Smartphones: Is the High Wearing Off?

By | Sep 13, 2012

The iPhone 5 is due out in days, and the media roar is already deafening. It is sure to be a big seller. But like recent phones from Google and Nokia, the latest iPhone model is likely to offer relatively modest improvements over its predecessor. The heady, heroic, revolutionary days of the smartphone era are probably behind us.

And for the IT community at midsize firms, this could be good news. Smartphones, along with their larger cousins, tablet devices, are entering the workplace in ever-growing numbers. This will continue. But their inherent limitations--which are closely related to their strengths--mean that the "consumerization of IT" can only go so far.

Yes, IT will need to support, and adapt to, mobile operating systems. But these will not change the world.

The Limits of "Wow!"

As Stephen Shankland reports at CNET, the upcoming iPhone 5 will undoubtedly offer a variety of new and improved features. So do its latest-model rivals. But these improvements will not be nearly as revolutionary as the features we have already become accustomed to--touchscreens, maps and directions, and hundreds of thousands of downloadable apps.

After all, points out Shankland, how could they be? The current generation of smartphones have already been transformed nearly out of recognition from early models, such as Nokia's "candy-bar phones" of 2003.

The lion's share of the blame, and credit, no doubt goes to Apple and the iPhone. Even Apple's strongest critics generally acknowledge that its devices generally do indeed "just work." And whether or not basic look-and-feel should be patent-protected, the iPhone pretty much defined what a modern smartphone is like.

But short of another major tech revolution--such as, perhaps, Google Glass--it will be hard to improve on those overall features and functionality. Faster networks: sure. Higher screen resolution: why not? But the technology has matured. Change now is incremental and, indeed, a bit ho-hum.

And the Limits of Hype

The good news is that when it comes to "consumerization," IT managers at midsize firms can use a little ho-hum. The last thing they need is another revolution.

And the latest-generation mobile gadgets are not going to cause one. Like the mobile devices we have now, they are very well suited to their task--helping consumers to go online. They are computers optimized for simple tasks, and you can use them on the bus.

They are not optimized for the more complex demands of IT, such as running managing virtualized data centers or running high-horsepower business analytics solutions. For those tasks, IT will continue to use hardware and software designed for those tasks.

Which means that "consumerization" will be more limited and easier to handle.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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