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Posts Tagged ‘Mobile Phones’

I’ll start by saying that Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures inspired this post when he wrote the following:

“Think RIM is going to struggle more and more every day. Moves like they are making against Kik, which provides cross platform BBM, are likely to come back to haunt them. They should be making it easier for their users to chat with iPhone and Android users, not harder. Open platforms win and closed platforms die. And RIM still does not get what being an open platform means.”

Fred is a very influential tech venture capitalist who has backed companies like Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Zynga long before they became household names. When he has an opinion on the future of mobile technologies people sit up and take notice.

I blogged exactly 11 months ago about where I thought the mobile application future was headed (another post inspired by Union Square Ventures) and I wrote then that “I honestly can not see anything other than an open development standard emerging (and I’m loath to bet against Google), but I’m excited to see this all play out.” A mere 11 months later it is still too soon to tell if I (and Fred and Brad) are right, but the numbers are starting to bear us out. Currently Google’s share of the smart phone OS market is growing at 6.5% per quarter. RIM (blackberry) lost 3.5% in the last quarter and Apple (iPhone) stayed relatively stagnant at +0.8%. If this trend continues I imagine Apple and RIM, both closed platforms, will find themselves significantly trailing Google, an open platform, within the next 5 years. (Obviously, I think the iPhone will get a rather large, though temporary, bump when it is finally released on Verizon – especially if it is a 4G/LTE version. However, I think the long term trend will remain unchanged.

I’m still excited by coming developments in mobile technology (LTE on Verizon anyone?) as our phones and networks get ever faster and more powerful. And, I’m willing to bet that as the technology improves developers are going to be less willing to put up with stringent controls on the distribution of their work.

Maybe I’ll re-visit this post in another 11 months.

Good Talk,
Tom

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Mobile smart phones are clearly one of the fastest growing technologies of the last decade. The ubiquitousness of Blackberries, iPhones, Droids, Evos and others have, in many ways, made life easier for everyone. We are now in near constant contact with clients, colleagues, friends, and family. From a productivity point of view this is a very good thing (we’ll leave the psychological and emotional discussion until another time). We can be much responsive to the needs of those around us and we can be much better informed than at any time in the past. However, there is one issue that is beginning to creep up in companies around the world.

Most IT departments, especially at large companies, have a fairly well defined policy about the use of the companies’ network resources and what types of behavior are permissible and what are prohibited. These policies vary from company to company and are enforced to vary degrees of effectiveness. I’ve worked with companies allow Facebook and YouTube at work, recognizing the needs of employees to take a mental break every now and then. I’ve worked at a company that allows only a predefined list sites necessary to conduct business (even sites like NYTIMES.com and Yahoo.com were blocked). And then I’ve worked at companies that fall somewhere in the middle (i.e. no business use for YouTube, but you might want to buy a gift for a boss/coworker on yahoo shopping). In all of these cases, my conversations with IT managers have made clear the policies are well thought out and consistent with the culture and values of the company. All offensive content is blocked at 99% of the companies I’ve worked with (1 had no web-filter at all and a very open culture).

But how do you deal with the little computers in our pockets that run on a cell phone signal? When employees can bring their own network to work, the risk to companies is much higher. Clearly, IT can manage the risk of viruses/malware to the network (after all, my Droid does not interact with my clients network very often). This risk is fairly straightforward and familiar to IT managers. But what about the risk of displaying offensive content? IT can’t filter the browser on a privately owned smart phone. I’m sure we all know colleagues that have called up the latest YouTube sensation at lunch or on a break. I’m a sure a couple people even know colleagues that have shown pornography at work (thankfully, I’ve never been in that situation). From an HR point of view the risk of a sexual harassment claim or a hostile work environment claim (think offensive jokes, videos, etc) is increased by the increasing presence of our smart phones. Additionally, most of these smart phones have cameras. There is a real risk of employees photographing confidential information.

So what is the answer? Honestly, there is no easy answer. I know a couple employers that ban cell phones inside all their buildings (mostly employers involved with classified government work). This seems like an extreme measure and for some industries (sales and consulting come to mind) would cripple your work force. If there is a simple technology solution, I’m not aware of it. I think the solution will be a mix of carefully enforced policy and a culture of respect in the workplace. I, for one, will be interested to see how it plays out in the future.

Good Talk,
Tom

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