What's Happening at Mobile World Congress

By Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility, Yankee Group — February 25, 2013

The mobile enterprise is becoming a white hot focus, as supply-side innovation abounds, and opportunities for transformative business change for enterprises begin to arise from the combination of mobile and cloud technologies.

 
Enterprise mobility may still play second fiddle to its consumer kin, but this year at Mobile World Congress, the level of activity on evidence in the keynotes, in the exhibition halls and in the conversations of a growing proportion of attendees will attest to how much the enterprise is moving slowly but surely towards the center of innovation in the mobile ecosystem.
 
If you are in Barcelona right now, in the midst of all the new products and solutions, take a look around and you probably see the following trends manifesting. If you couldn’t make this year’s event, here’s what you should keep an eye on from afar.
  • Enterprise customers are front and center. With a subtle but growing shift of power across the ecosystem from those creating technology to those deploying it, enterprise customer case studies will be even more prominent than usual as vendors and service providers try to show their direct impact on business process innovation and on companies’ revenue-generating activities.
  • Managed mobility service vendors shouting to be heard. Yankee Group expects to see vendors exhibiting both vertically integrating enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms while also showcasing partnerships with other solution providers, in order to make their voice heard above the din of competing solutions in a fragmented marketplace.
  • Device manufacturers prey on security concerns. With Blackberry’s BlackBerry10 renaissance, Nokia getting back on its feet (just)  and Samsung’s electric momentum, this year’s MWC will be the parting shot of a 2013 slugfest among the device manufacturers as the pressure ratchets up on them to prove they are the most enterprise-ready. There will be plenty of evidence of applications and ISV mobile partnerships on show in the exhibitions and break out sessions but each will be trying to outdo the other in proving who can best handle C-level security concerns around the cascading level of mobility across the workforce.
  • The mobile cloud remains cloudy. Vendor-side innovation is driving a new paradigm for mobile cloud enterprise applications. Legacy enterprise software providers such as SAP and Infor, and cloud vendors like Workday are bringing mobile cloud solutions to market; application developer environments like Sencha, Adobe and Appcelerator and backend cloud infrastructures are all helping to drive this new paradigm. While much of the type of mobile cloud innovation that will be on show may ultimately displace the current technology status quo and offer enterprises a better way to accelerate their own mobile innovation. In the short-term, IT’s infrastructural considerations will mean that in the real world the future of much of this mobile cloud stuff will still seem cloudy.
  • Operators take enterprise mobility seriously (kinda). Operators have struggled to differentiate their portfolios and approach when it comes to managed mobility solutions for enterprises. Few have made strides beyond partnerships with managed service vendors from whom most of the innovation has come. However at MWC this year, we expect to see operators announce that they are consolidating their mobility focus, increasing their pre-sales and solution architects teams, offering greater verticalization across their solutions and simplifying their messaging. This should mean innovation to drive new business models for their enterprise customers, but only time will tell as to whether what they are really touting is still quantity rather than quality.
Over each of the past few years at MWC, the enterprise has been carving itself out a greater slice of the conference agenda. However caution is needed amid the inevitable “be-all-end-all” solution conference hype, especially with regard to the particular challenges enterprises face in embracing mobility. We are only just at the tipping point where IT has realized it can’t be the “no” department any more, and, that instead, they have to embrace new technologies and the inevitable change to processes and infrastructure they entail.
 
What is needed is pragmatic guidance on how to look beyond just managing to enabling mobility to have a wider business impact. This needs to be the time of an evolutionary rather than an end-to-end narrative. I hope that this will be the tone running around the conference halls this year.

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