With an array of handsets, carriers and development platforms to deal with, the mobile enterprise today is and will probably remain for the next two years extremely fragmented, which is industry jargon for: everyone in the workplace is using different phones/devices running different operating systems.
While developers may want to bet on a platform that best matches their organizations business goals, chances are theyll wind up having to eventually develop for several different mobile OSes.
Many firms are already coping with both BlackBerries and iPhones. Meanwhile, Android is starting to trickle in, and theres a huge legacy of old Windows Mobile phones that wont necessarily run Windows Phone 7, but could be replaced by it.
Still, most organizations dont have the resources to tackle everything at once, so you have to start somewhere. Developers can do their due diligence and choose a best platform, but its unlikely that all of their users will be on the same OS.
To muddy the waters even further, theres talk of how future mobile apps will all be Web-based and built on HTML 5, which will obviate this problem.
Its an optimistic argument that looks good on paper, but when you talk to developers theyll tell you that standardization only goes so far. For instance, different versions of Android already have different features sets built in (different things that pop up when you hit the menu key, for instance, or different ways to access the camera). While those little variations seem trivial, someone has to deal with them, and that someone is a developer.
If this seems, to quote Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again, you wont be the first person to see the parallels between early smartphone fights and the dawn of the PC era. In that long ago time developers had to juggle Apple, Commodore, IBM, Microsoft and a number of other proprietary platforms.
For those of you whove yet to pick sides, here are todays top mobile contenders.
comScore MobileLens statistics, 49.1 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in May 2010, up 8.1 percent from the corresponding February period.
Nielsen predicts that smartphones will surpass features phones in percentage sales by Q3 of 2011, representing 51 percent of the market, up from 27 percent in Q4 2009. Meanwhile, Apple boasts that it sold 3 million iPads in the first 80 days of general availability.
Call it a tablet, call it a super-duper e-book reader, call it a multimedia laptop minus the keyboard, call it what you will, but the iPad has more in common with its smartphone cousins than a laptop or desktop.
* May data does not include Apples launch of iPhone 4, which became available in June. However, according to Apple, it sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s in the first three days of availability (June24 through June 26).