Tablets and Security: More Thoughts from Our EAB

By  Martha Walz — February 01, 2011

Last week, in part one of this series, Mobile Enterprise editorial advisory board (EAB) members offered insights into the number-one priority for enterprises when it comes to mobile technology in 2011, whether 4G will have an impact on the enterprise in the coming year, the results of the continued consumerization of IT, who will dominate in the mobile OS war, and mobility in the cloud.

This week we ask the EAB what they see happening with tablets in the enterprise, and they discuss the biggest enterprise mobility security concerns. We close out the article with their predictions of the hottest new mobile technologies for the year as well as the biggest mobile flops.

Tablets, tablets everywhere

It’s no secret that tablets are the hottest new technology in mobility today. But how will they fit into the enterprise?

“This is an area of the highest interest to me,” says Patricia Smith, CIO of Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc. “I think tablet computers will work for remote workers where laptops are too big and PDAs too small. I think they will be the number-one most wanted new mobile device.”

Sean Poccia, senior director of IS at Comag Marketing Group, agrees. “As 2011 progresses, these low-cost mobile devices will gain continued strength within the enterprise,” he says. “Adoption of Android, and even more significantly, Windows Phone 7 for tablets, will foster new ideas on how to transition the workforce from more traditional computing platforms to tablet style.”

Andrew Seybold, principal, Andrew M. Seybold Inc., takes a more conservative view on tablets. “In 2011, enterprises will be able to determine how important tablet computers will be for their business and if these tablets will be replacements for notebooks and/or netbooks,” he says. “However, the breadth and depth of enterprise applications will play the most important role in this decision-making process. During 2011, enterprises will do well to evaluate the various offerings, especially the level of security offered and the ease with which IT professionals will be able to manage a fleet of tablets.”

Seybold sees many benefits of tablets in the enterprise, but he cautions that they won’t be for everyone. “If tablets become an accepted type of wireless device in the enterprise, it will lower per customer cost and add more elegant capabilities,” he says. “However, it is important to segment enterprise users: some need to create information in the field (not simply fill in forms) and will continue to need notebooks, but those who only need access to information will probably be happy with a tablet.”

“As we all are anticipating, tablets will proliferate and more than likely begin the end of the laptop as we know it,” says Jeffrey DeSimone, IT manager, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “What is going to be at issue is that the enterprise will not be ready for them. The tablet will not be running the standard OSes that IT groups are familiar with, they will be powered by the mobile OSes that most IT groups are unfamiliar with. On the negative side this will cause support and standards issues. On the positive they are going to allow for cheaper/quicker rollouts, make ALL workers more mobile and will increase productivity as more workers will have expanded coverage. And the ‘new, cool’ factor will increase productivity.”

As for business value, EAB members see tablet deployments throughout the enterprise as beneficial, but enterprises will need a business strategy in place to reap the full benefits and ROI.

“I think the tablet computing devices will have opportunities to create business value all over the enterprise from field services, to support, and to the executive levels,” says Tony Winston, senior manager of mobility solutions, American Airlines. “In 2011, tablets will start replacing laptops all over the enterprise. The road warriors who have the need for quick access to e-mails, documents, and presentations will find the larger screens valuable and will be the predominant users in 2011. 

“IT departments will also start to see the benefits for task-oriented types of applications for field services workers,” Winston continues. “These ‘MicroApps’ will be designed to work on tablet form factors and will give mobile workers really quick targeted access to the back office to complete specific tasks or business functions.”

“There’s no doubt that tablets can and will replace traditional methods of enterprise computing at some levels,” agrees Poccia. “Tablets once again place the user experience at the forefront and those who want the ‘cool, new, shiny’ gadget may miss out on truly embracing the power and cross-functionality of tablets. The companies that clearly develop strong ‘story boards’ or functional use cases before they deploy tablets to the workforce will recognize the largest ROI and efficiency gains.”

