Compare enterprise mobility offerings to what is available in the consumer mobile space and you will find that they are too often based around specific device or tariff schemes, and little more than standard mobile email services with some device management capabilities.
SMS is no good for interactive communication and is not always reliably delivered, especially at peak times. Emails may provide rapid one-to-many communication, but many field staff find picking out emails on such small keyboards uncomfortable or impractical. Voice calls are intrusive, expensive and can be ineffective if the call goes to voicemail.
IM is immediate and interactive, yet not intrusive. Also, its delivery is reliable and typically instantaneous.
IM is hugely popular with consumers. It can also incorporate voice chat (vocal IM), photo sharing and rich presence capabilities with integrated location features.
In the past, mobile enterprise IM would have required specific hardware and tariffs from service providers, or substantial development. Few enterprise-grade IM platforms exist.
The key to mobile IM is flexibility and interoperability. Some of the popular consumer-oriented IM networks have catered for mobile, but often on specific devices. There have not been any solid, innovative enterprise offerings that have the level of validation required for mission-critical situations.
Consumer-oriented mobile applications are booming. Many consumer communication applications have functionality and performance that exceed that of the enterprise applications on offer. And they are often more proven, having been deployed by hundreds of thousands of users on every conceivable combination of device and operator around the world.
The RoI for even basic enterprise IM has been challenging. But with a flexible platform, there would be no need to stick to a small range of expensive devices, or sign up to expensive network-specific contracts.
And a halving of mobile communication costs in a year would not be unusual.
There is huge pent-up demand from enterprises for this level of rich mobile collaboration. Of course, they need to be shown a mature business model and the ability to exploit the many add-on functions such as location-based services.
Tim Rea is chief executive officer at Palringo
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