Aug 182015
How do mobile phone users reduce costs

One of the things we know about the future is the workplace will be very different. Just as the Personal Computer changed offices in the 1990s, the smartphone and tablet computer are changing today’s.

Part of that change though is being driven by the change in generations. While this blog tries to avoid falling into the trap of generalising about different age cohorts – and contends the entire concept of baby boomers as an economic group is flawed – there are undoubtedly differences between the world of the PC generation of workers and that of the new mobile breed.

The key difference is the idea that work devices are different to those at home. Those of us bought up with the idea that the office computers would be tightly locked workstations – in the 1990s we also had the quaint idea corporate desktops were generally more powerful than what we had at home – are now seeing that way of working being abandoned.

For the next generation of office workers, accessing corporate resources through an app connected to a cloud service will be as normal as opening Windows NT to access the shared corporate drive was 15 years ago.

Along with the technology and generational change driving businesses into the cloud-app computing world there’s also the needs of a much more fluid and mobile workforce. The shift to casualisation began well before PCs arrived on desktops but the process is accelerating as we see crowdsourcing and the ‘uberization’ of industries.

Older workers will adapt as well, many came through the evolution of business computing from ‘green screen’ displays – if their businesses had any at all – through to the server based systems of recent years. For them the shift to smartphones might be troublesome for those with fading eyesight, but it won’t be the first change.

For businesses this shift means they have to start planning for the mobile services that will change workforces and industries. The shift is already well underway – accounting software company Intuit estimates small businesses already use an average of 18 apps to run their business.

We all have to start thinking about how these apps can be used to manage our staff and workforces.

Sep 102014

As expected, Apple announced their new range of iPhones and a smart watch today with many digital trees being felled as the tech media falls over to describe all the shiny features of the new devices.

Buried in Apple’s announcements though are the company’s real long game in payments and the Internet of Things.

For the IoT, the various ‘kits’ Apple have announced in the last year — HomeKit, HealthKit and now CloudKit — are the serious plays in this space as they bundle together programs, devices and data streams across health and smarthome applications.

CloudKit moves Apple onto another level as it makes it easier for developers to build back end applications that tie into smart devices; even if someone isn’t using Apple equipment they still may find themselves firmly in the walled garden of Cuptertino.

The long awaiting release of Apple Pay leverages iTunes’ strength as a payment platform, bundling a secure chip into the new iPhone adds to the company’s pitch of being a trusted partner to merchants and payments processors.

What today’s announcements of new hardware, software and APIs indicate is Apple’s shoring up the perimeters of its walled garden.

For it’s competitors, this raises the ante; Google Wallet has nothing like the market penetration or customer acceptance that iTunes has and earlier this week Amazon effectively admitted the Fire smartphone has been a failure by slashing prices. Facebook has made promising noises about payments but still remains locked in an advertising driven business model.

While there’s no doubt the new iPhone will be a success, although the jury is out on the smart watch, Apple’s real game is in controlling a large part of the payments industry and the internet of things. Today’s announcements are a key step in that strategy.

Dec 052013

One of the notable things about the technology industries is there are always new terms and concepts to discover.

During a visit to Sophos’ Oxford headquarters last month, the phrase ‘Potentially Unwanted Applications’ – or PUAs – raised its head.

PUAs come from the problem application developers have in making money out of apps or websites. The culture of free or cheap is so ingrained online that it’s extremely hard to make a living out of writing software.

As result, developers and their employers are engaging in some cunning tricks to get customers to download their apps and then to monetize them, particularly in the Android world which lacks the tight control Apple exercises over the iOS App Store.

“What’s interesting about Android,” says Sophos Labs’ Vice President President Simon Reed, “is it’s attracting aggressive commercialisation.”

The fascinating thing Reed finds about this ‘aggressive commercialisation’ is where the distinction lies between malware and monetisation and when does an app or developer cross that line.

Reed’s colleagues Vanja Svajcer & Sean McDonald explore where that line lies in a paper titled Classifying PUAs in the Mobile Environment which they submitted to the Virus Bulletin Conference last October.

In that paper Svajcer and McDonald discuss how these applications have developed, the motivations behind them and the challenge for anti virus companies like Sophos and Kaspersky in categorising and dealing with them.

The authors also flag that while the bulk of the revenue generated by these apps comes from advertising, there are serious privacy risks for users as developers try to monetize the data many of these packages scrape from the phones they’re installed on.

Svajcer and McDonald do note though that potentially unwanted applications aren’t really anything new, we could well classify many of the drive by downloads that plagued Windows 98 users at the beginning of the century as being PUAs.

What we do need to keep in mind though that what is driving the development of PUAs is users’ reluctance to pay for apps and that it’s going to take a big change in customer attitudes for this problem to go away.

For businesses, this is something managers are going to have to consider as they move their line of business applications onto mobile devices, as Marc Benioff proposed at the recent Dreamforce conference.

Sophos’ Simon Reed believes potentially unwanted apps won’t be such a problem in the workplace however. “Consumers may have a different tolerance towards PUAs than commercial organisations,” he says.

The prevalence of PUAs on mobile devices does underscore though just how careful organisations have to be with who and what can access their data. It’s another challenge for CIOs.