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FTPOnline Special Report: Mobile Java Development

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Mobility in the Enterprise
Get insider perspectives on the challenges of developing and deploying mobile applications for enterprises in a mobile technology roundtable.
Moderated by FTPOnline Editors

April 17, 2006

Mobile application development in enterprises is not only challenging for organizations, it encompasses a nascent segment of the IT industry that is as dynamic and as unpredictable as it is exciting. Arguably no other segment of the industry is seeing the level of innovation that is occurring in mobile application development. Given the significant technological hurdles that developers of mobile applications face—multiple operating system platforms, myriad devices and features, regional considerations, and so on—what do enterprises need to do to propel their heterogeneous environments forward and capitalize on this innovation?


FTPOnline took advantage of the recent CTIA Wireless 2006 Conference to bring together prominent industry insiders for a roundtable discussion of enterprise mobile development issues. In addition to representing organizations that span a range of product and service offerings in the global mobile device market, each organization that participated in this roundtable is a member of Forum Nokia Pro, a developer program dedicated to providing mobile application developers with a variety of support resources (see the sidebar, "Meet the Mobile Enterprise Technology Panel" for brief descriptions of the participants' organizations). Take a look at the interesting perspectives that these prominent industry executives shared in an exclusive roundtable for FTPOnline readers.

FTPOnline: The mobile device market is larger than the global PC market, but it is also more fragmented with multiple operating systems having significant market share. What are the primary challenges IT organizations face in creating enterprise applications in this heterogeneous environment?

Gerry O'Prey: The main challenge obviously will be support. It will be very time-consuming for the IT department to provide details on how to manually configure e-mail settings and so on. Centralized device management servers will help, providing all of the operating systems support the same device management protocols.

Anurag Lal: In addition to multiple operating systems, IT organizations must also grapple with a myriad of devices that use variants of any given operating system. While some devices can be standardized across similar functions, it's hard to imagine a "one size fits all" device. The organization must also factor the network operators and network types supported (Wi-FI, 3G, and so on) into its mobile equation. As we know, network operators are either in very different stages of their evolution or using incompatible standards. These issues will likely continue for as long as operating system, device, and network fragmentation exists.

Douglas Edwards: The challenges are living within the constraints of small-footprint memory; deploying and maintaining version control across many different device configurations; the trade-off between convenience of Web-based applications and the more robust, true client/server implementations; security across not only networks but within individual devices that even if lost may not be reported; and many more issues.

Fritz Ollom: IT organizations tend to focus on extending their existing mission-critical enterprise applications to mobile devices rather than creating new applications. Organizations need to determine which applications are supported on which operating systems and which devices fit the applications best. Picking a single device that fits everyone's needs is a challenge when the device must be supported around the world and used for different job functions supporting different applications. IT organizations that cannot standardize on one device for technical, business, or availability reasons must ensure that the different devices can be managed properly, which is a significant challenge. Many organizations require a mix of mobile devices and therefore the focus should be on extending applications to multiple platforms.

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