Enterprise IT Consultant Views on Technologies and Trends

Aug 11 2010   10:49AM GMT

Mobile Operating System vendors vying Enterprise market

Sasirekha R Profile: Sasirekha R

Mobile Operating System vendors vying Enterprise market

As mobile devices become sophisticated and the possibility of mobile adoption in Enterprises move to the next level, mobile operating systems gain importance. Mobile Operating systems are the operating systems that are present in Smartphones – Nokia Symbian OS, RIM Blackberry OS, Apple iPhone IOS, Windows mobile Phone OS, Google Andriod and Palm WebOS.

Mobile device manufacturers chose the Operating system that comes with their mobile devices – hopefully we can expect the industry to mature sufficient enough to allow mix and match – though not in the immediate future. The operating system determines the functions and features like track wheel, track ball, track pad, keyboard, WAP, application synchronization, email available on the device. The operating system also limits the third-party applications that can be used.

Mobile Operating Systems are typically derived from the standard operating systems – Linux, BSD, NextSTEP and Windows. Quite a few of these are closed source and proprietary. In the consumer space, Symbian OS has become the standard operating system and is licensed by more than 85% of the world’s smartphone manufacturers. MeeGo (unveiled in 2010 Mobile World Congress) from Nokia and Intel, Android from Google that are built on top of Linux are Open source.

With the success in the consumer space, most of these OS providers and manufacturers have been targeting Enterprise Mobile OS market and there has been a series of announcements in 2010 that shows tremendous momentum.

But Consumer space and Enterprise space requirement of mobiles are quite tangential to each other. Consumer targeted device is built for social interaction and entertainment is expected to be open, connecting, seamless integration with social networking sites.  

Enterprises need a different class of mobile platform – that can provide improved security, reliability, and productivity, multi-tasking, centralized and remote management, enable compliance, and standard upgrade paths. Connectivity to email servers, preventing unauthorized access, controlling users from performing inappropriate actions, data encryption, preventing information leakage, ability to integrate with other Enterprise applications, ability to log activity and even retaining communications for compliance purposes are some of requirements that has to be addressed for Smartphones to move to Enterprise space. Vendors seem to be realizing this and are coming up with specific OS versions aimed at Enterprises.

RIM’s blackberry has already acquired a reputation and space for itself in employee’s mobile productivity in enterprises. BlackBerry Enterprise Servers – the middleware that is part of the BlackBerry wireless platform – connects to standard messaging and collaboration software including Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, Novell Groupwise on enterprise networks. It also redirects emails and synchronization of information between servers, workstations and mobile devices. With the latest release BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2, RIM claims to have provided a more operational and cost efficient solution. It supports single sign-on (SSO), new security features including self-service option, and support for Microsoft Hyper-V server virtualization.

Google’s Android OS 2.0 version aimed at Enterprise did not have many takers and received lot of negative feedback even to the extent that Android is not ready for Enterprise and Google is not even in the right direction. But the latest Android OS 2.2 (known as FroYo) released is showing promise and even the detractors are suggesting a relook at it. Remote Management and configuration, improved security, support for Exchange servers are the highlights of this release. More Enterprise friendly factors are expected in the next release (known as Gingerbread) promised before the end of this year.

Microsoft has announced that Windows Embedded Handheld OS based on Windows Mobile 6.5 technology will come out later this year and in 2011, release of a new version based on Windows Embedded Compact 7 OS is planned. This OS promises to provide richer and immersive user experience, improved reliability and security features and backward compatibility with a clear upgrade path.

Apple claims that iPhone OS 4 enables enterprises to securely host and wirelessly distribute in-house applications to employees over Wi-Fi and 3G. Most people agree that Apple iPhone and Google Android are both on par – in terms of current features and the expected trend. But Apple’s locked down device with Apple’s tight control over the hardware, software and content may go against it as compared to the open-source model of Android.

With current releases having sufficient features to interest the Enterprises and promised released in the near future with much more enterprise-friendly OSes, the enterprise adoption of mobiles can be better accessed in the second half of next year.

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