The architecture of enterprise technology is entering a new era. Driven by the need for better data collection, faster innovation cycles, and smarter digital-physical integration, enterprises are increasingly turning to solutions that are built upon consumer devices, and for good reason.
Through a combination of versatility, usability, affordability and supportability, along with a rich developer ecosystem, modern smartphones and tablets offer the features and functions that can enable a wide array of high-value enterprise use cases. More broadly, these consumer-oriented technologies are unlocking new opportunities for rapid innovation, bringing digital efficiencies and capabilities into the physical environment.
Traditional enterprise technologies are limited
Enterprise technology stacks have traditionally featured an array of disparate, specialized point solutions. These purpose-built tools have proven to be extremely effective at addressing specific enterprise needs. However, consumer demands now require increasingly seamless experiences across web, mobile and brick-and-mortar channels. Integrating disparate hardware and software components with each other and across channels can be complex. Furthermore, siloed technology solutions don’t create an ecosystem that supports the rapid innovation cycles needed to quickly respond to ever-changing market demands.
The rise of consumer mobile devices
For more than a decade, demand for ever-smarter, faster tablets and smartphones has spurred global technology leaders into action. This consumer market opportunity is real: some 1.54 billion smartphones were sold in 2017 alone. These increasingly powerful, versatile, feature-rich devices don’t just benefit consumers—they represent a seismic technological shift for enterprises, too.
By building upon consumer mobile devices, enterprises are able to achieve the technological agility required by this era of rapid transformation. Here are five reasons why consumer tablets and smartphones are increasingly being used as the foundation of next-gen enterprise technologies.
The ultra-competitive consumer technology market has led to a veritable arms race in terms of features included on these modern tablets and handheld devices. Bright, responsive touchscreens, hi-res imaging capabilities and connectivity that ranges from cellular to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have all become standard features, along with powerful processing capabilities and internal storage. This versatility within an app-based environment means a single device can be used for a multitude of high-value workflows, enabling enterprises to nimbly and quickly deploy experiences that are less expensive and easier to manage than those built on traditional enterprise hardware platforms.
Expecting employees or customers to learn how to use new hardware is a big ask—especially if that new device features an unintuitive user interface or an unfamiliar operating system. Building experiences around class-leading UIs from market-tested tablets and smartphones that people already know how to use streamlines adoption, which can lead to a faster return on investment—and perhaps more importantly, happier employees and customers.
Consumer mobile devices not only include rich feature sets and smooth interfaces, they also deliver exceptional performance relative to their cost. This value can help shorten the time before the break-even point for a faster return on the investment of new experiences and technology deployments.
If your custom “rugged” device breaks, you’re typically at the mercy of the manufacturer for services, repairs and replacements. With consumer devices, these services are simple by necessity. The sheer volume of consumer devices out in the world has created an efficient device maintenance and replacement infrastructure.
In the consumer market, forward compatibility and extended product life cycles provides a large window for device usage. Apple, for example, offers iOS 11 support for 23 models of iPhones and iPads, and product support for an additional five years following discontinuation. The stability of these products in terms of hardware and software development, including common APIs across the iOS platform, further creates a stable environment favored by enterprise IT managers.
5. A rich developer ecosystem
As the new era of digitally-infused experiences and workflows is still taking shape, enterprises need the agility to quickly test, optimize and scale their deployments. Consumer mobile devices are an ideal platform for this, in part because of the breadth of their developer ecosystems.
Lured by a reliable stream of income, software developers have been creating mobile applications at a remarkable pace, with thousands of new apps launched daily. This has led to an incredibly rich developer ecosystem, with no shortage of options for building, troubleshooting, or upgrading software applications to run any number of experiences. This is in stark contrast to traditional retail technologies, which typically offer far fewer opportunities for customization or enhancements to the user interface or software feature set.
The competitive, versatile nature of the consumer device industry has paved the way for a new generation of technology solutions that enable rapid innovation and agile deployment. With rich feature sets, user-friendly design, and a vibrant developer ecosystem, consumer tablets and handheld devices are an asset to businesses small and large that are looking for new ways to engage with consumers and streamline business workflows.
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