With the impending delivery date of the infamous iPad coming up here in the United States on April 3rd there is a lot of discussion of it’s usability and future. At the CTIA 2010 conference in Las Vegas this week it is only more heighten then ever, even if Apple is not making a big splash there. :-)
A recent Sybase study caught my eye recently, and mimics what I have been hearing from customers recently as well. Many people are using smartphones and perhaps soon “new” tablet devices, like the iPad for work related tasks.
Due to the overall success of the iPhone it’s natural that this is smitting off on the iPad as well. With tons of applications and more and more business vendors getting behind it, it is a sign of the times. Due to it’s popularity and easy of use, corporations are looking closely at what the iPhone/iPad platform has to offer and how it could benefit their operations.
Time will tell if the iPad device is just as successful as it’s smaller sibling and how will Apple cater to the ever increasing number of Apple devices being used by enterprise customers. Better and more flexible management features are still a huge gap for many.
For all the study details (I’m not sure what kind of sampling was done) you can see the press release here and PDF slide deck here.
For many corporate environments, end-user education on new technologies is the most difficult. Usually e-mails, intranet, webinars, help desk and word-of-month are all components of a successful implementation of new technology. Even though mobile devices have been part of corporate culture for a while now they are no exception. :-)
I will attempt from time to time to post useful ideas that could be used in a corporate environment from a perspective of an enterprise admin that manages a large number of mobile devices.
In most corporate environments today you will have the need to gather several employees on the dreaded conference bridge of your flavor. The setup and scheduling can vary from vendor to vendor, and many even have internal bridge solutions.
Meeting requests are sent out to the relevant employees and you will see a huge number of business people using their mobile devices to take these calls while traveling or outside of their corporate office (if they even have a physical office anymore).
For the busy business person it can be painful to remember the conference bridge number and PIN or access codes used by dozens of fellow employees. These can take the form of:
+1-800-555-5555 PIN 12345678
+4597979797 Code 123456
Most smartphones will pick up on the phone numbers and make it easy to dial it, but then you usually have to memorize the PIN or access code.
tel URL scheme
Luckily for us some smart people (it appears from Nokia) way back in 2000 took the idea to extend the URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) ideas from the internet and add the “tel”, “fax”, and “modem” scheme. Much in the some way we use “http”, “https”, and “ftp” in our web sites today for links. Please see the original RFC2806 and the later RFC3966 for all the gory details.
So today many web browsers natively support these URIs schemes as well. And this goes down to the mobile device level, with for example Mobile Internet Explorer and Safari. Blackberry and Symbian devices appear to support it natively as well.
The main one we are interested in for this exercise is the “tel:” URI.
How to set it up
So to use this it’s more of educating the end-users who setup the conference calls to use the proper formatting in the meeting invitations. If using Outlook and using HTML formatting, as soon as you type in a string with “TEL:” and number behind it will automatically make it a hyperlink. Many may already be familiar with this as well for desktop SIP/VoIP solutions such as Microsoft’s, as it will use your Communicator client and dial the number in the TEL: URL.
Most phone systems will also honor the “,” character as being a 1 sec pause. So you could after the TEL: URL place the conference bridge phone number and the PIN/access code and the “#” symbol all in one string.
Some examples: – please note no spaces should be used!
How to use it
On the mobile device it will render the TEL: string on the screen and it most cases (depending on the string, device platform, device software) make it a hyperlink that the end-user can click on and have the phone immediately dial out the string! No need to memorize the PIN/access code in most cases!
This can really be a “life saver” for the mobile professional. You can forego the need to perhaps write down the PIN/access code etc. Of course I don’t recommend trying to dial into a conference while driving a vehicle, but I’m sure many of your users probably have and then this could literally be a life saver as well..
Screen shots - and gotchas
Windows Mobile 6.5.5 device - nice and easy to dial the complete string from your calendar:
(screen shot captured by using MyMobiler)
BlackBerry Bold - Easy to use as expected:
(screen shot captured by using SnapScreen)
iPhone 3GS – a major gotcha where in the calendar it doesn’t seem supported, where as in Safari it is. :-( However, automatic detection of standalone number strings does take place.
(Screen capture using the built-in feature available since 2.0)
Palm Pre webOS 1.3.1 – Also here the Tel: schema is having issues where it doesn’t know where to end the hyperlink. Advise here would be make sure no text is after the string.
(Using the orange-symbol-P key trick for screen capture)
Recommendation and recap
Based upon the information gathered on the platforms I had at hand above, my recommendation if your environment has all of them is to communicate conference bridge instructions to embed the following example in the end-users invitations so most platforms are catered to and usable:
Direct conference bridge access:
Manual dialing instructions:
I hope this may help some corporate situations and employees make better use out of their devices and each others! It clearly shows that if you do notify your users about this feature make sure you understand the platforms in use and the differences you may encounter supporting them..
If someone has a Symbian and Android device/emulator it would be interesting to see the results from those platforms too! Also if folks have various VoIP/SIP implementations other gaps that may be found there..
