As of April 3rd, 2017, the world has officially moved on: Android is now more widely used than Windows for online searches*¹. The battle is not over yet, as Microsoft still leads the desktop market for internet usage, but the question remains – for how long? How much longer will desktop computers remain relevant in this battle?
There are multiple reasons propelling this trend including the rise of the smartphone, the increasing rate at which mobile devices are being used to connect to the Internet, as well as the decline in PC sales; altogether obvious signs ways of using and accessing technology has well and truly changed, where users are naturally more driven to their mobile devices than their desktop computers for many daily activities.
With over 4.5 billion mobile phone users on the planet in 2017 and steady growth forecast through to 2019*², mobility needs are changing by the day.
This evolution in user habit is directly driven by the consumer market, with individuals using their mobile devices throughout the day for almost every reason they can find, and younger generations now stare wide-eyed at the suggestion of using a desktop computer to help complete their homework.
The business world, however, is still lagging behind when it comes to mobile device integration. We all check our email on our mobile phones without thinking twice about it, so why do we not use them naturally to create our quotes, review our monthly reports, support our customers, or manage our inventory? Certainly not because there is no technical solution, but because these technical solutions are limiting, to a point where we don’t bother trying. As a result, companies are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to increase productivity.
While the battle around device usage is still raging and bound to last many more years, the question for organisations is never simply “How do I enable mobility?”, but rather “How do I allow mobile access to my running environment, and how do I keep this cost-effective?”. In most cases, mobility is only a benefit for a subset of users (usually including management), so it’s understandable so few companies are interested in changing everything, for the sake of a limited number of users. It adds a new requirement to an already complex environment, that’s unlikely to change overnight.
The question for organisations is never simply “How do I enable mobility?”, but rather “How do I allow mobile access to my running environment, and how do I keep this cost-effective?”
At the end of the day, the problem remains the same as before: allowing users to work when they are not at their desk. The huge gap between old-world (Windows PCs) and new world (mobile devices) is compounding the issue of connectivity and remotely accessing corporate data.
The reasons behind this gap? Compatibility, and ultimately, the lack of capabilities offered by old-school VPNs.
A few years back, when all users had Windows PCs in the office and at home, allowing remote work was simple: find a nice VPN solution and enable remote access. Problem solved. As a matter of course, users would carry their laptops or wait until they got home to connect to the office.
All thanks to mobile devices, access is no longer that simple.
Mobile devices work very differently from desktop PCs, subsequently intensifying software compatibility as the main hurdle. Software solutions are now split into three categories:
- Standardised software with simple standard APIs.
Many systems are common across organisations; email and calendar access being two pertinent examples. Every company uses email, and email uses very standard protocols. As a result, integration with mobile devices is simple and has been around since day one, and explains why email and calendar have such a high mobile adoption rate. Unfortunately, email and calendar are only a small portion of the solutions we use daily at work.
- Legacy software.
These easily represent the majority of core business software running in companies, particularly within large organisations. 30 years of development driven by the desktop market has tied legacy software to specific environments (often Windows-based, however many banking systems still rely on mainframes), usually requiring specific infrastructure to work. Compatibility with third-party systems such as mobile devices is at best, limited. Large software providers work hard to enable mobile connectivity to their system, however this is a very complex, costly, and risky change. The bigger the product, the harder connectivity becomes, and in those cases where there is a breakthrough, we often hear users complaining that the mobile interface does not do enough for what they need, is too different from the standard interface, or simply does not work.
- New software.
Thousands of new vendors are entering the mix to build specific applications that will work on both mobile devices and desktops. These solutions, often cloud-based and using the SaaS model, can be very attractive for new organisations who do not have historical data and established ways of working – but for those with fixed processes and security controls, changing software provider requires due diligence: a migration project, confirmation the new software is fit for purpose, organising user re-training, etc. The question switches from “How do I increase my productivity” to “Is this new solution able to do what I need? Is it worth changing, when only some users would really benefit from mobility?”. A far more difficult question to answer…
The reality is, many companies are stuck in the middle. They have well-established software, but mobility is not a strong driving factor to warrant migration to a brand new solution.
As a result, established organisations face a dilemma: aside from basic email access, how easily can I enable users to work their way with my environment?
Find more information on this by reading our next post – “Why user VPNs are killing your company’s productivity and putting your data at risk”.
*¹ StatCounter, April 2017 Android overtakes Windows for first time http://gs.statcounter.com/press/android-overtakes-windows-for-first-time
*² Statista, Jan 2016 Mobile phone users worldwide 2013-2019 https://www.statista.com/statistics/274774/forecast-of-mobile-phone-users-worldwide