We all know it's a great opportunity, but one of the problems with mobile technology is knowing where to sell it, or who to sell it to.
"Ten years ago, if you had asked is there a particular market to sell cellular phones into, there would not have been an answer," says Roger Jones, EMEA convergence director of Avaya.
Today, mobile phones are everywhere and so, to some extent, are mobile PCs. But there are different types of mobile device, and this is where resellers might be able to identify different opportunities.
Most of the time we tend to think of mobile computing as the concept of carrying a notebook PC around to work on trains, in hotels or customer offices. But that's a broad market now; one in three PCs shipped in Europe in Q3 was a notebook, according to the latest figures from researcher Canalys, and that does not include PDAs or hand-helds.
While the latter can - and frequently are - adapted for use in vertical sectors, it's mobility within the office that is going to sell the wider concept in specific markets.
For example, Jones says Avaya has seen a lot of growth in the use of IP telephony and wireless networking for branch-office communications, particularly in the financial sector and latterly in retail and health.
"Once they get the idea and it spreads out to the branches I think they will take it out to individuals," he says.
The ratification of the 802.11e standard sometime next year will help, he believes. This will set up ways for voice traffic to be prioritised on wireless LANs, opening the door for the use of voice over IP (VoIP) over the wireless network.
Early adopters are likely to be organisations that are most eager to save costs by using VoIP. The 'mobility' aspect here is almost coincidental, but it could inspire users to start investigating the use of VoIP via wireless broadband hotspots.
Eventually they will graduate and seek out - or be receptive to - solutions that are designed specifically for their industry.
This is certainly the experience of wireless messaging specialist Good Technology. "Wireless messaging we see as a horizontal market; everything from plumbers to consultancies. It goes right across the board," says Sue Forbes, vice-president of marketing at the company.
"Virtually everyone recognises the benefits and sees the productivity gains. It's when you get to corporate data applications that it tends to be more focused, such as with CRM and databases, and applications that sit behind the firewall."
The hottest markets for richer mobile connectivity are finance, consultancy, legal and retail. Forbes says estate agents in the US are also using it extensively. In all of these areas there are clear benefits to giving staff access to core applications from remote devices.
Law firms, for example, love the idea of being able to instantly record how much time they have spent with a client on the central billing system. Property companies that use local agents, operating in isolation need to provide access to property lists for these partners when they are out with clients.
In these cases, it is easy to see why simple email is not enough. Forbes says more organisations are looking to move from wireless messaging to accessing applications with and through mobile devices.
Systems may need to be tailored to suit the customer, she acknowledges, but Good Technology has its own design software that makes it relatively easy to build a small-client package that can be used with the central application.
To meet the needs of companies that want to get ahead of the competition though, you may well need some specialist knowledge.
Forbes says Good Technology's resellers tend to fall into two camps: systems integrators that focus on the wireless technologies, and specialists with a focus in particular vertical market or the owner - or sometimes contracted outsourcer - of the central application.
The public sector is seen as being a very strong area for mobile technologies. Schools and hospitals in particular are being targeted, and there are some excellent solutions being delivered already in these sectors.
Bob Honour, solutions marketing manager at 3Com, says schools represent a good and quite wide open opportunity for resellers that have skills in wireless mobility.
"Many schools still operating in older and sometimes awkwardly shaped buildings where installing Cat 5 cabling simply isn't an option," he says.
"Wireless is an economic way to create, or extend, a school network with minimum disruption. Teachers can take notebook PCs from class to class, and access the school network or the internet. The cable-free flexibility of wireless means that lessons can even take place outside the classroom."
This is all obvious, but if you can show a school that you can make wireless work for them and that it is affordable, you can win business, Honour claims.
The health service is also a major opportunity. Here, executives face an uphill task: to deliver better services for a modern NHS while keeping budgets tight. This is a "dead sitter" for wireless networking, according to Honour, and there is also potential for the use of broadband and roaming technologies such as GPRS.
"The applications of wireless in hospitals are numerous: electronic patient records at the bedside, the sharing of critical data in real time and on the go," Honour says.
"These records can be updated anytime, anywhere, without the need for paper, which reduces the risk of error when transposing patient information from paper to an electronic-based format.
"Wireless LANs support the mobile nature of healthcare workers, and ultimately save hospitals money by reducing paperwork and cutting administration costs."
