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Smartphones for the Enterprise a Work in Progress

SAN FRANCISCO -- What are the best smartphones for the enterprise? Several leading vendors made their cases here at the one-day Smartphone Summit Monday ahead of the big CTIA conference.

Not in the room was Apple's iPhone, but given its high profile, several execs on the panel discussed its impact.

"We think the iPhone is a great innovation because it allows folks to really understand a mobile phone can do more than voice," said Nicole Buchanan, vice president of the Americas for i-Mate.

Buchanan also gave Apple credit for showing "people will pay for value. But it really doesn't compete with what we're doing with the ability to run applications remotely."

i-Mate's line of Ultimate Windows Mobile smartphones comes in different form factors and includes 3G connectivity and XGA direct video, which lets you, for example, run PowerPoint from the device onto a big screen.

Sony Ericsson's head of content planning, Ulf Wretling, said the iPhone is raising interest in touch-screen interfaces, but noted his company has been offering them for almost 10 years.

Sony Ericsson P1i
Sony Ericsson P1i
Source: Sony Ericsson

Wretling said one of Sony Ericsson's latest devices, the P1i includes both a keyboard and touch-screen interface that works with a stylus or pointer. The 3G device also includes such features as push e-mail, a built-in business card scanner and a 3.2 megapixel camera.

Joe Tate, vice president of HP's business handheld unit, said acceptance of smartphones in the enterprise is part of a familiar cycle. "It's about enterprise services -- how you support IT, image customization and managed security options that make the devices more accessible to end users."

HTC, which makes a number of phones for other vendors, said it shifted gears a few years ago to put a greater emphasis on simplicity.

"We recognized the entire industry was on the wrong trajectory of adding more and more features," said John Wang, chief marketing officer at HTC. "No one ever said these phones are too easy; let's make them complicated," but that's what happened.

He said HTC looked for inspiration in the way babies learn -- by reaching and grabbing. For example, a baby trying to draw will just go up and down the page. "He moves the paper to get farther down; he doesn't look for a down screen button," said Wang.

He said HTC has used touch-screen technology in models like the HTC Touch Dual to make applications like Address Book, E-mail and Web pages more like a virtual sheet of paper you can move with your finger. You can also push out the front panel of the device to slide out a keypad for typing.

HTC Touch Dual
HTC Touch Dual
Source: HTC

A range of enterprise needs

The presentations continued with Brian Stech, Motorola's global director for marketing and channel development. He said Motorola has greatly improved the enterprise readiness of its smartphones by acquring Good Technology and Symbol last year.

"From a device portfolio view, we're addressing needs ranging from the factory floor all the way to the executive suite," he said. Later this year Stech said Motorola would release its latest smartphone to U.S. buyers. The MOTO 9h, he said, will be especially optimized for the enterprise.

"The HSDA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) gives you fast download times, and we've got a full QWERTY keyboard for fast, accurate typing, document viewing and editing. I'm really proud of the keyboard; smaller isn't always better," he said.

The session wrapped up with presentations by two of the biggest names in mobile devices, Nokia and Research in Motion.

Ed DeArias, Nokia's vice president of enterprise solutions in the Americas, discussed the Eseries, underscoring the devices' ability to sync with other enterprise applications as part of a broader unified communications strategy.

Next month Nokia is planning to release in the U.S. the latest in the series. The E61 is a dual-mode device with full VoIP capabilities that integrates with a company's PBX.

Nokia is currently the leading maker of mobile phones with over 900 million devices sold worldwide and, according to Gartner, owns 52.6 percent of the smartphone market.

David Werezak, vice president of the enteprise business unit at RIM, said a positive trend is more smartphone vendors realizing they don't have to jam all the features of a PC or notebook into a smartphone.

"Providing the key components are the path to success," he said, noting the BlackBerry's accessibility to such enterprise staples as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, Novell Groupwise Intranet Web services and SAP.

"We've worked with company's like SAP to take parts of the application and deliver the graphics and data users need," said Werezak. "Same thing with business intelligence where we can get you access to what you need from Cognos or the wireless edition of Salesforce.com for CRM data."

Werezak ended on a lighter note mentioning some casual games from Magmic that RIM offers to let knowledge workers chill a bit from all the productivity. And Nokia's DeArias also emphasized the choice of devices isn't just about what program's you can run.

"The style of the device and the appearance" is also important, he said. "You want to be proud to carry it."