Wednesday 22 August 2012

Zombie Mobiles

We're all very quick to talk about RIM disappearing, Symbian vanishing, the end of Windows Mobile, although all of these systems have made huge contributions to where we are now. In the industry we're always clamouring for new toys and usually enjoy upgrading.

But outside in the real world most people don't know what kind of phone they have, nor do they care. And for many people changing or upgrading brings fear and uncertainty to the point they would rather leave well alone and stick with it. Given that many of these devices are rather well made they can stick around for some time. Welcome to the Zombie Operating Systems that Refuse to Die.

In the world of computers this is a well known, although little discussed problem. There are people still running their businesses on Windows 95 out there storing their data on Zip drives. Some large companies still refuse to upgrade from Windows XP. There are probably people still running industrial processes with PDP-11s.

While the users of these systems are perfectly happy (at least until things break when panicked searches of eBay start), they create issues for software vendors and employers who are considering encouraging staff to use their own devices, or BYOD as it's known.

There are only two possible responses: make a huge effort to support everything with a gracefully degrading mobile internet site for those with older devices, or just tell everyone to get with the program and get something decent. I strongly favour the latter, accompanied by a recommendation and even purchase program. But you may have to go down the former route if, for example, the chairman cherishes his ancient golden Nokia 8800 too much to let it go.

This is, of course, only one of the BYOD issues. The consumer mobile app world has already voted with its revenues and moved to newer grounds. Enterprise providers may not have that option, as a key customer demands back support. More on other challenges later in the week.

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