by Ted Schadler
I'm nobody's fan boy. I don't love any particular brand. Never have. Never will. It's not in my DNA. I love my family, I love food and wine and dinner conversation, I love making music with the band, and I love to ride my bike on Metro West roads with a buncha guys. I don't love products.
But I do love great technology that improves lives and businesses. That's my calling card and the reason I work at Forrester Research.
We have lots of data and analysis that illuminates the future. It's our stock in trade. Data like the level of enterprise IT support for BYO phones (46% provide some support). Or the number of working Americans that own a mobile phone (84%) or a smartphone (7.4%). BTW, this data shows where the real growth potential in this market is.
So what matters in the smartphone platform enterprise wars? Great products, stellar service, attractive prices, and memorable marketing matter of course. But in my experience with platforms wars and device wars through the ages, some other things will matter as well:
BYO phones will matter a lot because it allows firms to deliver the amazing benefits of smartphones to more people at lower cost. And that puts the decision into the hands of an individual (though perhaps from an approved list. [Forrester clients should ping me to see this data; it's an important shift in the market.]
Applications will matter a lot because people want to do things, not just look cool doing them. True for golfers, true for CEOs, true for everybody. Applications that deliver enterprise value and work well across platforms would be great, but any applicatino that solves a business problem will be attractive to someone.
Developer passion matters a lot because that's how great applications get built. One guy I know at an ISV is building a smartphone application in his spare time because he thinks it's the future.
Security and device management matters a lot because enterprise IT needs to be able to assure the lawyers that they did everything in their power to protect the company.
Carrier choice matters because nobody wants to be stuck with a single supplier.
Individual preference matters because people are more different than the same, and nobody wants to be told what kind of device they have to use. In this, I agree violently with Adam Richardson of FrogDesign. [Couple this with BYO, and you'll see where the real competition lies.]
So who will win? It's too early to tell, but it looks to me based on these inputs as well as conversations with over 50 enterprise IT professionals that both BlackBerry and iPhone devices will dominate. On the other hand, this market looks a lot more to me like the fast food market than the cola market. It won't be a two horse race; it will be a 5 or 6 horse race.
But to be clear: My job is to support IT professionals dealing with horizontal workforce technologies. For these clients, I work to identify their needs, issues, and situation. Then I share best practices from other firms and my data-driven analysis of what path they should take. RIM and Apple are at the top of that list today, both in the best practices and in the advice. But I will never count out the other device platforms at this point. Too much investment from too many great vendors to do that.
It's going to be an exciting market with tremendous advances, hence advantages, for companies and individuals in the next four years. Hang on, folks.
I'm sure other things matter to the enterprise smartphone platform wars, and I'd be happy to hear about them. We'll learn together.