By C.J. Mathias, Contributor
Service provider takeaway: Service providers can use this Channel Checklist to find out how to increase business opportunities by offering mobile computing services.
If you think that the global economic slowdown that we're currently experiencing means there's less going on in the mobile computing and communications markets, well, you're wrong. While we might be traveling a bit less, mobile computing and wireless networking remain the cornerstones of an increasing number of current IT strategies. Essentially everyone is at least locally mobile, and falling hardware prices continue to spur demand regardless.
This, in turn, is creating new opportunities for the channel to offer mobile computing services and enhance the experience. Many (if not most) enterprises of all sizes and in all industries lack the time and other resources to stay up to date on the latest developments in wireless and mobile, and all players in the channel -- dealers, VARs, consultants and solution providers -- thus have a great opportunity to fill in the gaps here not just with mobile computing services and products, but also valuable expertise.
Mobile computing today is much more than just notebook computers and wireless LANs. Think big-picture -- what's really going on in mobility is the definition of the future of IT itself. And the following few key opportunities rise to the top of offering mobile computing services:
- Picking the right mobile device: Whether we're talking cellular handsets, mobile computers or vertically oriented products, the diversity of devices available opens the door to customers needing expertise on what hardware/software combination will best serve to get the job done. Carrying competing and complementary product lines is a good idea -- it's the subtle differences (and often synergies) that usually make the sale. And don't forget new opportunities like Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and help in managing the diverse array of devices typically found in enterprises of any size.
- Platforms for success: It's no longer enough to just install the latest version of Windows and wish everyone a good day. Linux is now a serious contender for not just servers, but mobile computers as well. It's about to become very visible on handhelds, as Google's Android and a number of others begin to appear on a broad range of handsets. Linux brings a robust infrastructure and rock-bottom cost to mobile solutions, with the real opportunity in services provided by the channel.
- Mobile security challenges: Security is unlike any other area of IT -- you and your client are never done. There's a great opportunity to help customers pick not just the best set of security solutions (both fixed and mobile), but also to assist in the formulation of security and acceptable-use policies and operational procedures to make the best use of the solution you design and implement.
- Management and operations: The real value in IT today is in such elements as network management, application provisioning, network access control, network performance management and other service-based elements -- all of which can be applied to mobile device management services. Training is also a good opportunity, even in more challenging economic times. And support is not just a good source of revenue -- it's also essential to your ongoing success. It's no longer hardware and a handshake -- long-term relationships are built on expertise in solving the real-world problems that IT shops face daily.
The key message here is that the channel's future success in mobile computing services -- and, indeed, all of IT -- is no longer in simply answering the phone and shipping boxes to the customer. As enterprises demand more cost-effective IT operations and continue to outsource what used to be done by in-house staff, successful channel professionals will look at themselves more as consultants and not just gear suppliers. While this can appear daunting at first, the opportunities are enormous. Think services, not boxes, and the expanding mobile computing opportunity will be among the most rewarding in all of IT over the next decade and beyond.
About the author Craig Mathias is a principal with Farpoint Group, an advisory firm based in Ashland, Mass., specializing in wireless networking and mobile computing. The firm works with manufacturers, enterprises, carriers, government and the financial community on all aspects of wireless and mobile. He can be reached at [email protected].