Mobile Cloud Computing: Is Your Phone Drifting to the Cloud?: Page 2

Posted October 2, 2009

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

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OpenHealth is using Rhodes to build a cross-platform mobile solution for SugarCRM. SugarCRM already has built-in iPhone and Blackberry compatibility, but that’s it. Hall also notes that the mobile components of SugarCRM lack critical features even for the handsets it does support.

Using Rhodes, OpenHealth “will take advantage of Sugar’s cloud approach using a standard means of connecting in to any client instance. It will operate off-line and provide synchronization services when required.” The entire backend service will be hosted in the cloud and can be accessed as a pay-as-you-go service.

Returning to Consumers. . .

Smaller, tech-aggressive companies like OpenHealth aside, the mobile cloud today is still a consumer play. The iPhone is the clearest example, but another case in point is Wikipedia. Wikipedia used Rhomobile’s Rhodes to build a Wikipedia mobile app for the iPhone App Store. They plan on porting it to Android soon, as well.

Application provider Zoho is also taking a mobile cloud approach that, while it aspires to attract enterprise customers, is currently a consumer offering.

Zoho Mobile offers mobile, cloud-based versions of calendars, email, document sharing and a few other productivity apps. For most people, these are work apps, but it is the individual who, according to Zoho’s “Evangelist” Raju Vegesna, is purchasing Zoho Mobile.

Even more consumer-centric is INQ Mobile. A subsidiary of conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, INQ Mobile is developing an inexpensive mobile handset that could well be dubbed the first social-networking smartphone.

The device comes pre-loaded with such popular social-networking applications as Facebook, Skype and Windows Live Messenger. Twitter will be added soon.

According to Beccue, the INQ phone “presents a model for pushing communications-focused mobile-cloud applications into the mass market.” The mobile versions of the apps are developed on Qualcomm’s BREW. “[The social-networking applications] are deeply integrated into the core phone applications – integrating the partner application contacts into the phone’s list, enabling a user to snap a photo and post it instantly to Facebook, inbox-message integration, and more,” Beccue said. “But to keep the price of the mobile device inexpensive, the phone can handle only a few applications.”

Is it a feature phone? Is it a smartphone? It doesn’t fit neatly into either category, but it is certainly a mobile-cloud phone.

As of now, INQ phones are available only in Hutchison Telecom’s networks in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Hong Kong and Australia, but more countries will be added soon.

Larger handset manufacturers also see the potential of tight integration with social-networking applications. For instance, Samsung’s Reclaim handset offers one-click access to Facebook.

Another Headache for IT

From an IT perspective, the mobile cloud poses just as many risks as benefits. Data leaks, mobile porn, IP theft and lost productivity could all result from unfettered mobile cloud access.

On the other hand, a boost in productivity, extra convenience and increased customer responsiveness will all be early stage benefits.

It’s really not unlike when the Internet itself first entered the enterprise except for one key difference: most enterprises do not own or even subsidize smartphones. Thus, there’s little they can do to monitor or control them.

Enterprises didn’t own many of the early Internet connections either, of course, but they weren’t trying to squeeze productivity out of it. Even if enterprises do purchase handsets for their workers, people will balk at too much corporate control.

The mobile phone is a highly personal object. Enterprises have to tread lightly. If they exercise too much control, consumers will just use their own devices. If they hide their heads in the sand and hope nothing bad happens, unfettered mobile cloud access will cause problems.

It’s a dicey issue with no easy answers. This should worry IT pros, because they’re the ones who will be asked to provide answers, easy or not.

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Tags: cloud computing, middleware, iPhone, smartphones

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