When working with our customers I’m often being asked about devices and mobile operating systems.
Companies are struggling lately to understand what is happening in the mobile space, how to adopt the latest changes in the ecosystem, latest BYOD trends, Mobile Mashup, and how to utilize new technologies to generate more mobile productivity.
Things are changing, and changes bring opportunities, but also risks. Large enterprise companies are looking for ways to take advantage of the opportunities while minimizing the risks. And this is hard, when nothing is certain, and no one can tell how will the mobile ecosystem look like in 2 years from now.
So companies are compiling pieces of information, and trying to make a decision based on the things we know these days, plus assumptions we think we can assume.
Bottom line is that for the moment, there is one OS that manages to succeed more than the others, at least this is what I’m witnessing, and that’s Apple’s iOS.
In this article I will try to explain why, and I will do it by looking at the status of all the other players and comparing them with iOS.
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Lowe’s and halliburton
Just 3-4 years ago, every second customer of ours used to ask for a Windows Mobile solution. Sometimes it was a consumer oriented one such as those HTC Touch Pro etc. but most of the time it used to be Motorola Symbols, Intermec PDA’s and the likes.
Those devices sucked (sorry, but I have to be honest). They were slow, bombastic in an impossible way, and had the worst usability possible. Back then we all thought this is how corporate devices should be: good for the corporate, bad for the users. The world thought differently, dazzled by the new level set by Apple, and Microsoft had to back-off, to re-invent its’ mobility offering with Windows Phone (which BTW will not be included in this article since we barely see anyone asking for it at the moment).
Today I barely meet new customers which are interested in Windows Mobile (the new name is Embedded Handheld but it doesn’t really matter). In most cases the need comes from existing devices with a long contracts (we have customers with Symbol support until 2014!).
My recommendation is to stay away from Windows Mobile devices as much as possible. The users experience on those devices is so bad it simply doesn’t fit today’s mobile standards – the impact will be low productivity and extremely low users satisfaction which will impact once again on the level of productivity.
Windows-based laptops and ToughBooks were always a unique beast in our mobile world: they are portable, and connect through wireless networks, therefore considered to be “mobile”, but on the other hand – they are so heavy they could barely be considered as “portable” as a true, always connected, always around, mobile devices.
I had few chances to see the ToughBooks main problem in action: employees are too lazy to pull them out of the vehicle, and since they do need to carry some of the information with them – they are sometimes using (believe it or not) – papers instead! Yes. I’ve seen it happens more than once.
Today, the business world is waiting for Windows 8. Will it be a success? Will it shift the entire mobile business market back to Microsoft? Will it turn all the PC devices into Windows 8 tablets? Maybe. But for now, people are afraid to take chances… Companies that are thinking of a mobile strategy that includes “windows” are simply waiting to see what happens with Windows 8 and how it impacts the mobile market.
More about Windows 8:
- Windows 8 and Enterprise Mobility – Are we all saved?
- Windows 8 Metro UI: Bold Move By Microsoft Or A Doom ? 3 Possible Scenarios
You all know the sad story about RIM’s free falling. In most cases, the enterprise world moves much slower than the consumers one, but with BlackBerry it was different. I have never seen such a rapid change taking place! RIM is being kicked away from the enterprise so fast, we barely see them anymore. Or as one of the customers I was working with said: “We are a modern technology company, and this is why we shell never give our field representatives BlackBerry phones!”. Amazing how fast things are changing, as this guy used to hold a BlackBerry Bold in his pocket just a year before.
So existing BlackBerry devices are obviously out of the picture, but what about BlackBerry 10?
BlackBerry 10 is a completely different story (built on top of QNX – an advanced OS), but this is technically speaking. There is still the business side here, and we all know what happens when a company loses its’ market share and momentum: it’s twice as hard to earn it back (remember what happened to Palm?). This means that even if the technology behind BlackBerry 10 is great, it will still be almost impossible for RIM to get back in the leading position it was just 3-4 years ago.
