Topics
Mobile Computing

Conclusions and Summary

Mobile computing is the fastest growing segment of today's enterprise computing environment. This change reflects many factors including the growing role and influence of social media in our society, the availability of a pervasive communications infrastructure, the availability of inexpensive portable computing devices, and the evolution of user interfaces and applications for mobile devices. Together these factors result in motivations for users to stay connected as they move around their business and personal environments.

Today's mobile computing products include an operating system hosting installable applications, a file system, wireless communications, and a graphical user interface. Our discussion includes the big three product families: Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and RIM's Blackberry.

Key points include:

  • Mobile computing is being adapted by users at a faster pace than desktop computing and will comprise a bigger factor in the workplace.
  • Four trends are converging and are driving the adaptation of mobile computing: wireless networking, converged networks (data, voice, and video), social media, and compelling mobile devices.
  • Apple is leading the trends in mobile innovation and its impact has resulted in the depth of applications, expectations for the user experience, and pricing models.
  • Game-changing communications platforms (social media and mobile computing) are emerging very rapidly.
  • Many of the capabilities associated with today's mobile computing environment are enabled by the back-end servers hosted in Internet-based data centers. These servers are capable of storing and processing the massive data stores that are required by their applications.

Assessment

In mobile computing today, no single mobile computing platform is as dominate as IBM was in the era of the mainframe, DEC in the era of the minicomputer, and Microsoft in desktop computing. In mobile computing Apple is the thought leader, providing hardware, iOS operating system and software for users to acquire Internet-based entertainment and applications. There are other players who maintain share in certain areas (e.g. Google's Android and the RIM's RTOS in the Blackberry). In today's very competitive marketplace only time will tell whether the next stage of mobile computing will develop in a fragmented, open way or with closed platforms as in the prior mainframe, minicomputer, and PC eras. This tutorial provides an introduction to these platforms.

The high-level of competition among vendors of mobile computing products has resulted in many attractive choices for businesses and consumers. In selecting among these platforms, there are many factors to consider in addition to price, including their comparative strengths and weaknesses. These are captured in the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Analysis (SWOT) analyses.

iOS Assessment

Apple's iOS operating system for its mobile computing devices, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch has delivered a high-quality user experience because the system is bundled with great precision and elegant applications. The well-defined interface brings consistency to the user and is meticulously tested for the users who expect a flawless product.

Strengths The consistent, clean and intuitive user interface is a major factor in the appeal of iOS devices.
Apple's integrated hardware, software, app stores, back-end server infrastructure, distribution and support system provides a predictable user experience.
iOS has excellent backward and forward compatibility and excellent upgradability.
Large and growing selection of applications, tested, qualified, and distributed by Apple.
Synchronization of mobile device with Apple's iCoud and the user's computer includes backup and restore.
Weaknesses Apple's devices are highly dependent on Apple's Internet-based servers and systems. Their architecture complicates the use of these devices on a closed network.
Developing, qualifying, and distributing applications on closed infrastructures requires modifying Apple's system.
iOS does not support outdated technologies such as Flash that do not meet Apple's standards.
iOS is only available for Apple's mobile devices.
Opportunities Apple's Apps Store application server model integrates with iTunes to provide the user with an easy way to manage and synchronize applications and data as well as support backup and restoration.
Apple's certification and rigid control over applications ensures the quality of the products that are distributed on the App Store.
The iTunes App Store acts as a certificate authority to sign the app, assuring its authenticity and integrity.
Threat The strong integration of Apple mobile devices with Apple's back-end infrastructure limits their capabilities on closed infrastructures.
Many of the most powerful capabilities are enabled by the back-end servers rather than by the mobile devices and will be lost on closed networks.
The development environment is tied to Apple's Internet-based infrastructure and processes, complicating the development and distribution of applications in closed networks.

Android Assessment

The Android OS Architecture is attractive to developers because of its open system architecture, open availability to third party devices, and open application development framework.

Strengths Developers have full access to the same framework APIs used by the core applications. The application architecture is designed to simplify the reuse of components; any application can publish its capabilities and any other application may then make use of those capabilities.
Android has a powerful set of hardware platforms and the full backing of a Google who continues to progressing and developing on the most open platform.
Android shares many of the security frameworks of Linux in addition to its own.
There are no restrictions on Android applications.
There are no restrictions on Android devices.
Device manufacturers are free to support any wireless carrier, Google does not restrict this.
Weaknesses The Android system is less intuitive than Apple's iOS and requires users to learn its functions. The Android system is fragmented into multiple releases with poor backward or forward compatibility, and poor upgradability.
Opportunities Android provides developers with an open environment to tailor mobile devices to mission requirements.
NSA has developed and released Security Enhancements for Android.
Threat The open Android application environment lacks systematic control to catch viruses and malicious software before they reach the distribution channels.

RIM Blackberry Assessment

RIM's (Research in Motion) BlackBerry system has been a long-term leader for synchronized messaging and communications popular in business and Government.

Strengths The Blackberry architecture incorporates security everywhere from the device to the enterprise servers.
Blackberry solutions fulfill the OMB's Memorandum M-06-16, Protection of Sensitive Agency Information and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12, (HSPD-12)
The Blackberry design includes full system backup, recover, and upgrade capabilities.
Blackberry devices include a large set of features applicable to business activities.
Weaknesses The main advantages of the Blackberry are associated with its enterprise integration. These provide little benefit to users separated from this enterprise.
Opportunities Blackberry Applications are optimized for the specific needs of business users.
Threat The total dependence of Blackberry devices on their back-end server infrastructures has been spotlighted by several failures of these infrastructures.

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