Mobile VoIP will see impressive growth over the next 12 to 18 months, according to respondents to our recent mobile purchasing survey.
The survey, which polled 540 respondents about mobility in their corporate environments, found that while many are not yet using mobile VoIP applications, that will soon change. Survey respondents included consultants, midlevel IT managers, network engineers, IT executives, non-IT business managers, non-IT business executives, telecommunications managers, mobile support staff, midlevel network managers, network architects, and mobile managers.
More than 26% of respondents said they don't currently support mobile VoIP but expect to do so within the next 12 to 18 months. Mobile VoIP was followed by Web-based applications, 20%; remote file sharing, 19%; unified communications, 17%; company related information, 16%; customer related data (CRM), 16%; and field service applications, 12%. Respondents indicated that they also plan to support other applications such as Internet access, remote terminal services, email, salesforce applications, contacts and calendars, and supply chain applications.
Currently, mobile email is the most commonly supported mobile application, according to the survey results. Nearly 90% of respondents said they currently support mobile email, while 72% said they support personal contacts and calendars, 60% support Internet access, and 42% support mobile Web-based applications. Mobile VoIP is currently supported by nearly 29% of respondents, while other applications like remote file sharing, remote terminal services, CRM, collaborative applications, field service applications, unified communications, and salesforce applications are all currently in use by 15% or more of respondents.
Mobile VoIP appears to be the highest of mobile application priorities, but Farpoint Group principal Craig Mathias said respondents may be interpreting mobile VoIP in different ways. He said some may picture mobile VoIP as a tool like mobile Skype, while others might be considering fixed mobile convergence (FMC).
Mathias said the biggest future for mobile applications lies in Web services, instead of porting the application to the device.
"Web services are going to be the way we provision mobility going forward," he said, adding that developing Web-based apps is easier and more affordable and requires little more than a decent mobile browser and a reliable wireless service. "Companies want to take the applications they use internally and make them mobile. If you're thinking about making these applications contemporary, if they can run on a PC, they can run on a smartphone or PDA."
Mobile Web-based applications can also be developed to mirror fixed applications that are already in use, Mathias said. He added that Web services would also be device independent. One hang-up, however, is the lack of a mobile browser standard.
"We have to come up with a browser standard and develop applications to work on a mobile browser," he said. However, as devices are getting smaller and smaller, adequate screens and browsers could be tough to come by.
While 11% of respondents said application synchronization is among their greatest concerns when it comes to mobility, for many, the business needs outweigh the fears. According to the survey, mobility within their organizations is being driven by the need to: increase productivity and efficiency, 38%; increase workplace flexibility, 19%; quicken response time to customer needs and improve customer service, 19%; access critical corporate data, 14%; increase competitive edge, 8%; and speed up the sales cycle, 3%.
The largest percentage of survey respondents, 36%, also pointed out that they buy their servers and back-end applications from resellers, distributors or VARs. Others get them directly from the manufacturer, 26%, or from the carrier/service provider that sells them devices, 14%. Nearly 6% said they used a managed service for servers and applications, while 18% said they don't know where servers and applications are purchased.
Mathias said both vendors and industry leaders need to better outline the objectives of taking applications mobile, but he said it could still be a good three years or so before mainstream adoption of mobility and applications to fuel mobility becomes a legitimate IT strategy.
"We're still in a period of very high creativity and innovation," he said. "But the idea of using a smartphone or any mobile device as a primary access vehicle is still kind of strange."