethora of BYOD form factors will be the toughest challenge facing mobile IT professionals in the coming year.

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