Unlock the Opportunities

Security Sells
Security is always going to be one of the biggest concerns of any business, yet businesses typically send their people out with critical information – names, dates, data – loaded on their phones.
Here’s a real opportunity for the reseller that represents a chance for real independence, says Mark Whiteman.
 
For too long now UK dealers have been losing out in a perpetual game of piggy in the middle. Controlling the game are the big boys of the mobile playground – the network operators and handset manufacturers, each with their own raft of benefits for business users.
 
Manufacturers are sending out the signal that their next-generation handsets are getting smarter all the time, offering email, internet access, online gaming and who knows what else in the future.
 
The operators say similar things about how clever their networks are and how their network bandwidth can already enable the delivery of mobile video and even TV to the palm of your hand.
 
Both are pushing exciting messages, but they don’t meet in the middle. Getting these fantastic new applications to actually do what it says on the box is another story entirely. And caught up in the heart of this are the independent dealers and resellers, who serve as the point of contact for a technology hungry public.
 
Middleman
Take mobile email as a simple example. The managing director of a small to medium enterprise – let’s say an independent financial advisor – wants to equip his team with handsets that enable push email, access to the company network as well as contact and diary sharing capabilities on the move.
 
Being head of a 10-man company with no IT helpdesk resource, he is then faced with the task of setting up and configuring the mobiles with the office network. His experience will be complex, frustrating and not helped by the fact that networks’ call centres are currently ill-equipped to effectively advise on the set-up of smartphones.
 
Frustration turns to anger and results in our financial advisor returning his phones to point of sale.
 
This negative ‘out of the box’ scenario has resulted in a tainted image for data-enabled phones, not only with SMEs but also among a growing number of dealers reluctant to sell anything that is perceived as clumsy, complicated or, worse still, faulty.
 
The result? With a market unconvinced by technology and dealers unwilling to risk their reputations by selling dubious products, the immediate future for smartphones in the SME sector does not look too bright.
 
It doesn’t look too rosy for the networks either, even though they’re desperate to claw back their massive 3G licence investments with revenues from services other than voice and text messaging.
 
But if they’re worried, it doesn’t show. While the networks acknowledge that email is still the under-exploited killer application for mobile data, they appear to have done very little about it. What are they doing for the dealers? Networks may be offering end users expensive handsets for nothing, but what about data incentives for resellers?
 
"The solution to unlocking the SME mobile data market could be in the hands of the independent reseller …"
 
In spite of claims to the contrary from networks (as well as handset manufacturers and certain service providers), getting a smartphone up and running with email and other networked desktop applications is still not easy. The long and short of it is one simple fact – to get a smartphone earning is to get it working.
 
So, faced with an overwhelmingly negative attitude from the growing number of once-bitten twice-shy end users – coupled with networks that have outgrown the agility to deliver timely solutions – we start to wonder who has the answer?
 
Answers
The solution to unlocking the SME mobile data market could be in the hands of the ‘piggy in the middle’, the long-overlooked small-time player in this game: the independent reseller.
 
Armed with the right tools to take the pain out of the set-up and configuration of smartphones – independently of networks or handset manufacturers – mobile dealers will steal a significant lead on anyone else trying to crack the SME market. Anyone that can provide customers with a complete bundle of services that takes the pain out of the set-up and management of their mobile data requirements is sitting on a goldmine.
 
Dealers should be looking to ways of removing the stumbling blocks that have prevented the wider adoption of mobile office applications by small to medium enterprise – key issues that include security, simplicity, reliability and storage.
 
Security is one of the biggest concerns of any business, regardless of size. Accessing email and other enterprise information via a mobile is akin to taking your corporate server with you every time you leave the office, albeit held on a highly vulnerable device.
 
Any business that has a guarantee that its data is completely secure, fully backed up and can have phones that are instantly locked and wiped in the event of theft or loss, would be 100 per cent more likely to embrace mobile computing as a day-to-day business tool. By offering all these solutions to the customer, the ‘piggy in the middle’ reseller could soon have a game of his own.
 
Mark Whiteman is Managing Director of Remote XT, the UK service provider delivering mobile data management solutions that can instantly set up and configure smartphones and PDAs with anti-virus, wipe and restore, and full lock functions.