Ask and ye shall receive

Ken Dulaney, Gartner VP distinguished analyst and general mobile device guru, told the crowd at the Gartner Mobile & Wireless Summit today that he still can’t recommend businesses adopt the iPhone — even with an SDK. Dulaney said that he recently wrote Apple a letter in which he outlined several things Apple would need to do with the iPhone before Gartner could change its mind about it. The directives included:
– Permit the device to be wiped remotely if lost or stolen
– Require strong passwords
– Stop using iTunes for syncing with a computer
– Implement full over-the-air sync for calendar and PIM

Jason Hiner, TechRepublic March 5th, 2008

On the same day Dulaney said this in Chicago, Phil Schiller of Apple was holding a news conference in Santa Clara granting some of these wishes, and many more:

  • Microsoft Exchange support with built-in ActiveSync.
  • Push email
  • Push calendar
  • Push contacts
  • Global address lists
  • Additional VPN types, including Cisco IPsec VPN
  • Two-factor authentication, certificates and identities
  • Enterprise-class Wi-Fi, with WPA2/802.1x
  • Tools to enforce security policies
  • Tools to help configure thousands of iPhones and set them up automatically
  • Remote device wiping

At the news conference Apple wheeled out several corporate endorsers: Genentech, Stanford University, Nike and Disney.

At first blush, the new enterprise-oriented capabilities of the iPhone appear to be an IT manager’s dream come true (though it will be a while before the dream is a reality.) Even this contrarian post concedes that it will make the iPhone more competitive with the Blackberry, while faulting Apple for not having a comprehensive enterprise strategy.

Apple is clearly serious about the enterprise smartphone market, and this strategy is sound. The business market supports price points that easily accommodate the iPhone, and this strategy spills over to the business PC market in two ways: today by acting as a door-opener for Mac sales, tomorrow by evolving the iPhone into a PC replacement for many users.

iPhone 3G, SDK, enterprise orientation

UBS thinks that the 3G iPhone will be released mid-year. iLounge reports that the much-anticipated iPhone SDK will be delivered in June, at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. A beta version will be released at an announcement event on March 6th.

There are several reports that Apple intends to target business users with the iPhone, competing with Blackberries, Nokia’s Eseries and Windows Mobile devices. Since the SDK reportedly will expose interfaces to the phone and Wi-Fi, developers of Wi-Fi soft-phones and enterprise Fixed-Mobile Convergence systems will presumably add iPhone support to their existing Symbian and Windows-supporting products. It remains to be seen how easy it will be for developers to actually get their software “officially” onto the iPhone. Apple can choose their degree of open-ness from a variety of options discussed here.

For Apple to aim at the business market makes a lot of sense. With the successful transition to Intel processors Macs already run Windows natively, and iPhones are supposedly making inroads among executives. According to ChangeWave, summarized here, the iPhone has a 5% share of corporate smartphones already, with astronomical ratings for satisfaction.

To make enterprise IT departments happy, though, Apple will have to make the iPhone more manageable; either by building in OMA DM like Nokia with the Eseries, or by letting third parties develop enterprise manageability clients using the iPhone SDK.

Competitors aren’t sitting still for this. The October 2007 announcement of “Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager” was a step forward for Windows Mobile in the enterprise. Microsoft is also leaking stories about how when Windows Mobile 7 is released in 2009 it is going to be more of a pleasure to use than the iPhone. It is conceivable, I suppose, but Microsoft’s track record on usability is pretty consistent. The fundamental part that they invariably seem to get wrong is instant response to user input.

Low power 802.11n sampling from Redpine

Redpine Signals has announced that it is sampling a low power 802.11n chip suitable for cell phones. A reference design was certified in January, making it the first handset-grade 802.11n chip to market.

One of the major benefits of 802.11n is MIMO, so you might think that since a handset is unlikely to have multiple antennas, 802.11n isn’t going to help much. Actually, it will make an enormous difference in reliability and range, and consequently throughput. I wrote before about the array of improvements incorporated in 11n. The one of greatest interest in this context is Space-Time Block Coding (STBC).

The WFA website shows 90 Access Points (APs) certified for 802.11n, but STBC is optional in 11n, not mandatory, and not all the AP chipsets support it. The main makers of AP chipsets are Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell. None of these have mentioned STBC until recently. But now Broadcom says it is in the BCM4322, which is set to ship in the first quarter of 2008, and Marvell says it is in the TopDog 11n-450, which is scheduled to ship in 2Q 2008.

This Techworld article has a good discussion of the current state of enterprise 11n access points, noting that multi-radio APs are currently too power-hungry to be powered over Ethernet (PoE).

Tango FMC for enterprises

Tango Networks was founded in 2005 and fully funded by February of 2007. It is one of several startups addressing the enterprise FMC market, integrating with the corporate PBX, but it claims a unique twist in that it also integrates closely with service provider infrastructure.

Tango has a box plugged into the MNO’s call control infrastructure talking directly to another Tango box that plugs into the corporate PBX. These boxes are named Abrazo-C (carrier) and Abrazo-E (enterprise). Abrazo is the Spanish for embrace, reinforcing the concept of the carrier side and the enterprise side being tightly connected. This balanced architecture enables Tango to offer a rich feature set while maintaining versatile.

One of the aspects of this versatility is that they aren’t fixated on dual mode phones. Tango works with any cell phone, and hands off between the corporate desk phone and the cell phone in response to the user punching in a star code on their phone keypad. This method of input also gives the user complete access to all the features of the corporate PBX over the cellular network. But Tango acknowledges that star codes are not the most user friendly of interfaces, so they do provide an “ultra thin client” for those phones that support third party software.

