Enterprise mobility experts foresee plenty of change for the mobile market in 2014, but the affect of new devices outside of smartphones and tablets remains unclear.
The battle for enterprise supremacy between Apple, Inc. and Samsung is expected to continue. Insiders believe Apple can continue to take bites out of Samsung's worldwide enterprise advantage, but both suppliers have work to do to maintain their standing amidst current trends.
In addition, there's a belief that Microsoft has an opportunity to seize some of the market with its phones and tablets, and that BlackBerry appears ready to focus more on its systems than devices.
What's next for enterprise mobile devices?
Industry experts agreed that Apple's products remain the best for enterprise, even though Samsung maintains its position as leader in overall worldwide devices in deployment.
"Apple is delivering a better overall product experience and enterprise will spend a premium for that experience," said Michael Finneran, mobile analyst and president of dBrn Associates in Hewlett Neck, N.Y.
Having Apple and Samsung compete in the enterprise market is a good thing, according to Chris Hazelton, mobile analyst and research director for 451 Research in Boston. Samsung has been more aggressive in opening up application programming interfaces to enterprise mobility management vendors to its advantage, he said.
Samsung experienced some growing pains in 2013 with the release of KNOX, its mobile security software, because the company is a hardware-maker that is still feeling out the software market, Finneran said.
There are two main results affecting the market with Samsung's issues with KNOX, according to Bob Egan, a mobile market analyst and founder of the Sepharim Group in Falmouth, Mass., with BlackBerry as a possible benefactor.
"Samsung's missteps with KNOX will continue to favor current [mobile device management] players like AirWatch, MobileIron and Good Technology, and secondarily provide an opportunity for a turnaround theme for BlackBerry in the new year," Egan said
Egan sees that opportunity coming from BlackBerry's continued commitment to its systems and services as opposed to new devices. The environment may be right for a possible licensing agreement between BlackBerry and *Google in the future, Egan speculated.
A BlackBerry spokesperson declined comment on the idea of a possible licensing agreement with other vendors.
Ahead of its anticipated Q3 earnings report this week, experts had a tough time predicting what the future will be for the once-mighty BlackBerry.
"BlackBerry should be stepping away from the device business," Hazelton said. "They need to become a truly device-agnostic company that can work with all of these vendors."
While BlackBerry has focused on aggressive change strategies and shoring up its mobile device management offering, it's not clear for Finneran what the company's next step will be.
"Their devices are floundering and I don't see a resurgence coming anytime soon," Finneran said.
More tablets in 2014?
Adoption of tablets in the enterprise market has reached a plateau with the initial IT excitement of the devices wearing off, according to Hazelton.
Hazelton cited a survey by ChangeWave Research, a service of his 451 Research, of over 1,500 U.S. IT buyers who were asked if they were planning to buy tablets for their company in the next quarter. In August, 25% said they were planning such purchases. That was only up 1% over the previous August.
There's still plenty of time for that to change because the market itself is only three years old.
"There needs to be a revolutionary change in mobile applications to change the role of tablets in the enterprise," he said.
Ideas for tablet uses were widespread three years ago, such as having them on tables at restaurants and in the hands of salespeople all the time, Finneran said.
"The pizazz factor doesn't last six months in the mobile market," he said.
Because of enterprise dependency on Microsoft tools and applications, Egan thinks Microsoft has an opportunity that Apple still hasn't tapped into yet regarding integration with Microsoft applications and tools. It may be a challenge, given the issues with Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 launch.
"I've talked to over 150 companies about this, and they will say 'we know how to get our data onto iPads but we don’t know how to protect the data or get it off the devices,'" Egan said. "Almost all the applications they have running in their enterprise are Windows or Windows-related software. Apple is not doing anything to solve that problem."
Apple has work to do when it comes to integration of its various systems for devices, according to Finneran, who used an example that Apple has different presentations for its calendar feature between its phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. While Apple hasn't given any indication they plan on bringing OS X to its iPads, that's something they could explore in 2014, Finneran said.
What about wearables?
Wearable mobile devices are trendy among the consumer market, but enterprise mobility experts don't believe they'll see widespread adoption for businesses anytime soon.
"There will be a lot of talk and no action on wearables in the enterprise in 2014," Egan said. "There's zero interest in the watches and even the augmented reality is not in."
Finding practical applications for wearable items will be the challenge for the enterprise and that will be the focus for 2014 in that area, Hazelton said.
"Use cases will be fleshed out and security concerns will become clearer, but you won't see any kind of widespread adoption," he said. "This will be a period of discovery...the smartphone market ramped up pretty fast, and tablets ramped up even faster when they came out. But there's still so much work that needs to be done [in the wearable market]."
It's also difficult to get a grasp on how wearables will affect the enterprise because many tools haven't been widely distributed, Hazelton said.
*Originally, this story stated that Egan sees a possible licensing agreement between Samsung and BlackBerry. The article has been corrected to reflect his intended statement around Google.