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Briefcase road warriors are on the rise. One of them is Amanpreet Raheja, a corporate lawyer who is on the go 3-4 days a week.
His gratitude towards smart mobile devices is quite visible when he says, "The wisest business people combine personal meetings with the latest technology, and a smart mobile phone is the most affordable way to facilitate constant connection with your clients."
For executives like Raheja, a converged mobile device has morphed into mini-computers that serve as digital day-timers, address books, note takers, web surfers, e-mail readers and digital cameras.
Just five years ago, Blackberry was more or less a geek organiser or a strictly-for-work gadget, far too expensive and nerdy to be used by mere mortals. Today, Blackberry is the new Kleenex, the generic name people give to any personal digital assistant, or PDA.
Nokia, Treo, O2, Dopod, Motorola, iMate and others have usurped Blackberry from its numero uno throne, while cute devices like the Motorola Ming have made owning a PDA-like phone hip.
As these little portable computer phones get Paris Hilton endorsements, it's safe to say that their bigger cousin, the laptop, is going the way of the dinosaurs.
With multimedia phone makers like Nokia and Motorola taking a cold, hard look at the kinds of devices they were dishing out for enterprise customers, the devices have now been augmented with MP3 players, cameras, video, radio and other multimedia features.
"The indisputable conclusion is that the corporate users are taking to multimedia features along with business-specific functions (like push email, calendar), and all of this is happening at considerably lower price points," says Ajay Sharma, regional sales manager, Dopod India.
New enterprise-ready devices reflecting this shift include Motorola's Q, Treo 680, HP's iPAQ 6500 line and Nokia's E-series.
"Traditionally, it was the executive class playing with the Blackberry and its like, which was probably not the most adaptable or cheapest email device to be pushed on to the middle management where it is actually needed," says Sharma.
According to Canalys's latest worldwide smart mobile device report, the global shipments of all smart mobile devices rose 30 per cent year-on-year, which means consumers bought a total of 64 million smartphones in 2006.
Canalys's market estimates show that Nokia, Research in Motion, and Motorola emerged as the leading vendors in smart mobile devices in Q4 2006. The world's biggest handset maker, Nokia, has certainly been planning for this moment. Nokia devices are targeted at multiple levels across the corporation.
The trio of "E-series" devices - the first fruit of a two-year effort by Nokia's Enterprise Solutions group - may in some cases lack megapixel imaging and an MP3 player but they have been built with specific corporate appeal.
All are designed to provide mobile email; they support fixed/mobile convergence by marrying the mobile to the corporate PBX, enabling users to leverage a single device inside and outside the office, and they boast integrated security and manageability, enabling IT administrators to use centralised systems management tools, such as IBM's Tivoli, to remotely configure devices based on the user's role or to lock or wipe a device in the field that has been lost or stolen. All this fits snugly in a price range that has business phones at as low as Rs 11,000.
Industry analysts speculate that the average employee spends one to two hours everyday away from his desk or one to three hours per week away from the office.
Analysts at Gartner suggest that by 2008, 100-200 million of the world's 650 million mobile phones will have mobile email. No marks for guessing that email remains the top application for most business phone vendors like O2, Treo, Blackberry, Dopod and iMate. Myilravanan Nathar, country manager (sales), O2 India, claims that the company will be launching "applications that stretch a phone's capability beyond email.
For instance, on calendar synchronisation, or the recording of time spent with clients for lawyers and other professional groups".
Another service that vendors like Blackberry and Nokia have been crucial in convincing corporates to manage mobiles is the ability to lock lost or stolen devices.
Security patches and virus updates can be downloaded "over the air" (like in Nokia's E-Series phones or Blackberry line-up) making life simpler for executives and their IT departments.
Nathar sums up the necessity of a converged mobile device, "Why wouldn't a professional want a touchscreen phone that is fast enough to offer web browsing, yet simple enough that one would prefer typing a mail instead of an SMS?"
In a physical sense, the market is full with phones that have QWERTY keyboards, scaled down Intel processors and is packed to the brim with software that allows users to read and write Microsoft Office documents, sync mail boxes with official servers, and carry work in a size that is far more comfortable than lugging a laptop around.
To top it all, between the price range of Rs 22,000-27,000, one can get phones that are as close and competent as a personal computer.
In short, if businesses are looking at a no-wires, no-worries gadget for their employees, then they should be squinting at a consummate mobile contraption.
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