Requiring a box in the carrier network helps with things like caller ID manipulation and number translation (like 4 digit dialing to PBX extensions from your cell phone). On the other hand it limits Tango’s ability to sell directly to enterprises. The primary customer for all sales has to be a carrier. Marketing efforts directed to end users serve only to provide pull through.

Offering a box on the enterprise premises addresses the major concern of businesses evaluating VCC and other carrier centric FMC solutions: businesses don’t want to lose control of their voice network. By leaving the enterprise side of the system under the control of the corporate IT department, Tango resembles the PBX model of business voice more closely than the never popular Centrex model.

Intel’s Primary Wireless Campus

Intel published a white paper last year about a trial deployment of 802.11a as a replacement for wired Ethernet at a 5,000 person campus. The results were lower costs and happier workers. This was just for PC connectivity. The dual-mode phone phase of the deployment is still to come.

There are several interesting findings in the white paper. First, while the latency of the network increased somewhat, the difference was imperceptible to the users. Second, Intel chose to abandon the VPN, relying on 802.11i for security. This made joining the network faster and easier.

The decision to use 802.11a was presumably for the greater capacity (more non-interfering channels than 11g), and for the cleaner spectrum. 802.11n is superior to 802.11a in capacity and rate at range. This means that what was doable with 11a will be even easier with 11n.

IT spending on wireless services to outstrip wireline by 2010

Instat published a report today, predicting that corporate spending on wireless voice and data services will outstrip spending on wireline services by 2010. The report is pitched at service providers, pointing out that corporate users are more profitable. Of course some service providers, like Sotto, already pin their strategy on this. The report also encourages corporations to unify their wireless spending, rather than have employees get their service piecemeal and expense it. I wrote about this in an earlier posting.

As cell phones get smarter and as they get more tightly bound into corporate networks, security becomes a major concern. This is the subject of two stories in today’s Wall Street Journal. The first tells how the iPhone is precipitating a standoff between IT managers who don’t want it on their networks, and users who want to use it as a corporate email client. The second explains how iPods, iPhones and any device with storage and a USB connector constitute network security threats.

My May column in Internet Telephony Magazine is about the Jericho Forum, which proposes a radical solution to the security concerns of the wireless enterprise.


Today’s Wall Street Journal has a good article about T-Mobile’s UMA trial in Seattle. It says that T-Mobile may be rolling it out nationally as early as next month, despite some trial particpants’ complaints about handoff and battery life issues. T-Mobile will be offering a home router to help with QoS and battery life. I presume that for the battery life this is just WMM Power Save (802.11e APSD) since that is what the phones in the trial (Samsung T709 and Nokia 6136) support. For QoS side I expect these APs will support WMM (802.11e EDCF), but they could also support some proprietary QoS on the WAN access link, the way that the AT&T CallVantage routers do, which would be interesting.

There is some background on the trial here.

The article goes on to put the trial into the context of other FMC deployments, from BT Fusion, Telecom Italia and Orange. The article quotes a Verizon Wireless spokesman saying that they aren’t convinced that Wi-Fi can deliver high enough voice quality to carry Verizon branded calls. This is amusing bearing in mind the usual quality of a cellular call in a residence.

The article also quotes Frank Hanzlik, the head of the Wi-Fi Alliance as saying that business FMC may have more potential than consumer. I agree.

DiVitas and enterprise-controlled FMC

Still at VoiceCon, there was a great presentation in a FMC panel by Vivek Khuller of DiVitas Networks. DiVitas has just released a product that rebuts the idea that cellular/Wi-Fi roaming requires participation by a Mobile Network Operator. Cellular companies get the vast bulk of their revenues from consumers, (though business users are more profitable) and have not been motivated to tailor their services to businesses. This offering from DiVitas, and MVNO efforts like Sotto address a gaping need in the market.

Vivek prefaced his presentation by enumerating three big-picture observations.

First, the current crop of FMC devices is actually the second generation – we just didn’t recognize the first generation, which is mobile computers. They are converged devices because they have multiple network connections: POTS (built-in modem), Ethernet, Wi-Fi and possibly a WWAN card from Verizon or Sprint or whoever. Of course the truth of this observation depends on your definition of FMC, but it illuminates the roots of DiVitas’s strategy.

Second, when you start a job at a new company, they give you two things, a phone and a computer. They get both of them through the same type of channel, which is not a service provider.

Third, Skype came out of the blue from the service provider perspective; none of their founders had any voice service provider experience, but Skype is now the biggest voice service provider in the world in subscriber count.

He then launched into his presentation, pointing out that cellular penetration in the consumer space is about 75%, while in the enterprise space it’s only 20%, even though 75% of workers consider mobility “critical” or “important,” and the chances of finding a person at their desk are less than 30%.

He gave the reasons for the lack of penetration of cell phones in the enterprise as cost, control and complexity. On the cost front, he showed us his corporate phone bills – $14K for mobile and $1.4K for wireline. He acknowledged that a lot of his cellular use was lab testing, but felt that the point was still valid – cellular service is actually roughly 10x as expensive as wireline.

On the control front he pointed out that 80% of corporations use a PBX rather than Centrex, and he felt the primary reason was control issues.

On complexity, he pointed out that current solutions require multiple devices and servers – he might easily have added that they also require multiple MNO relationships for companies with international presence.

He went on to identify three major forces of change in the enterprise mobility market that are related to these barriers: first, the massive uptake of Wi-Fi, which reduces costs and increases control; second, the advent of SIP, which together with the availability of a lot of high quality open source code, lowers barriers to entry by leveraging engineering resources and increasing control. Third, the increasing potency of cell phones, with more processing power and connectivity, which he sees as reducing complexity and cost of the overall solution.

He ended up claiming an ROI for his enterprise-based FMC solution of 6 months, which may be hyperbolic, but would remain impressive even if far longer.