Although mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones were once considered to be something of a status symbol for techies, they have gained acceptance from consumers and businesses. In fact, they are becoming more common than traditional laptops. While VARs might see laptop sales slip as a result of this new trend, the transition toward tablets and smartphones also creates new opportunities for VARs. This article examines a few of the ways in which VARs may be able to capitalize on the latest mobile device trends.
Deployment and configuration assistance
Devices such as the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy have given many people the perception that tablet operating systems are installed at the factory and cannot be changed. While this perception is accurate for some devices, there are some tablets (particularly those running Windows or Linux operating systems) that can be configured to use a different operating system. For instance, I recently installed the Windows 8 Developer Preview onto a tablet.
The simple fact that most people don’t realize that tablet operating systems are sometimes customizable presents an opportunity for VARs. For example, you could offer your customers tablets that are equipped with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office or anything else that your customers might need.
While some customers may balk at the idea of a Windows tablet, there are incentives for customers to run consistent operating systems on all of the devices used in their organization. A VAR could point out that a Windows tablet can be domain joined, which applies existing security policies to the tablets). Furthermore, your customers can use their existing management software to manage both tablets and desktops.
Custom business apps
Regardless of whether or not you are able to convince your customers to adopt Windows tablets, there are many mobile-device-related services that can be offered. One is the development of custom apps.
Most of your customers could probably benefit from connecting to existing line of business applications from their tablets or smartphones. For example, mobile sales representatives could access their customer database on the go.
If you see that your customers could benefit from mobile capabilities you can recommend an off–the-shelf solution or develop a custom app . Nearly every major mobile device manufacturer offers a software development kit, and in recent years the manufacturers have gone out of their way to make mobile app development easy. As long as you have someone on staff with a little bit of development experience, this should be an easy winfor your customers.
Lost device tracking
You may be able to help your customers save money by offering to track lost or stolen devices. The method used to track mobile devices varies by platform. Some mobile platforms require the use of third-party tracking apps. Others offer native tracking capabilities. Here is a sample interface for tracking a Windows Phone 7 device. The map shown in the figure is zoomed way out for the sake of privacy, but can pinpoint the phone’s location within a matter of a few feet.
It is possible to track the whereabouts of some types of mobile devices.
Device insurance or extended warranty
On a similar note, some VARs have created new revenue streams by insuring their customer’s mobile devices. The basic concept is simple. The customer pays a small monthly fee for each device that they want to insure. In exchange the VAR promises to repair or replace broken mobile devices.
One important thing to keep in mind is that most states won’t allow the sale of insurance without a license. That said, VARs can sometimes get around the requirement by referring to the policy as an extended warranty rather than an insurance policy. Of course it is important to check the legal requirements for your own individual locality prior to offering such a plan to your customers.
As you can see, there are a number of ways for VARs to make money from their customer’s use of mobile devices. The key to increasing your revenues is to determine which services would be the most beneficial to your customers.
About the expert
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.