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Considerations for the corporate deployment of Linux Mobile.

CommonTime : 20 June, 2007  (Technical Article)
Burt Anderton CEO of Mobile Consulting Group and Ollie Omotosho, Marketing Director of CommonTime take a look at the corporate use of Linux mobile.
Undoubtedly, at some point Linux devices will begin to take a larger role within enterprise rollouts, it is only a matter of time. However, there are several factors that need to be considered before taking a such a major step.

Let these devices mature in the consumer market for while, verify their potential, before you start bringing them into the business world.

First lets consider the data integrity. As companies begin leaning more on mobile technology, eventually they will deploy a solution that does more than just PIM (email, contacts, calendar, etc). They will want a solution that, in some way delivers corporate data from a major backend system or application (Like CRM or Field Service) to ensure their remote workers have the access to this critical data. Remember, the data is key for any business. Who are the customers? What are their intentions? What are the customer's current projects etc? While PIM delivers some of this functionality and data, but does not encompass most of the key data requirements from the sales cycle standpoint.

I am just starting to get comfortable with the fact that I can fully trust the data integrity on my Windows Mobile 5 device. This device has over 10 years track record in the market and has been through several iterations, revisions and builds. I don't think it would be wise to jump from something that took years to develop and iron out wrinkles,to put this data onto a device, whos' operating system is flegling and has only a couple years experience.

The second consideration is the usability factor. Most corporate mobile device users have struggled to understand everything about their device operating system, leaning instead on their IT staff or Telecom department for support. Re-training these staffs would require time and resources that are extremely scarce within most organizations.

Considering most organizations are currently under staffed, this could place a significant burden on them and, in most cases this would lead to inadequate support and understanding to help users be entirely successful. Also, since most organizations I have worked with undervalue their helpdesk staff, and their need for proper training on mobile devices, this would leave most users virtually unsupported.

The third factor is the complexity issue(s), which have slowed down the overall enterprise mobile device deployment in previous years. Palm OS, as an example still has major issues when multiple OS integrated applications and third party applications compete for device memory and the communication channels.

The Windows Mobile platform also has issues, while not as pronounced as Palm OS issues, they vary depending on device, carrier, device memory, etc. Palm OS and Windows Mobile both do a solid job in terms of performance now compared to three years ago, but as the application complexity increases, greater demands are made on an operating system, which can result in poor performance and loss of data in some cases. Consider also that the number of third party applications for these devices will be limited. Applications that users currently use and find invaluable, may not be available for a Linux based device for years.

Of course, this is all just my opinion based on the experience I have had. I do think Linux will eventually be an OS which, on mobile devices will play a significant role in the corporate device market, but I suggest corporate adoption should be measured. I believe several years as a consumer OS should allow device manufacturers time to iron out any possible issues. Time will also give the corporate IT and Telecom staffs ample time to learn and understand the operating system and how it can benefit their customers.

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