Mobile Industry Fails to Get the Message from Corporate Users: TECHNOLOGY: MOBILE PHONES ; Business Customers Want Safe, Reliable, Compatible Phones. What They're Getting Are Bells and Whistles
Favell, Andy, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
The mobile phone industry " from manufacturers and application developers to network operators " is becoming corporate Britain's latest whipping boy.
Many companies want to raise productivity and improve customer service by embracing mobile technology, but that requires the right tools and services at an affordable price. The problem, it's argued, is that the industry is too focused on consumers, who buy 80 per cent of phones, according to analyst group Gartner.
At the Security Industry Authority [SIA], which polices private security firms, Tim O'Neill, an assistant director for IT, wants to turn home workers into mobile workers. The SIA's 50 investigators use a hefty laptop, with a fixed broadband connection, but they could be using hand-held devices with a fast wireless data service.
So what's stopping Mr O'Neill? Mobile data services are insufficiently fast, reliable or secure, pricing is uneconomic and unpredictable, and he can't find a suitable device that works with an external keyboard, screen and mouse.
The number-one gripe from IT directors is that consumer fashion determines mobile phone production. The range of business phones is growing, but camera phones still accounted for 55 per cent of output this year.
'Feature-heavy phones cause major headaches to businesses, particularly from the security perspective,' says Will McMeechan, the lead business developer at Nationwide building society. 'Bluetooth connectivity, cameras and the ability to download and store data give these devices the capacity to be misused.'
Corporate customers are crying out for stable, secure devices employees can use to access applications such as email and customer records, or file a report. So-called smart phones are beginning to address this, but they come at a price.
In an industry striving to bring out the latest thing, handsets come and go quickly. That's great for a consumer, but it's irritating for a business that has invested in equipment and applications that don't work with upgraded phones.
'As a replacement for the much-loved Nokia 6310i, we've been offered camera phones and even a phone with a useless flip-out Qwerty keyboard,' says David Geliher, the IT manager at Charles Wells, a large independent brewer. 'Each of these means replacing the car kit throughout the company fleet.'
IT directors also complain that suppliers keep product 'roadmaps' under wraps. The more a company invests in technology, the more vulnerable it is to products being prematurely discontinued or a lack of information on future products. …