Chris Hazelton, research director, mobile and wireless, The 451 Group, agrees. “The tablet--even though it will not replace the PC in wide numbers--paired with smartphones means developers will increasingly target mobile OSes instead of Windows,” he says. “Small deployments of tablets will replace laptops, particularly for sales teams who are highly mobile. There will be a greater emphasis on mobile enterprise apps that target both smartphones and tablets which will increase the need for MDM and initial investments in MEAP.”

“Anticipate a tidal wave of new apps for the enterprise on tablets and that will leverage mobile cloud computing and its supremacy,” says DeSimone.

“Tablets will be refined and improved to the point where they will be a useful substitute for a laptop in certain applications,” agrees Brenda Lewis, principal, Transactions Marketing. “However, like DVDs and movies, TV and radio, I think tablets will co-exist with laptops for many years to come. Laptop manufacturers may well alter designs to approach the lightness, thinness and easy user interface that make tablets so desirable. Tablets will need to add locks to work as enterprise devices.”

Which tablet is the most anticipated among the EAB members?

“I think the RIM PlayBook is the most interesting tablet device for 2011,” says Winston. “I believe having a device that can pair with your existing BlackBerry and having one version of all your mobile applications and content with the ability to get a better visual display of presentations and documents will make it a valuable add-on for business users and road warriors. RIM has already embraced the ‘MicroApp’ strategy with many of its software partners and has apps for SAP, Salesforce, IT management, and other areas where the PlayBook will improve their usability.”

“BlackBerry Playbook,” agrees Smith. “Although I have only seen a beta version of it, the idea of a thin client extension for the BlackBerry is intriguing, and I am looking forward to seeing its full potential. I am really thinking of the possibilities for solving problems using it.”

Enterprise mobility security

EAB members see security--of devices, networks, data, and access--as the primary mobility challenge facing enterprises today.

“With the proliferation of every kind of mobile device infiltrating the enterprise (and this trend is NOT going to slow down anytime soon), IT managers and vendors are going to have to come up with better ways of securing data and access to the enterprise, and as such should be a TOP priority for 2011,” says DeSimone. “IT groups will have a difficult time trying to enforce security policies with the tidal wave of devices coming into the enterprise. Most are not equipped to handle remote management and security policy enforcement of these devices and I believe many will forego some levels of security to allow for the deluge of requests of these devices coming into the enterprise.”

“Mobilization of the enterprise and consumerization of the enterprise will drive IT security crazy in 2011,” agrees Winston. “The endpoints that used to be desktops and laptops are now mobile PDAs and tablet devices, and employees are using them everywhere and all the time. IT security teams will need to re-define IT policy and processes to support more devices and ensure that employees are fully aware of their responsibilities to the enterprise.”

“Security in porous environments--how do I as an IT manager balance the need for security and the desire for employees to work on disparate devices?” asks Hazelton. “The continued consumerization of smartphones will be further compounded by the use of tablet computers from several vendors, powered by several mobile OSes.”

While all EAB members agree that security is a concern, they have different ideas of how to solve this problem.

“Mobile devices should be treated like an extension of the network,” says Smith. “I think we will see more security breaches using mobile devices as the access point. I think this threat is not well understood.”

“IT will have to define new policies and processes to manage and secure these different devices,” says Winston. “Mobile security and processes need to evolve and will have to encompass securing the device, the networks (3G, Wi-Fi, 4G), and applications.”

“The need to control and understand what mobile applications are in the enterprise and what information they are accessing,” is the most important security aspect for Hazelton. “There is a need to segment data that is personal and corporate--and control of where this data resides will be paramount. This will drive companies to explore Web applications in place of native ones where possible.”

“The way corporate information is being accessed, transmitted, carried, and used is absolutely going to have to be addressed,” says DeSimone. “How is the device wiped of data and access remotely? How does IT ensure that if the device falls into anyone but the owner’s hands it is denied access and locked down? How is sensitive data handled… is it not allowed to go out to such a device or if it is… How is it sent? Who has the rights to view and access it?

