Mobile Business – The rise and rise of the mobile worker

24 Mar 2011

A revolution in mobile networks will result in agile businesses equipping their workforces with the latest smartphones and tablet technology to work faster and better.

It’s incredible when you think about it. For those of us old enough to remember, when the Commodore 64 home computer came out in January 1981 – that’s 30 years ago – it was called the 64 because it had 64KB of memory. Today, your average smartphone – take the HTC Desire, the Nexus S from Google or Apple’s iPhone 4 – is, on average, 1,000 times faster with 8,000 times more memory.

Only three years ago, Apple launched the App Store, which now has more than 10m apps, and rivals like Google’s Android Market are catching up fast. Worldwide mobile application store downloads are forecast to reach 17.7bn downloads this year – up 117pc on the 8.2bn downloads last year, according to Gartner. The analyst firm predicts that revenues from the sale of apps, as well as advertising, will reach US$15bn by the end of 2011.

Five years ago, the average home or business would have been challenged to receive 1Mbps worth of broadband. Today, 21Mbps speeds are possible on parts of O2’s network over mobile broadband, most providers are capable of 14Mbps in 99pc of the country, while cable broadband provider UPC is capable of up to 100Mbps services on its cable network.

In just one year since Apple launched its iPad tablet computer, IDC predicts that some 50m media tablet devices will ship in 2011. Some 10.1m tablet computers shipped in Q4 of last year – double the number that shipped in Q3, says IDC. Apple’s iPad share came down from 93pc to 73pc, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab a distant but only competitor, with 17pc of the world market.

Transformation of working world

All of these developments, occurring at breathtaking speed, are set to fundamentally transform the working world. For the average worker, being equipped with a smartphone pretty much means they can bring their office with them where ever they go and potentially even accomplish a lot more. I have seen with my own eyes a data centre provider provision a whole cluster of cloud computing servers via his iPad from a conference on the other side of the city.

“There is a huge data wave hitting us right now,” says Telefónica O2 Ireland CEO Stephen Shurrock. “Businesses and consumers are consuming a lot more data.

“This will bring about exciting new developments, such as mobile wallets enabled by new technologies like near field communications.

“This is all being enabled by the power of the mobile network and very soon the next generation of mobile services, enabled by long term evolution or 4G, will mean faster speeds and better quality bandwidth on devices infinitely more powerful than anything we’ve used at our desks or carried before.”

Shurrock has a point. With the latest generation iPad 2 and new tablet devices like the Motorola Xoom and HTC Flyer coming with dual-core processors, and smartphones powered by even quad core processors before the end of the year, the ability to carry out mission critical work tasks from anywhere is very real.

For example, the latest version of business software player Sage’s customer relationship management (CRM) technology built at Sage’s International CRM Centre of Excellence in Dublin – Sage CRM v7.1 – is aimed at enabling businesses to choose how, where and when they want to manage relationships – on Twitter, on the iPhone or on LinkedIn.

With Twitter and LinkedIn integration, as well as mobile deployment and an optimised iPhone experience, the new solution also gives 24-hour access to business-critical information regardless of location, enabling businesses to operate in the way they want.

“Whether in the office or on the move, we believe software should make it easier for people to do business and our latest version of Sage CRM builds on this commitment by giving customers the flexibility, reliability, security and support to connect services and view their customer data in a way that best suits their needs now and in the future,” explains Erin McCann, commercial product manager at Sage Ireland.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years