I've taken some strong shots on the mobile industry's big failures in 2010, but 2010 will long be remembered as the year that mobile technology became mainstream. Ex-Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie called it the post-PC era and said it would threaten PC-oriented vendors such as Microsoft.
I believe it is a positive change that will empower users and businesses alike with incredible computing and communications capability, accessible nearly anywhere people are. It will also allow the next revolution of so-called knowledge work to take place, in which people use the tools that fit them best personally and a greater segment of the population can reap the benefits.
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Here are the three key developments in 2010 that enabled this post-PC world and have sown the seeds for much more to come. In addition, I've listed another shift I would like to see take place in 2011.
1. iOS 4's mobile management APIs
This has to be one of the least sexy developments in mobile technology in a year that brought us the iPhone 4's retina display and the slick Windows Phone 7 user interface. But nothing was as pivotal to mobile this year as iOS 4's new APIs. They forever changed the game.
It used to be -- in the dark days of 2009 and before -- that you had to use a BlackBerry for work, and any other device (save the occasional Windows Mobile unit) were for personal use. Only BlackBerrys could give businesses assurance that their data and networks were safe. If you wanted an iPhone for work, too bad -- it couldn't be secured or managed. With iOS 4, it could, and within months of its release, the tide turned to allow iPhones and iPads into businesses of all sorts. Even the major banks -- all of which could not accept anything but a BlackBerry for good reason -- were able to open up to iPhones and iPads.
The implications go beyond the Apple products. With businesses no longer BlackBerry-only environments, all the richness and power of the modern smartphone -- pioneered by the iPhone but soon copied by Google's Android devices -- can now be brought into the enterprise. Personal devices are now considered sufficient business devices, and that means an acceptance of dual-use technology. By 2012, the idea of a business-only smartphone will be history, and mobile devices are likely to gain further adoption because their utility is now twofold.
Kudos are also due to MobileIron, Good Technology, and the other mobile device management vendors that quickly brought iOS 4-compatible products to the market, so IT could actually use the new Apple management options. Further kudos to them for using the opportunity to bring some management and security to Android, whose security-averse, consumer-only design threatened to leave it behind in the shift to all smartphones being dual-purpose business/personal devices.