Gartner presented its views on how wireless will become an indispensable business tool to reduce costs, drive revenue and enable new business opportunities at its two-day Wireless and Mobile Summit in London to over 450 European senior IT and mobile decision makers and professionals. It said convergence and bundling of services as well as Asia / Pacific domination of subscriber growth will be the prevalent trends in the mobile and wireless industry over the next five years. Gartner also predicted that long-term, mobile operators will face an uncertain future, threatened by third party portals, IT outsourcers, and new technologies such as WiMax and DVB.
At the event, Gartner urged CIOs to look beyond mobile workforce enablement projects, such as field and sales force automation, to more innovative applications such as wireless enabled 'intelligent' products and services.
Gartner estimates there will be three billion mobile subscribers in the world by 2010, a doubling of current subscriber levels. The largest proportion of growth will come from the Asia/Pacific region, whose subscriber base will characteristically have lower incomes and demand cheaper handsets. This means the mobile and wireless industry will need to produce a large number of low cost handsets, with a fraction of the functionality that we see today. However, as the region presents the biggest growth opportunity for infrastructure and handset providers, it will become a hotbed of mobile technology and application innovation. For the world's developed and mature markets, falling costs and saturated markets will drive multiple handset ownership, further increasing diversity and support challenges for the enterprise.
Gartner issued mobile operators its strongest warning to-date over their future in the market. Although they will continue to evolve their offerings through the convergence and bundling of services to fight the onslaught of new entrants into the market, they will eventually be relegated to connectivity providers and bit pipes. Operators who provide only one type of communications service, for example only DSL, will also be at threat from convergence and bundling.
Gartner predicts that by 2009, 20 percent of enterprise buyers will source fixed mobile convergence instead of buying communications services separately. This presents an opportunity to save money, but also a risk because this may not provide best of breed for all services.
Nick Jones, Research VP and Gartner Fellow, offers the following words of cautionary advise to CIO's, "The emergence of operator convergence and bundling strategies will undoubtedly offer opportunities for enterprises to save money. However, CIOs should not be fooled into being locked into one operator or indeed being tempted into subscribing to bundled services they do not need, just because the price seems attractive."
"One of the greatest challenges CIOs will face is the proliferation of wireless devices - several hundred separate models will co-exist in the European marketplace. This will pose unprecedented support and management problems. They will also find themselves in the middle of a battleground as technology providers such as Microsoft, RIM and Symbian compete to become the 'enterprise standard'. CIOs must also prepare for a future where there will be no dominant 'standard' network. Many technologies will co-exist and applications and users must be able to dynamically select the most appropriate alternative at any time."
CIO Perceptions on the Wireless Market
Gartner's annual survey of 1400 CIOs showed that wireless is a top three technology priority for European CIOs in 2005. Nearly two thirds of the CIOs surveyed expect mobile workforce spending to grow faster than overall IT budgets. In addition, a predicted 50 percent of non-manual workers in FTSE 1000 organisations will be using applications over wide area networks by 2010.
Gartner highlighted the fact that although wireless security continues to remain top of the CIO list of concerns, it is now achievable. "For CIOs willing to pay the price, it is possible to fully secure and support the enterprise through a range of tools and services designed to address mobile security risks," said John Girard, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The biggest threat to the enterprise will come from the increasing demand for access from new devices owned by employees that cannot be locked down and secured by the enterprise."
Gartner predicts that through 2006, 70 percent of mobile workstations and devices used outside the office will not be backed up sufficiently to restore users to full operability in less than one week. If a laptop, PDA or mobile phone is stolen, or accessed improperly from the Internet or a shared visitor network, the organisation and the user need to contend with more than just the cost of the device. The information in mobile devices is important and timely and exposing that information to external parties is bad for business. In addition, depending on the content, exposing that information may violate civil and criminal laws in countries and may invalidate necessary monitoring and investigations. A new 'tolerated' security zone is emerging where devices which are not owned by the business will be allowed controlled access to the corporate system in ways which will not compromise security.