What we see, therefore, is companies avoiding the BlackBerry path because the present offering is simply not enough, and the future has a big question mark.
Android or iOS?
So now that we practically disqualified Windows Phone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and portions of Windows – let’s take a look at the 2 strong players in the mobile space, and see how Apple almost accidently managed to win this battle against Google… (that is, at least for the time being).
Android… Where did it go wrong?
We are surrounded by Android smartphones. They are the most popular ones today, many of them are the strongest in the specs, yet most of them are not considered to be “the best” out there. People still see iOS as the “shining” mobile OS, leaving Android as the open one, the strong one, the capable one, but not the “sexy one”.
Many companies are still afraid of Android: thinking of all of the security threats, and most of all, worried about the fragmentation. I’ve seen the fragmentation in action and I know what it can do to a software. Companies try to avoid that for now.
As a consumer, if one of the apps you downloaded does not work – you can find an alternative. 10 alternatives if you really try harder. This luxury does not exist for enterprise software, and so companies are still worried about what will happen when a new update shows up, or when a new model will encounter some issues.
Usability is key – here’s an amazing example:
Fragmentation is one thing, but there’s also the usability thing, that plays a big part in the decision making process.
Last week in ClickSoftware’s annual ClickConnect event in Barcelona, I heard a remarkable story by one of our customers, who told us how his company picked the mobile phones for the field engineers:
He said they created a simple test, and tested 2 user groups: one used an iPhone, the other used Galaxy S2 (Android). The test included simple tasks like navigating to a specific web page, attaching a photo to a text message, sending an email, and so on.
The results were definite: the iPhone users managed to perform 100% better than the Android ones. That test was enough for that company to make a strategic decision to work only with iOS. Both iPhones and iPads.
There are other examples of giant organizations building their entire mobile device strategy on iOS:
- Halliburton to ditch BlackBerrys in corporate transition to Apple's iOS platform
- Lowes Loads Up on 40,000 iPhones for Retail Services
- What is the most popular mobile operating system in the enterprise?
The iPad makes the difference:
Usability is important, but it’s not all. Both iOS and Android deliver quite the same functionality when it comes to smartphones (Android even brings some advantages around multi-tasking to be honest), but the thing that acts as a differentiator in favor of iOS is the iPad.
iPhone has iPad as a differentiator. Android smartphones don’t have “iPads” on their side.
Executives want iPads, business managers want iPads, supervisors want iPads. iPads are a huge success in the enterprise and they are pushing iOS into the enterprise, and as a result, the iPhone wins big time.
Those 2 devices are identical, they get the same updates, the run the same software, they have the same MDM, features (and limitations). This is a perfect combination for most organizations thinking of both smartphones and tablets strategy.
In fact, you can actually claim that the iPad is so important to Apple because it helps pushing iPhones into the enterprise world.
iOS: the right alternative at the right time:
Apple never planned the iPhone as a business device. It was designed as an internet phone, with the holistic approach of an entertainment gadget. It just happened that people really liked it, and the BYOD trend started, and then came the iPads and helped pushing iOS into the enterprise.
As it seems today, Apple mostly enjoys form the fact that there is barely any competition out there; Microsoft barely exists in the mobile space, RIM is falling, the only alternative is Google, but with the existing advantages of iOS, it makes it easier to explain why the company will go with iOS. It’s still harder to explain an Android strategy. iOS wins. Almost by mistake… and wins twice: for both iPhones and iPads.
A word about HTML5
I’ve been a huge fan of HTML5 for quite a while now. I believe that in the long run, companies will adopt the BYOD, and will not be able to run away from a “device agnostic” strategies.
Soon, everything will become mobile, every software we use, every task we perform. Windows will become fully mobile, and we may not even be using a desktop any longer. In such environment, HTML5 has some significant advantages, which may balance the trends we currently see and support organizations needs beyond just mobile.
Think about it…