“What are the current operating system shortfalls and exploits and how does the enterprise overcome them, block them, or deny the use of certain devices, or even OS versions? Enterprise security managers must design and implement a strong (and flexible) mobile security strategy to protect the business from security exploits from rising mobile device usage from all levels of employees within the enterprise in this quickly changing ever-expanding frontier,” DeSimone continues.

Seybold’s take on security focuses on the networks themselves.

“The ongoing battle between hackers and those trying to use broadband networks will continue to be of major concern,” Seybold says. “Many enterprises as well as many utilities and even the federal government have too many touch points to the Internet to be able to secure their networks during attacks. I favor a much more limited number of touch points so an enterprise network can be isolated and taken off the Internet during attacks. The more touch points between your network and the Internet, the more vulnerable your enterprise is to security breaches.”

Hot new mobile technology

Most EAB members responded that tablets will be the next big thing in mobile technology in 2011, but a few had other ideas.

“Video will be the hot new technology,” says Winston. “Mobile broadband and OS platform vendors are embedding video and collaboration as part of the core platforms. Business applications that can take advantage of video will begin to surface in the enterprise where face-to-face communications are needed. Video collaboration will be valuable.”

“I think the technology to watch is VoWLAN (voice over wireless LAN),” says DeSimone. “With the enterprise looking for ways to cut costs and increase productivity and do more with less every day, the ability to remove the expense of numerous desktop phones from the office environment will continue to grow and keep the employee better connected. This is coupled with the push that I see where business is moving away from the corporate-supplied model and moving toward the employee-liable device. The payoff will be seen in then removing the expense of supplying everyone with a desk phone and with better portability, it will increase workers’ production. The technology will allow cell phones to switch from a cellular connection to the enterprise wireless LAN and do so without dropping calls.”

“Digital pens will become much more prevalent in 2011,” says Smith.

While not a technology per se, Poccia sees mobile device management getting a big push in the enterprise this year.

“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion on this issue throughout 2010,” says Poccia. “However, there are very few standards or best practices that address mobile devices holistically at the enterprise level. The sheer number and variation of mobile devices will require companies of all sizes to obtain internal skills in order to successfully adopt and manage the growth of this computing evolution.”

Biggest mobile technology flop

In addition to the hottest technology of 2011, EAB members were asked what they thought the biggest mobile technology flop of the year would be. Again, members had a wide variety of answers.

“Mobile application integration gateways,” says Winston. “The vendors promise the same ‘build once, deploy to many’ strategy for mobile applications that we thought we had with Java and the JVM (Java Virtual Machine). This has not been so simple on the desktop, and I suspect the same challenges will exist for the mobile platforms. Developers will see many of the same challenges that desktop developers had and will struggle extending these products to take advantage of the variations in device platforms.”

“I feel it will be Windows Phone 7,” says DeSimone. “From everything I have read and heard around the industry, Microsoft has basically released Windows Phone 7 in an unfinished state. Windows mobile products have always typically lagged behind other mobile OSes such as BlackBerry, Android, and iPhone, and unfortunately this will be no different. But, with the explosion of devices at such a key time, Microsoft will miss the mark and fall even further behind.”

“Netbooks will die in 2011,” states Hazelton. “They will be subsumed by laptops that are getting cheaper and smaller.”

“Devices built on the Android platform, which are clearly aimed at consumers and not enterprises,” says Seybold. “In 2011, they will continue to fall short in capabilities needed to manage them on a fleet-wide basis.”

Again, Poccia took a different tack on the question.

“My prediction is that companies, SMBs in particular, and very large de-centralized enterprises will struggle with the fast pace in which mobility products and uses will be introduced to the marketplace,” he says. “There will be a shortage of talent that can build and execute mobile strategies that can go the traditional three- to five-year lifecycle. I do believe that mobility will dramatically alter the way organizations deal with and depreciate mobility solutions since odds are, the lifecycle may only be one to two years.”

It’s clear that the EAB sees 2011 as a pivotal year in enterprise mobility. As the year unfolds, let’s see which predictions actually come true.

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