In 1876, an internal Western Union memo read: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” In 1943, Thomas Watson, then chairman of IBM, said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” In 1977 my former boss—Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.—said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” In 1981 Bill Gates said that “640 Kb ought to be enough for anybody,” referring to memory in computers. A 1949 Popular Mechanics article read, “Computers may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” And in 1999, Bob Egan, then VP and research director at Gartner, said, “Mobility will be a significant growth hormone for e-commerce.” Oh, wait—that’s me!
We’ve come a long way, baby. Phones are computers with lots of memory. Some play music. Some take pictures. Some do both! Oh, and people spend more minutes on wireless telephones—er, computers, which weigh a few ounces and fit in your hand—than over wireline connections.
Suffice it to say, everyone has their own opinions and predictions about the future—some good, some bad. Let’s face it; I have never been known to shy away from stating my opinions. And frankly, the mobile industry needs more people who are willing to step out of the box and out of their comfort zone. Leadership is all about taking risks. The aforementioned forefathers of our technology industry have certainly done that—even if they were not right 100 percent of the time! Mind you, I don’t consider myself to exist in the realm of great thinkers such as Watson, Gates or Olsen, but like them, I am not always right, and neither am I at a loss for words.
Here are two of my predictions for the mobile and wireless industry in 2005 and why they are important.
1. Mobile viruses will become a very big deal, and effective inoculations will remain elusive. As wireless devices grow in sophistication and number—more than one billion are in use worldwide—it’s no surprise that virus writers have begun targeting them. What’s surprising is how quickly and in how many ways devices have been exploited. Like malware in the wired world, mobile viruses are small programs that infect a host device—in this case, smartphones and wireless PDAs. Some of the initial viruses appear to be harmless in the sense that they don’t create backdoors or destroy data. Others, such as Mosquito, hijack the device into calling special phone numbers that carry high fees, running up the owner’s bill. And with more people carrying diverse arrays of mobile devices with integrated operating systems like Windows, Palm and Symbian, combined with growing deployments of business-process applications, you can bet that mobile viruses will need some serious attention, especially by operators at the network level.
2. The next big bang is mobile device management. The stage is set: Mobile devices have the capability and complexity of yesterday’s desktop. Mobile devices have a more complex and diverse network connection schema than desktops, and they span the usually separated domain responsibilities of both the telecom and IT groups, which individually are under their own internal budgetary pressures. Despite this backdrop, most Fortune 2000 companies don’t even have yesterday’s desktop support capability or skill set in place for today’s mobile devices. Successful solutions will have not only core help desk support but cost, provisioning, monitoring, application security and update/upgrade management. The most effective device solutions will include the use of over-the-air technologies.
Innovative mobile solutions are critical to accelerating the heartbeat of business. Famous American baseball legend Casey Stengel once said: “Never make predictions, especially about the future.” Nobody ever said I learned my lessons the easy way…•
Bob Egan is president and CEO of Mobile Competency (www.mobilecompetency.com), a Providence-based consultancy.