This is all very positive, but you may need to have a complete mobile solution to target a vertical market. For many resellers, this would mean making an up-front investment to develop a pre-defined solution. This rarely happens.
More often, resellers or developers build offerings to meet a specific customer need and then try to sell that solution on to other similar organisations.
Mobile solutions tend to gather momentum as horizontal applications in particular vertical markets. The best place to sell mobile technologies for most resellers may be their own back yard, but they will need a solid understanding or even real expertise in mobile solutions before they can do that effectively.
Reseller LAN2LAN focuses primarily on mobile solutions based on Research in Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry device, although it plans to expand on to other platforms later.
Andy Tipton, mobile data manager at the VAR, says the best markets for adoption are financial services, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, and retail. All of them want mobility as a horizontal application but they have different priorities, he believes.
"Financial services is a huge market for BlackBerry and some organisations have thousands of devices now. Most of them buy it for the mail and calendaring functionality, but then they move on to applications access. In pharmaceuticals and retail it's access to the line-of-business application that takes priority," he says.
LAN2LAN specialises in making the back-end applications available on the front-end, linking up mobile users to SAP, Siebel, Goldmine or other systems.
These vendors' products are aimed at extending the application to mobile devices but they are almost always browser-based, according to Tipton.
This makes them unreliable because wireless web connections are always dropping out. The BlackBerry's 'push' model of communication works much better. Data can be stored on the local device and synchronised with the BlackBerry's cached data when the connection is available.
Eventually, Tipton predicts, LAN2LAN and other developers will extend their techniques to other hand-held and mobile devices and form partnerships with the vendors, and their reseller partners, to deliver extended mobile functionality.
Reseller ESE bills itself as "The Information Anywhere Company". It has a particular focus on mobile technologies, mainly through Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) Connect Anywhere solution.
It has been selling this idea for about 18 months, but so far, despite revisiting the subject several times, the company has not been able to settle on a particular target market.
"We haven't found that there's a particular vertical market, although we've been looking for one," says Kevin Meager, managing director of ESE.
"There might be two organisations that are in the same industry but are like chalk and cheese. Until very recently there have been an awful lot of tyre kickers out there. It's even hard to know whether to target the IT or the business managers."
ESE has found customers in construction, print, pharmaceuticals and local authorities but mostly, he says, it's the mobile salesforce that companies want to equip with mobile technology. This, Meager adds, is partly due to the success of the BlackBerry.
"A lot of awareness has been driven by RIM, but that's come in almost by the back door via the mobile phone operators. That's fine, but after a while they want to do more," he says.
This may lead to sales of smarter PDA devices and even laptops that use wireless broadband. But it is the growing awareness of mobile technology that is driving customers to the market and their own realisation that they can use the technology in their business.
Another reseller that has found users graduating from basic to more advanced mobile technologies is Eurodata Systems. Once users experience the flexibility of use they want more, according to Des Lekerman, managing director of the reseller.
"Watch anyone who uses a BlackBerry. They are addicts, they won't put the things down and they will read emails at 11pm at night. Once you get a taste for something, you want to know what else you can do with it," Lekerman says.
Eurodata recently started selling a mobile email-based CRM system that it offers across the Orange network. It has found willing takers in the insurance and pharmaceuticals sectors.
In both cases the organisations have mobile salesforces, and were new customers that were attracted to Eurodata because of the product it was offering. For Eurodata, the 'where' was simply the company's normal target market, or medium-to-large enterprises.
There is no easy answer to the question, "Where is it best to sell mobile data solutions?" The answer, in truth, is everywhere. The flexibility that mobile solutions provide can be used by everyone: from estate agents to corporate financiers.
But certain sectors, such as financial services, legal, health and education, are very receptive to mobile solutions. Some will buy CRM simply to stay in touch via email, while others will want remote access to a line-of-business application - in many cases for CRM.
To succeed in any of these markets you do need some expertise in the mobile solutions you are selling and this will be requisite whether you already have a vertical market focus or not, you need to have a good idea of where the mobile solution fits and how it will benefit the customer.
3Com (01442) 438000
Avaya (01483) 308000
Centralis (01564) 795911
Citrix (01753) 276200
ESE (01276) 670350
Eurodata (020) 7619 1500
Good Technology (01628) 509035
LAN2LAN 0870 787 4001
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