Mobility in 2012 will finally become a key mainstream enterprise technology. It will no longer be perceived as something new that enterprises need to "try" or something that will require a great deal of effort to convince senior management of. Our predictions below are based on this simple but ultimately major belief. As an enterprise player, if you are reading this you need to consider where your company and your IT and mobile operations fall within the predictions made below.
If your organization falls squarely inside of our predictions congratulations! You are moving ahead, possibly with pioneering effort. If your organization falls outside of our predictions, more than likely it is falling behind the enterprise world at large and its competitors in particular. 2012 is the year to ensure your mobile game plan is fully in place and that your organization is fully engaged.
Mobile Prediction 1 - Mobility Becomes Part and Parcel of Enterprise DNA
In 2011 we started to see a strong trend in enterprises where upper management finally began to understand that mobility is not simply yet another IT technology that can be quickly grafted onto traditional IT infrastructure - whether that infrastructure refers to the means to deliver data (wireless access), or whether that infrastructure refers to the IT development teams that have long been in place to build enterprise applications. That was the world of old tactical mobility.
In 2012 we are going to see enterprises take on large scale mobility projects that are not merely line of business experiments but that are, instead, major strategic applications that will touch every part of the enterprise and every part of the enterprise workforce, as well as external business partners and their workforces. Mobility becomes, in 2012, inherently a part of the enterprise, and in fact we will very likely begin to see mobility no longer referred to as something "special or new" but rather we'll see mobility simply begin to emerge as an integral and centralized piece of the enterprise, manifested through IT.
Mobile Prediction 2 - IT Will Take Back Growing Control of Mobile Devices and Deployments
As nice as it has been to think of BYOD as a grass roots, employee-driven movement, enterprise IT will fully learn in 2012 that BYOD is really an opportunity for the enterprise, rather than a threat. In truth, many companies have already figured this out, but 2012 will prove to be the tipping point year when most enterprises come on board with this thinking and those enterprises that are either moving slowly or not at all will become true laggards. Mobility is no longer in the process of arriving - it arrived in 2010 and solidified its hold in 2011. 2012 is the year that mobility becomes fully main stream across the majority of enterprises.
The old saying, "If you can't beat them join them" will be adopted by IT and mobility will be co-opted by IT, out of the workforce's hands and back into IT control. This doesn't mean that BYOD goes away - rather, it means that in 2012 enterprise IT will fully encourage BYOD and make it its own. Once IT accomplishes this it will have taken its first full step back towards gaining full control.
Mobile Prediction 3 - The Enterprise Mobile App Store will be Huge
As enterprises begin to build mobile apps that span the entire enterprise it rapidly becomes clear that the public app stores are not the best means for delivering those applications. Maintaining tight control of every aspect of enterprise apps - including who has access to them (or to various components or modules depending on how the apps are built) becomes a central issue for the enterprise. Managing applications - who has access, what data the apps themselves have access to, what rights and privileges are granted to the apps or to various groups that have access to those apps, just to name a few of the many issues involved - becomes a complex process. The mobile app store will emerge in 2012 as the key means for controlling mobile app deployment and for IT keeping a tight rein on the apps.
Mobile Prediction 4 - HTML5 and Hybrid Apps will Become Central to the Development Process
Although 2012 will continue to see numerous enterprise applications built as native devices, the second half of 2012 will be the first real period in which we can begin to see native enterprise applications start to take a back seat to hybrid apps that take advantage of HTML5 while also being able to take advantage of the key features of specific devices. Much of this will, in fact, be driven by Prediction 3 above. Hybrid apps will provide enterprises with much greater flexibility in terms of how they can be deployed.
Mobile Prediction 5 - Content is Still King - and Mobile App Development Platforms are the Key to Controlling Mobile Content
Much of what an enterprise information worker does is manage content. Data, whether structured or unstructured, is in fact mostly content and mobile content management and efficient content distribution becomes a key piece of many enterprise mobile app deployments in 2012.
The only way for any enterprise to build efficient mobile applications is to make use of a mobile application development platform (or a MEAP - Mobile Enterprise Application Platform).MEAPs will become huge in the enterprise in 2012. This particular mobile enterprise market segment has been quietly building up a head of steam, although it has taken years for the vendors in this space to finally begin to see the fruits of their labors. We expect to see tremendous growth in the use of MEAPs in 2012.
Their use will be driven by the need to be able to focus developer attention not on the nuts and bolts of mobile app development (especially complex back end connectivity), but rather on developing mobile apps that efficiently and securely drive the use of enterprise content within the now extraordinarily familiar "anytime, anywhere" mobile world we all live in.
Mobile Prediction 6 - When the Mobile Tide Rises, Only Some Mobile Operating Systems Rise With It
No predictions would be complete without the look to hardware and operating systems. So we'll close this round of our predictions (we may also post a follow-up with additional insights) by looking at the impossible to avoid issue of mobile devices and mobile operating systems. We believe that in 2012 we will see a true settling out on these fronts.
In particular we will see Apple's iOS develop a much more enterprise-focused capability (without in the least detracting from its state of the art consumer capabilities), we will see Windows Phone 7 grow significantly and we will see Android dominate in terms of total devices on a global basis, although we will very likely see Android begin to go downstream into many cheaper devices in 2012. There will be many Android devices out there but in North America look for iOS to dominate.
In the second half of 2012 we fully expect to see Windows 8 emerge and become real. When it does we also expect to see tablets become a much more significant play. 2012 will NOT be the year of the "enterprise tablet takeover." We believe that tablets will continue to make inroads in 2012 (especially Apple iPads), but look to 2013 and the full release of Windows 8 for tablets to become the dominant enterprise play.
What of BlackBerry and BES? We don't expect to see BES infrastructure disappear wholesale. At least not in 2012. The jury is still out on RIM - much there depends on whether or not the company can fix its multiple levels of management problems. We want RIM to survive and provide a legitimate competitive "check" on Apple, Android and Microsoft. So we won't say here that RIM goes away in 2012. At least not yet.