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This chapter is from the book

Mobile Devices and the Enterprise

The mobile Internet-access market is expected to reach over 130 million people by the end of 2007, thanks to the increased mobility of the workforce and the introduction of mobile-specific applications. That is an increase from the 2.9 million active subscribers in 2000. Most enterprises use Windows clients on their desktops and either Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office, or Novell GroupWise for document processing, internal email, and management of shared resources. Each solution includes support for wireless applications and devices. At this time, only Windows-based portable devices support streaming media in a corporate environment. Both ActiveSky and PacketVideo technologies can play back or stream media on Palm devices (ActiveSky) and mobile phones, but neither of these technologies supports streaming on existing LAN infrastructures the way Windows Media plays on PocketPC devices. The main advantages of PocketPC devices compared to Palm devices (for streaming media applications) are the abilities to play sound and store large files.

Developers are rushing to deliver software platforms that support mobile devices ranging from SmartPhones and handheld PCs to PocketPCs and laptop computers. As the demand for mobile solutions increases, people feel more confident using these applications that let them access information from anywhere, anytime they want. These devices have different sizes, shapes, and functionalities. Laptop computers are considered to be mobile desktops that facilitate 95% of the functionality desktops deliver.

Characteristics

Handheld units operating with Windows CE version 2.0 or 3.0 platforms enable PDAs and PocketPC devices to be an integrated part of the enterprise environment. These devices have screen sizes ranging from one-half to one-quarter of a display; they come with or without integrated keyboards. They often have no mouse and are limited in storage. All handheld PCs are wireless-enabled—users can pick the wired and wireless connectivity options that best fit their daily work patterns. Mobile devices are becoming valuable tools for employees in enterprises, complementing traditional laptop PCs. Handheld PCs fit best in scenarios in which a manual process can be made more efficient when converted to a forms-based application that enables the rapid capture of data on a screen big enough to keep the data in context. The benefits of running a forms-based line of business applications on a handheld PC to replace paper-based processes include:

  • Faster and more accurate data collection in the office or in the field

  • Higher productivity

  • Faster processing of data, increasing production and customer support

  • Faster business reporting for decision making

  • Reduced operational costs (replacing the need for data entry personnel)

The Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) version 4.0-compatible browser is standard software included with PocketPC version 3.0 and higher. Mobile IE makes possible access to the Internet as well as to intranet applications. The appliance-like behavior of handheld devices running the PocketPC operating system delivers an instant on and off every time the power button is pushed. They have a long battery life as a result of the power-frugal computer chips running these devices, keeping them functioning for an entire day of work on a single charge, even when connected wirelessly. Because there are no moving parts, handheld PCs operate well in environments where they are bumped around. Finally, the core operating system software and applications are safely stored in read-only memory so key components cannot be disabled or removed. These characteristics result in a device that matches the needs of someone who needs quick access to data and applications when working away from a typical office setting.

Handheld devices are not intended to replace the functionality of traditional PCs. Some examples of situations where a traditional PC takes the place of a handheld PC in performing tasks are:

  • When users need access to full desktop application, such as preparing a PowerPoint presentation

  • When the size of the display and amount of data stored require more than a 320- 3 240-pixel window and a built-in 32-MB storage space

Many people do not work in a traditional office environment. Sometimes there is a temporary workplace, as in the case of traveling salespeople or executives on the move. Other workers, such as people delivering products, factory workers, or people performing certain job tasks onsite, may use handheld devices to better organize and update their information locally or on their company's mainframe. Mobile devices enable an organization to take its traditional computing infrastructure and extend it to the furthest reaches of its business. Current application areas that have improved business when handheld PCs were deployed involve workers who are directly responsible for bringing in revenues, who manage internal operations, and who are mobile professionals. Some of these are:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)—CRM tools enhance the ability of those involved in the sales process, field service, and customer support. Handheld PCs are a perfect fit because they provide service at remote customer facilities. Handheld devices enable the generation of invoices, access to training materials, management of schedules, and, most important, access in real time to inventory or production-flow schedules with a wireless connection. Many developers have released CRM tools that share information among a company's backend infrastructure and the sales force front end. Such off-the-shelf products can be purchased from Nortel Networks (Clarify), PeopleSoft (Vantive), and FieldCentrix.

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)—ERP systems provide the information and basic services that support the internal operations of a business, such as the management of component acquisition, supervision of manufacturing process, and tracking of product deliveries. Making these services and this information available to people without their having to wait until they reach their desktops improves productivity and reduces costs. Many enterprises have deployed ERP systems from companies such as SAP AG, PeopleSoft, and J. D. Edwards.

  • Financial services—The 21st-century mobile professional can use handheld PCs to access insurance claims, to collect on-site pictures and data, to trade on the stock market, to track his or her finances, to support all steps of a real estate transaction, or to display products in the form of video or PowerPoint presentations.

  • Health care—Doctors were early adopters of handheld PCs. By using wireless connections, many doctors when on the move have secure access to current patient information, can write or renew drug prescriptions, can perform inventory management and patient monitoring, or can simply keep in touch with their offices.

  • Government—Many local, state, and federal governmental agencies and departments use handheld devices to capture and store data. An example of solutions that use handheld PCs today include supporting the client contact process in welfare-to-work programs, looking up wants and warrant information quickly, managing the logistics of moving personnel and equipment around the country or around the world, ensuring that companies are following safety requirements, and capturing data associated with lands management.

  • Manufacturing and services—United Parcel Service (UPS), the largest carrier in the world, has announced plans to enable its entire field and processing workforce with PocketPC devices. With the help of real-time data transmission over Bluetooth-supported infrastructure, drivers will feed the company mainframe with information, speeding up data processing and tracking capabilities and billing-related functions.

These examples show how companies realize reduced costs when they use handheld PCs for managing the flow of materials in their manufacturing or service facilities around the world. The expansion of handheld PC devices will increase the demand for software applications that will help automate or process information in more cost-efficient ways. Rich media will play a significant role in the future deployment of handheld PCs on enterprise networks. Media can be served as stand-alone playbacks, or they can be synchronized with PowerPoint slides or interactive databases that will be used for presentations, training, or information.

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