Mobile World Congress is always the best place to see cool new technologies and innovations and we saw plenty of those: smartphones, mini tablets, full sized tablets and more. We’ve made our own list of exciting enterprise takeaways that include:
- Convergence of Android
- BYOD Enablers
- NFC Explosion
- Meet the Firefox OS
Takeaway #1: The Convergence of Android
Google, Apple, BlackBerry and Microsoft did not have a dedicated booth, so naturally it reduced the chances to see the new BlackBerry 10 in action or learn something we didn’t know about the new iDevice. This left the stage completely naked for Android handset manufacturers to shine: from Samsung (Note 8.0) to HTC (new One), LG all the way to ZTE, Sony, and other giants, all presenting Android based smartphones and tablets.
Last year, Android 4 was already available and yet many devices were running Android 2.3. This year it was interesting to see a big change in that area: almost all the devices look the same, weigh the same, feel the same, and run a very similar version of Android (4.1 or 4.2 with minimal customizations).
Android is finally getting stable. And this is great news to any IT manager out there afraid of fragmentation and BYOD.
Previously, Android handset manufacturers looked for ways to shine. The trivial way was to customize the shell, change the look and feel, icons, gestures, etc. but it had a serious cost: whenever a new version of Android was released, companies found themselves struggling to upgrade their customized code as quickly as possible to remain attractive. In the case of early Sony Xperia, it took over a year! The users got frustrated and the heavily customized devices were known as bad ones.
Many users eventually got rid of those customizations (try searching the term: “how do I get rid of HTC Sense UI?” and see for yourself) in favor of some GooglePlay alternatives, typically coming from software companies specializing in usability.
Today it seems like companies have learned from this experience.
Android’s usability is far better than it was two years ago so the need to customize the UI is much lower.
In addition, companies like HTC, LG and Samsung started focusing on the content and the apps experience: building special applications to turn their devices into powerhouses. It makes more sense and gives a special flavor to those devices.
To us, it looks like a good direction with only one trade off: suddenly all Android devices feel the same and look identical.
Takeaway #2: BYOD Enablers
As BYOD is fast becoming not just a buzz word but an actual reality in the enterprise world, new security concerns are changing the method of operation for enterprise IT departments. This is where a new generation of safety solutions emerge, addressing the needs of the new mobile enterprise without invading the privacy of the employees.
One such solution was introduced this year at MWC by Samsung – the Samsung Knox security system.
Knox is a system that divides the employee’s device into two distinct containers – a personal container used for private apps and content, and a company-controlled secured container. The separation between the two containers is complete, and the user can easily switch between them. The main benefit for the enterprise is the ability to have full control over which apps the user can install (placing approved apps on the company’s AppStore), and the content that is saved there, including data encryption, secured file sharing, remote device management and more. This solution from Samsung joins previously announced solutions such as the BlackBerry Balance technology and VMWare’s Horizon Mobile for Android devices. In a similar way, these solutions are designed to provide separation between work and personal environments on the same device, whether company-issued or privately-owned.
It is becoming evident that such work & play solutions, as Samsung defines it, are just starting out and will soon become a leading option for IT departments interested in providing their employees with both privacy and full work connectivity.
Takeaway #3: NFC Explosion
Although not a new technology, it seems like NFC (Near-Field Communications) was everywhere this year at the show. The technology is starting to gain traction and expected to grow significantly in the next couple of years to reach almost two billion devices by 2017 (according to ABI Research).
NFC was at the front of the MWC, with a full NFC experience for the show itself (NFC tag scanners, access checks, experience zones, smart posters and more), demonstrating just a few of the uses this technology has to offer and how easy it is to use.
In the exhibition halls, many companies were presenting NFC-based solutions for a variety of uses, such as smart stickers that can be programmed to trigger a set of actions on your phone when placed next to the sticker, dynamic NFC screens that are operated from your mobile, wireless car charging cradles with NFC capabilities and more. But the most interesting implementation was the use of NFC for mobile payments, led by the newly announced Samsung and Visa partnership. Users of the Visa credit card will now be able to make payments via their Samsung smartphones, fitted with an NFC chip and running the Visa PayWave app.
As our purchasing experience is becoming much more intertwined with our mobile experience, consumers are expecting the service providers to provide easy solutions for mobile payments, and this year it seems that NFC is coming of age.
Takeaway #4: Meet the Firefox OS
With Apple and Blackberry not participating in MWC, Windows Phone being pushed only by Nokia (our favorite booth of them all!), and Ubuntu for Phones light years away, there was very little competition for Android and Windows 8 this year.
Except for one cool, refreshing, fascinating animal called Fox.
Mozilla Firefox OS made a brilliant performance this year with some cool phones by ZTE running the new HTML5 based operating system.
Why are we excited about Firefox OS? Well, first of all because we like innovation and new technologies. Secondly, we adore HTML5, we believe in it, and we think having alternatives to Android and iOS is important.
Devices for developers are already available, and consumer devices will appear later this year. As a company who believes in HTML5 and the mobile web, it’s interesting to see the progress from last year’s event and how the guys from Mozilla have managed to deliver on their promises. We are keeping our fingers crossed for Firefox OS.