A colleague of mine, Chris De Herrera, recently made me notice a really nice overview write up that eWeek did on the newer features now available in their paid Google Apps Premier offering..
It really makes it clear that the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol is the de-facto standard for remote e-mail synchronization. I assume through the corporate licensing of the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol and also more public openness on the inner workings of protocol we are seeing more and more implementations that support it.
As announced in early February these basic ActiveSync features are supported that most mobile platforms support: Remotely wipe all data from lost or stolen mobile devices Lock idle devices after a period of inactivity Require a device password on each phone Set minimum lengths for more secure passwords Require passwords to include letters, numbers and punctuation
By no means is this a full Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that Google has available today and in the article points out several gaps in the current available version. There are several other SaaS/hosted MDM solutions that are much more richer and functional in scope. But it perhaps shows how things can go and where Google is going with this. For smaller companies it definitely could hits home and cover the basic security needs. With the rapid uptake of their Android platform we should see more enterprise solutions soon to target this new platform and make use of it’s rich flexibility..
BTW, a good overview on the Google Apps offerings for various mobile device platforms (Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia S60, Windows Mobile and Android) is located here:
I continue to learn something new everyday and was ignorantly unaware of RoIP (Radio-over-IP) technology as perhaps many others are as well.. :-) Something caught my eye about this interesting solution that currently brings Blackberry devices onto the same network as other RoIP end-point devices, such as other 2-way radios used by many companies, agencies and municipalies.
I think this could be a great feature for many implementations of smartphones (granted Blackberry only supported for now by this vendor as a proof-of-concept), where a tie-in with another communications network would make the device even more useful and reduce the need for additional communication devices..
With all the activity about Android running on several of the older Windows Mobile HTC devices and waiting for AT&T here in the states to start to carry Android devices in March, I couldn’t wait anymore to give one of them a try. :-)
For “fun” I took my stock AT&T Tilt (KAIS100) from 2007 (which feels like such a lifetime ago in mobile phone years!) and proceed to read through all the various posts and steps necessary. After some trial and error I did finally make a breakthrough and had Android 2.1 successfully up and running on my old Tilt. Current beta release is a “NAND” ROM based flash, and not the previous HaRET software running on top of Windows Mobile available since last fall. Thus a bit speedier and quite useable and no need to partition a tricky SD card on a Linux OS!
<DISCLAIMER> By no means am I recommending folks to do this to their devices, as there are risks that you could “brick” the device. I also wouldn’t call this a supported device by any corporate means. I also don’t endorse illegal activity with copyrighted material. To my knowledge at this time the material mentioned is not illegal. </DISCLAIMER>
I’m merely curious on how far the mobile “community” at large has gotten with Android OS customizations, since so much is open sourced and available. For other more supported Android devices (Nexus One, HTC Dream/Magic) there are also others supplying hacked/modified ROMs.
How to do it
For the Tilt, I had to perform the HardSPL, CID unlock and SIM unlock (I believe the latter is optional, but I was on a roll). I also upgraded the radio firmware to the one supported by the Android “polymod” build I was looking at trying out. It’s been tweaked for several months by someone that goes by the handle of “polyrhythmic” on the XDA forum.
The steps necessary are laid out several places, but I had to read up on the full thread(s) to better understand some of the context. After the unlocking steps, I flashed the device from a SD card and had to press the D-pad key at the right time to process with selecting the Install of the OS. Take the battery out and back in and patiently wait for the OS to come up for the first time.
Regarding which LCD Panel and resolution to use I first tried a 320x480 ROM with bad results, then noticed others having good luck with this 320x428 file.
Getting Screen Shots
After getting it up and running I installed the latest Android SDK and got the DDMS (Dalvik Debug Monitor) up and running with the Windows USB driver. It takes a few minutes after you tether the device for it to show up in the debugger. But then you can snag the screen shots you want. I need to see if our old buddy Koushik’s Screenshot tool works on this hacked build.
Overall, I was impressed by the capabilities my old Tilt had gotten. Not 100% yet, but I can see the Android activity on the XDA forum has not lessen and only continues to increase.
Very impressive what some members have done to get newer operating systems running on legacy hardware that is no longer supported by vendors.. But also a note that you shouldn’t also expect 100% functionality or compatibility. Currently the Bluetooth and camera functions don’t work on the Tilt and the battery life is questionable. The screen is also rather small and hard to read. But if you can live with 85%+, have patience for some delays, and love to tinker with technology hacks this is for you. :-)
Android in the Enterprise
The Exchange ActiveSync support is fairly barebones but included none the less in Android 2.1. I await for more full fledged Android devices hitting the market shortly to see how the corporate mobile landscape may change by year’s end. Several 3rd party ActiveSync clients are now also commercial available to fill some of the void left behind the Google native implementation. I think more features are necessary before a full fledged enterprise would feel secure..
PS. Please don’t ask me questions on how do perform this or what to do if you brick your device. Please see the links above and ask the experts on the forums instead. :-)