CIOs have spent billions Web-enabling enterprise systems in order to facilitate and reap the benefits of B2B e-commerce. While they anxiously await a return on those investments, they may not realize that they already have -- clutched in their hot little hands, stuffed in their starched pockets or hanging from their leather belts -- a killer app that will help them recoup those megabuck investments. Know what it is?
It's a handheld computer.
Thanks to 2.5G voice data transports, which are turning cellular networks into voice data networks and which will provide a continuous, uninterrupted wireless connection, companies will finally be able to use wireless PDAs to access corporate information. "Everyone's wanted to do that for a long time," says Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion, the Waterloo, Ontario-based manufacturer of RIM and BlackBerry devices. "There's now a way to do that."
New product offerings and upgrades targeted for the enterprise market from Good Technology, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Palm and Research in Motion are expected in 2003. An upgrade of a high-end version of HP's iPAQ will be able to connect with mobile networks, starting with general packet radio service, a wireless standard. Palm, which last September unveiled its Tungsten Mobile Information Management Solution that lets users access their e-mail on their Palm i705 and m500 devices, is working with IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. on new versions of WebSphere and WebLogic applications for its operating system, due for release in 2003. Microsoft is developing Portrait, an application that enables users to hold two-way, full-color video conferences on their PDAs.
For an example of a company using PDAs to make IT workers more responsive and salespeople more effective, there's Electronic Arts. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based video game developer is replacing technology from RIM with hardware and software from Good Technology.
If a router fails on Electronic Arts' website, for example, engineers receive on their Good G100 devices (which never have to be placed in a cradle to sync) an alert from the operations center with an attachment listing various actions they can take to correct the problem, says Marc West, Electronic Arts' senior vice president and CIO. In the past, after receiving notice of a problem on their RIM devices, engineers had to call or e-mail the operations center to find out what was wrong and what to do about it.
Electronic Arts is also testing Good Technology's data retrieval service, which the sales force will soon be able to use to place orders and access customer data.
In addition to RIM devices, the G100s are starting to replace laptops at Electronic Arts. West, for example, no longer takes his laptop home at night. And the more laptops West can replace with G100s, the more money he has for new technology.
"Take out 10 laptops and you pay for the basic infrastructure. Take out another three and you pay for the average monthly fee," West says. He advises CIOs interested in wireless PDAs to make a list of those employees with ISP connections, AT&T Global accounts and dial-up remote access services at home -- ongoing expenses for the company. Then, "the next person that asks [you] for a laptop, ask them what they're using it for. If they're just using it for e-mail, give them one of these devices instead," he adds.