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Time for VARs to get more adept at mobile

CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association) has released some data that finds that IT departments are spending more money and resources supporting various mobile communications and computing devices, especially the BlackBerry.

To start, close to two-thirds of the 816 people who participated in the survey late last year reported that their IT departments were consumed with mobile issues surrounding the BlackBerry. Believe it or not, pagers were the second most common device they needed to support. But they were a very distant second, mentioned by only 10.9 percent of the survey respondents. Other mobile devices that are perplexing IT staffs and demanding more resources than in the past include digital music players (mentioned by 4.5 percent), handheld computers (4 percent), personal digital assistants (2.9 percent), cell phones (2.6 percent), iPhones (2.3 percent) (already!), laptop computers (2 percent), smart phones (0.5 percent) and tablet PCs (0.5 percent).

I believe these statistics indicative of several trends. First and foremost, mobility is here to stay. Second, consumer electronics devices that are bought personally and that are unsanctioned by IT departments will continue to proliferate.

People are foisting these things onto their corporate tech departments, and IT will need to support them — both to improve productivity and as sort of a corporate morale boosters. If someone’s on a plane two weeks out of every three on behalf of their company, why shouldn’t they be able to take their music library with them or watch movies and podcasts on their notebook?

In some cases (ala the BlackBerry), the adoption of these things is a huge win-win for both sides. The user wins because they don’t have to plow through 50 to 100 “urgent” e-mails if they’re out of the office for a few hours. The company wins because when an employee has a BlackBerry, he or she is more likely to think and breathe about work on their “personal” time. Other devices are a bit more troublesome. What value could a digital music player have in a work context, you might ask? Well, when you consider that an iPod or an iPhone is a great digital storage device, it’s possible for some of these things to moonlight as alternative file archives. One executive that I spoke with recently from Hollywood, an agent, carries all of his clients’ demo videos around on his iPhone. That way, he can represent them, anytime, anywhere.

Regardless of WHY these things are popping up, in almost all cases, these things are appearing ahead of some bonafide corporate IT policy. And that’s where the VAR or managed service provider comes in. Helping your customers get a handle on how to set a mobile device policy BEFORE it becomes more of a time suck on the technical support department will make you look good. What’s more, it’s a way for you to recommend security and application options that weren’t previously available in a more tethered world. If you haven’t considered how to speak mobile, you’re missing out on the next wave of computing.

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