In the two years since the launch of the Intel Centrino, considerable progress has been made in developing new mobile technology and expanding the entire wireless ecosystem, says Andy Greenhaigh.
Now, the use of notebook PCs is delivering businesses benefits, largely due to the availability of next-generation mobile technology alongside more ubiquitous and sophisticated wireless computing infrastructure.
As IT managers and CIOs consider a corporate IT refresh, it is hard to ignore the business case that can now be made for large-scale mobile roll-outs. Independent analysts are keen to support this argument and advocate the business benefits of wireless computing deployments.
In 2004 Meta Group found that companies gained an average of six hours a week of additional useful work per employee when switching from desktop PCs to notebook computers.
In a separate white paper, Meta Group noted that most companies including wireless notebooks as part of their overall business goals achieved payback in staff productivity, business efficiency and overall operational effectiveness in as little as six to 12 months.
These productivity and cost benefits are not necessarily a result of employees working any harder or longer, but working more flexibly and intelligently instead. A primary reason for this is the progress of the technology itself as the industry delivers slim, light laptop PCs that have longer battery life with integrated wireless Lan capability and high mobile performance.
But as the mobile revolution continues, the strong industry support for developing a sophisticated ecosystem is adding weight to the wireless working business case.
One of the most exciting developments in the past two years is the improvement in wireless internet connectivity. Offices with WLans allow employees to take their work with them to make "dead time" useful, but it is the mushrooming of public hotspots that helps business users work more productively in many more locations.
The UK has almost 10,000 public wireless hotspots that allow people to use Wi-Fi to access e-mail and download corporate data on the road. This simply was not possible when staff were shackled by wired desktop PCs, but manufacturers are working with wireless internet service providers as well as cafes, train operators and airports to increase the number of places where workers on the move can access the internet. As a result, "road warriors" and field staff can e-mail and work when out of the office.
The industry has also developed better and more sophisticated complementary standards that can help business users and consumers seamlessly connect to the internet when they need to. 3G standards and future standards such as WiMax augment Wi-Fi in areas not covered by public hotspots.
The ultimate aim is to create an anytime, anywhere, wireless office that will provide users with always connected productivity, which increases the business value of a large-scale mobile roll-out.
The range of devices that connect to these networks is also growing, with business people opting for two devices: a WLan laptop for high-performance computing in a location-based business environment and a wireless PDA or smartphone connected to a 3G or GPRS network for always-on personal messaging (voice/instant messaging and e-mail) and personal data access.
But developments in the wireless ecosystem that affect the way that businesses use mobile devices are not limited to improvements in wireless internet connectivity. For instance, significant gains in software optimised for mobile platforms make for a more secure and sophisticated mobile experience and increase the return on investment from adopting a mobile working strategy.
Nowadays, security software and standards are ideal for mobile business needs. Independent suppliers are also developing applications that address the unique needs of mobile software based on the new devices, and organisations such as the Wi-Fi Alliance continue to ensure Wi-Fi interoperability is at the heart of mobile working.
These advances in the wireless ecosystem are key to helping IT departments manage and deploy mobile technology. Disruptive technology improvements in the mobile platforms themselves play a huge part in making this a reality, but it is the momentum of hotspot deployment, standards certification and software optimisation that is helping CIOs convert mobile technology into greater productivity.
Andy Greenhalgh is mobility marketing manager EMEA at Intel
This article is part of Computer Weekly's Special report on enterprise mobility, produced in association with Intel