Mobile computing is a growing phenomenon in the workplace and out with leading researchers already recognising the emergence of a “post-PC” era, says Nitesh Devanand, Dell Consumer product specialist at Drive Control Corporation (DCC). 
As more people access IT applications and content by preference using their tablets, “phablets” and smartphones, a whole new set of challenges and opportunities are emerging. In South Africa, however, the majority lag the mobility hype by about two years.
What’s holding users back? While a small number of power users and high tech corporates are leveraging mobile computing to drive productivity and staff mobility, the majority are still slow to adopt mobile computing due to still high bandwidth costs, a general lack of WiFi access and the limitations of 3G, a lack of awareness of the potential that mobile computing presents and dearth of tech-knowledge needed to integrate and synch systems and devices.
As the mobile computing trend gathers pace and best practices and standards continue to mature, locals will catch up quickly and potentially will not have to deal with many of the early challenges businesses and individuals are facing in terms of integrating mobile computing into their daily lives and every aspect of business operations, that is, security and privacy issues, integrating mobile into business processes, and developing for multiple mobile platforms.
The profound change mobile computing brings is clear in the ease that the characteristic use of touch and gesture interfaces, voice commands and interactive mobile assistants brings. There’s also the new dimension that social and context driven interfaces and interactions offer and as mobile becomes increasingly ubiquitous, synching across devices is helping to deliver an integrated experience.
Simply put, mobile computing is changing the norms of business interaction and the meaning of “customer-facing business”. GPS is a common feature in mobile devices. Social interaction platforms and applications let the user define what they see and hear and more and more, advertisers have the ability to track the individual’s online choices. The result is the rise of context and location based marketing.
Consumers might want to know that the latest CD of their favourite band is available in the store they are passing by. They could use an application, probably free to download upon entering the mall, that can take the information from the three music stores in the mall and give users an availability and cost comparison.
As push marketing becomes more common, users will become even more savvy consumers of content and applications.
Businesses, if they wish to remain competitive, cannot ignore mobile computing for too much longer.
Employees are bringing their own devices into the workplace and how these devices are managed, especially in terms of access to, and integration with business applications and data, will become very important – not only to protect company assets but to drive greater productivity, customer interaction, and collaboration with colleagues and partners.
The bottom line: mobile technologies, both devices and applications, are impacting every aspect of the average consumer’s personal and business lives, making it easier to interact, collaborate and work remotely.
Users are a bit behind in South Africa in terms of broader uptake of many of the benefits mobile computing brings, but the mobile marketing push and the drive to develop business strategies that leverage mobile technologies are inching us forward.
Users have a lot to look forward to. Not least are more and better mobile applications, improved and enhanced user interfaces, and perhaps new business models. It is certainly going to keep IT staff busy as they begin to deal with an expanding universe populated by multiple devices all running on different platforms.