6. Mobile devices don't cater to businesses
As much as the tech industry loves to celebrate its "road warriors," in truth mobile business users have been given surprisingly short shrift. While much is made of the ability to play YouTube videos on mobile phones, for example, the needs of enterprise IT departments are barely even paid lip service.
Security tops the list of those needs. Fingerprint readers, onboard data encryption, and other hardware-based security features, now common on laptops, have yet to be incorporated in smartphones and other "post-PC" devices. Mobile users need to be able to access VPNs and navigate corporate networks, but with the possible exception of BlackBerry handsets, few devices support the kind of centrally managed policy control that Windows PCs do. Nor do they allow centralized management of OS patches and security updates, which is sure to be a problem as cyber criminals begin targeting mobile browsers.
Apple says it has added more business-oriented features to iOS 4, the latest release of its iPhone and iPad operating system, but these are just baby steps. As of this writing, many of these capabilities are half-implemented, with management tools due later in the year.
That's no way to spark a computing revolution. The NPD Group expects IT purchasing to be strong in 2010, first among small and midsize businesses and later in enterprises. If Apple and other device vendors want to push the industry beyond the PC, they'll need to do a better job of catering to this market first.
7. Cloud services aren't reliable enough
Computing with low-powered tablets and handsets inevitably means offloading some processing to the cloud. That's true of the iPad and especially Google's forthcoming Chrome OS devices, which will rely entirely on Web-based services to function. But if Apple and Google expect customers to ditch their PCs for these devices, the accompanying services better be rock-solid.
Unfortunately, cloud computing's track record to date has hardly been flawless. For all its vaunted data center prowess, Google has struggled to meet performance demand in the business version of its App Engine cloud computing platform, where uptime is critical. Its public services, such as Gmail, have also suffered outages. And Google is not alone; periodic outages at Salesforce.com, the leading SaaS vendor, have elicited many a grumble from its customers, and the same is true of just about every service out there.
Outages are particularly painful for users of mobile devices. An outage on Research in Motion's BlackBerry network in 2008 disrupted service for customers across all of North America -- including, presumably, a campaigning Barack Obama -- even though the company had been criticized for a similar outage the year before. Worst of all, however, was Microsoft's bungling of Danger's cloud-based Sidekick mobile platform, which erased undisclosed amounts of users' stored data. Before customers are willing to give up their PCs completely, cloud service providers must do a lot better.