It is time to mobilise the workers

If respected IT market analyst Richard Holway is right, the end of the recession is likely to...

If respected IT market analyst Richard Holway is right, the end of the recession is likely to bring a world where if it ain't mobile and on the net, it ain't gonna sell.

Holway predicts "explosive growth" of mobile internet devices as users upgrade to smartphones and netbooks to access "rich content" anywhere, any time, any place at super-fast speeds.

Some analysts expect netbooks sales to double, or even treble, to between 22 million and 32 million next year.

Juniper Networks says yearly sales of smartphones will nearly double to 300 million a year by 2013.

Seeds of change

Even so, companies will not change the way they do things just because of a recession. Holway notes that between 80% and 90% of IT budgets are used for maintaining and enhancing existing systems.

Charles Ward, a director of Intellect, the IT suppliers' trade association,agrees that mostcompany budgets are committed to existing projects for the next year or two.

He cites Intellect as an example. "We cannot change our technology platform until we are sure we can get what we need from other sources."

But Ward admits that Intellect carries the seeds of the switch to a mobilised workplace. Intellect staffoften workfrom home, andWardtravels with only a BlackBerry, and perhaps a laptop or USB memory stick if he is making presentations.

High-speed mobile broadband

For now, "mobile user" mostly seems to mean "mobile consumer". But mobile network operators plan to build high-speed broadband networks that allow mobile internet devices (MIDs) to connect at 2mbps and faster.

These will attract corporate users, not least because they can untether workers from expensive town centre office space. Media companies such as the Guardian and the Telegraph have already converted their reporters to Google Apps for office and field work.

For the information and telecommunications industry, who wins the mobile operating system battle is crucial. With netbooks selling at £150-£350, around the cost of a phone, there is no room for an expensive OS.

Technology in development

Microsoft launched a new version of Windows Mobile last week, but its market share lags Nokia's Symbian and Research in Motion's BlackBerry (see table).

Canalys mobile analyst Tim Shepherd says Microsoft has addressed deficiencies in the OS, but shifted its focus to consumers.

"It is still looking for revenue from licences. With neither Symbian nor the Android/Linux community doing that, Windows Mobile is going to struggle," he says.

But, Holway says, users do not really care about the hardware and software, as long as it works and lets them do cool things. That is why Symbian and Android are funding competitions to attract application builders and help them to market their products.

Google expects Android devices to become terminals for Google Apps and Maps, and Nokia this week confirmed its interest in entering the netbook market.

Now is the right time for CIOs to talk with their peers in HR and finance about introducing mobile technology.

Worldwide smart phone market split by OS vendor, Q4 2008  
OS vendor Global share 
Access 0.9%
Apple 11.6%
Linux 3.8%
Microsoft 14.2%
Open Handset Alliance 1.7%
RIM 19.8%
Symbian 47.9%
Source: Canalys, smartphone analysis, Q4 2008

UK software and IT services market trends

The UK software and IT services (SITS) market is expected to shrink in real terms for the first time since 2003, according toTechMarketView, a market research firm owned by analysts Richard Holway and Anthony Miller.

Holway says the value of SITS sales dropped 1% last year. Heexpects a further decline of 2% this year before growth returns in late 2010.

"Even these bleak forecasts depend on economic conditions not deteriorating further," Holway says.

Holway blames private sector cutbacks mainly, saying IT suppliers with government business will fare better.

He expects spending on training to suffer most, with less impact on business process outsourcing, which is steady at 8% growth.

But he expects application outsourcing to grow faster by 2011.

"By thetime the recession ends, we expect the SITS landscape to be much changed, with many of today's leading players... seeing their positions eroded," Holway says.

"We expect the next phase of SITS to bebuilt mainly around the mobile user, where the distinction between consumers and the corporate users will be ever more blurred."

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