Mobile Computing Comes In All Sizes
From PDAs (personal digital assistants) to notebook computers, choices in wireless mobile computing come in all sizes and meet the needs of the entire mobile workforce.
Even by conservative industry estimates, mobile workers account for 30% to 40% of the entire labor force. This group ranges from one-person SOHO (small office home office) operations to mobile sales staffs for giant conglomerates. And, the global nature of today's businesses demands that executives have a way of communicating information while on the go.
The diverse nature of the wireless market - as well as its size - makes it ideal for VARs and systems integrators. Smaller VARs are on an equal playing field with large integrators, and there's plenty of money to be made in all market sectors.
Know How To Implement
Vinnie Luciano, Symbol Technologies' (Holtsville, NY) vice president of product management for mobile computing systems, told me, "VARs need not worry about the size of their businesses with respect to handheld terminal sales. These terminals provide value to both small and large business clients, so VARs of all sizes can capture a portion of the market. But, VARs must know how to implement the technology to provide the greatest value for their customers. The biggest investment for a VAR entering this market will be in education. They must understand not only the terminals, but the wireless networks they operate on as well."
Casio (Dover, NJ) Director of Product Marketing for its Mobile Information Products Division Gary Schultz agrees with Luciano. "Wireless mobile computing will be a huge market for VARs," said Schultz. "VARs are often on the leading edge when it comes to taking a new technology to market. To succeed in the mobile computing market, VARs must tap into their core talent and provide customized software and service. They must know how to implement the technology."
Pitching The Products
Part of the implementation process involves choosing the correct hardware offering. Symbol is one of the world's leading handheld terminal vendors. Casio is a leading vendor for mobile PCs which include mini notebooks and mini pen tablets. VARs must evaluate their customers' needs and choose the correct technology for each application. [Editor's note: Both Symbol and Casio sell a variety of mobile computing products other than the ones noted above.]
"The market is different today than it was in the past," said Schultz. "In the past, companies bought hardware, and employees often had to customize software to meet the needs of a particular application. With the advent of pocket PCs and palm devices, employees are buying their own hardware and expecting their employers to help them with customized software. Consequently, the hardware customer is changing in some respects and so is the software buyer. Client companies need VARs more than ever because VARs have the ability to design the necessary software to connect multiple business applications."
Two years ago, Symbol created a corporate university (Symbol University) to help business partners and other interested parties stay abreast of new technology developments. Luciano said the University teaches VARs how to implement technologies such as wireless networks and mobile computing. It also helps with integration issues such as those mentioned by Schultz.
The Overall Market
Watch for smaller devices and cell phones with computing capabilities. WANs (wide area networks) will be the next great frontier for wireless mobile computing. Major vendors in the mobile terminal industry have already begun to issue new wireless WAN products. Sales in the wireless mobile computing market are growing at a rate of over 30% per year, and that growth will likely be steady for at least three to five years.