About 10 years ago I was working for a company that had a product that, given a WSDL interface specification could generate a simple J2ME client to test it. On a hunch, I expensed a Nextel/Motorola handset, registered with the Motorola developer network and downloaded the WSDL for a service on the open internet. You gave it a zip code and got back the temperature at that location. With a bit of hacking, I loaded a J2ME client on the phone, entered my zip code, and waited, and waited, and about decided it didn’t work when the 5-line amber screen displayed “52”. It worked! We demoed this mobile client application at JavaOne that year with the admonition, “this is a new computing platform, take note.” But it was very early. The CPUs were way slow, memory measured in K, small monochrome text-only screens, short battery life and laughable bandwidth.
Fast forward 10 years. We have 2-core CPU mobile devices that run Linux (some can make phone calls), gigabit memories, hi-res color screens, batteries with enough juice to last all day and access to ubiquitous high-speed networks. The vendor strategies for these platforms are familiar: the manicured, walled-gardens of Apple (no surprise) and Microsoft(!) facing off with the wild and open Android and RIM platforms – newcomers that welcome all apps, caveat downloader.
Enterprise IT departments are scrambling to support these new platforms. They first try to limit support to one vendor/model. This effort is short-lived because users soon demand other platforms. In fact, they want to use their personal devices to do their jobs. Users like mobile applications more than browsers. Their internal application development departments are starting to deliver apps for these mobile clients.
This “App Internet” (Forrester term) is quickly supplanting the thin-client Web architecture on mobile devices. Suddenly, the Client is the thing again, augmented by (but not always needing) the Server to enable employees to do their jobs with a rich user experience, anywhere.
Do Enterprise IT departments need a single management platform to Provision, Configure, Monitor and Operate these heterogeneous mobile client platforms along with other IT environments? Absolutely. But with mobility, there’s much more emphasis on managing Apps, and less on managing platforms.