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Symbian DevZone - Interview with Henrik Voigt - Sony Ericsson’s Enterprise strategy

by Richard Bloor, June 23, 2003

Enterprise is becoming an important theme for mobile phone manufacturers using the Symbian OS. Sony Ericsson’s P800 has obvious appeal to enterprise customers as it delivers a palmtop PDA interface in a traditional mobile phone form. Sony Ericsson is looking to exploit this with a number of initiatives to drive the P800 into the Enterprise. This week we discuss Sony Ericsson’s approach with Henrik Voigt, Senior Manager Enterprise Applications - Printer Friendly Version



The smartphone business means some significant changes for mobile phone manufacturers. In the past their business was relatively straight-forward, they concentrated on designing and manufacturing phones, the operator worried about selling the phone. Smartphones, and particularly their use in enterprise, are changing this. The channels to enterprise are different and there is a requirement for a whole range of ancillary services and solutions. Henrik Voigt, Senior Manager Enterprise Applications, is responsible for ensuring that solutions are available from Sony Ericsson to serve the enterprise market.




WDN: Both Sony Ericsson and Symbian have enterprise initiatives, along with other Symbian OS licensees like Nokia. How do all these programs fit together?

Henrik:All our programs are very much complimentary from the OS perspective. We are all working to ensure that enterprise is aware of the fact that Symbian OS is the state of the art operating system for mobility solutions and fully capable of supporting all the demands of enterprise. An equally important and common goal is to show developers that it is easy to build applications for Symbian OS and that an application for one Symbian hosted UI can easily be ported to another. At the same time we are working to differentiate our offerings from those of other Symbian licensees. Where the market demands a solution to be broadly available on all Symbian devices, Symbian will address this while SonyEricsson will ensure solutions are available that differentiate our products.

WDN: Enterprise today has a large range of devices to choose from, what do you see as the real advantages of UIQ/P800 in fulfilling enterprise device needs?

Henrik Henrik: As a mobility tool the P800 offers the enterprise the best of both worlds, it is a fully featured mobile phone combined with excellent data capabilities, a large screen and good data entry features with the handwriting recognition and a soft keyboard. All this is packaged in a way that still makes it a mobile phone, that the user can always have with them. It achieves similar battery life to a normal phone, it easily exceeds the battery life PDA users have come to expect. We are also able to offer tools to allow enterprise to connect the P800 to their data. Ultimately it a true 24/7 tool.

WDN: What do you see as the most important issues which enterprise needs to overcome in achieving mobility?

Henrik: Clearly there are many issues. Certainly one key one is recognizing that mobile enterprise solutions are not the same thing as making the PC mobile. It's instead about offering the right features for the right usage. Perhaps one key word is, simplicity, any solution needs to recognize that the user is not at a desk and the way to ensure the end-user is productive are different. Ensuring the user is productive also helps with the one thing that concerns all enterprises and that is cost, and an important way to keep costs down is to reuse existing enterprise infrastructure as much as possible.

Some issues we are addressing together with Symbian and for other we are differentiating our offerings with our own initiatives. Device management is one area where we are working with Symbian. We are committed to standards such as SyncML and have standard capabilities to set device parameters over the air, an example of just one of the areas where we are stronger than the competition. An area where we are looking to differentiate our offerings is in support of end-to- end solutions for intranet access and PIM solutions. We believe that on-line synchronization is also an important feature as it helps to control costs. Cradle based synchronization can be very expensive for enterprise to implement, because of the different hardware and software configurations required to support such a solution. Whereas over the air mechanisms mean that the Synchronization takes place with one central server using standards such as SyncML, its easier to manage, more reliable and cost effective for enterprise. In this area we are working with the market leaders in synchronization, such as Extended Systems, to ensure we can offer the best solutions.

WDN: What challenges do you see mobility presenting to enterprise developers?

Henrik: Perhaps the greatest challenge is working with a small display, limited input options, network bandwidth and the fact that these applications will sometimes be disconnected. UIQ helps developers by providing them with a relatively large screen, good input options through the touchscreen and virtual key-board, we also have partners who can supply accessory keyboards. We provide a 4 slot GPRS implementation, which means data transfer is fast. Also following on from the previous question, we are ensuring that the horizontal solutions such as synchronization and security, to allow access to data through the firewall, are in place. This means that the developer can concentrate on vertical applications that being competitive benefit to the enterprise.

WDN: The P800 now supports three languages, native Symbian C++, Java, both Personal Java and MIDP, and Visual Basic with AppForge. How do you see the relative importance of these options for the enterprise developer.

Henrik: We see all of these as important, for example developers will need to use native C++ where they are creating applications which have significant requirements for aspects such as security. On the other hand Java and Visual Basic are good tools for a broad range of applications. Really we want to be able to offer the developer options, so they can select the most appropriate language for their development. Also languages like Visual Basic make the P800 accessible to a large communities of developers, which Symbian C++ does not yet have.

WDN: Sony Ericsson has entered into partnerships with companies like IBM as part of your enterprise strategy, how important are these relationships to your initiative?

Henrik: These relationships are very important. Companies like IBM understand enterprise requirements and in turn can help us understand these requirements, which means we can focus our development efforts. For the enterprise customer they also bring expertise in delivering solutions, both from the perspective of understanding the business problems and defining the solutions, as well as in managing the delivery process. And obviously they bring us an additional distribution channel.

WDN: Presumably these relationships primarily address the larger enterprise customer, where does this leave the market for the smaller organization?

Henrik: Our approach to this market is largely through the operators. Many operators are now providing services designed to help smaller organizations address their mobility needs. The relationships we have with the operators are varied. At one end we have operators who have developed their own services where our focus is on working to ensure that products like the P800 work well with their solutions. At the other end we may be providing end-to-end solutions that the operator then markets to its customers.

WDN: At Exposium Symbian started to reveal a roadmap of voice applications which they believe will make the Symbian OS compelling for enterprise, applications such as on-demand and presence based conferencing. How important do you see this as part of the enterprise solution?

Henrik: Certainly we are seeing significant interest in the one phone concept. I know that many business cases have shown positive benefits to such an approach. However there is some resistance from employees because they see that the fixed phone is capable of offering features like conferencing which they don’t perceive as being well supported by mobile phones. So adding these features will be of huge benefit.

Addressing enterprise requirements, indeed addressing the new consumer requirements associated with smartphones, is changing the way mobile phone manufactures do business. Sony Ericsson have clearly recognized that their skill lie in creating mobile phones that address these market needs but that traditional system integrators like IBM and new player, in the form of operators, are much better equipped to directly address enterprise mobility requirements. As a Symbian OS licensee they also recognize that despite the clear technical lead that Symbian OS has over rival platforms there is much work to do in realigning the perceptions of enterprise and achieving widespread adopting of Symbian OS phone in the enterprise.




About the WDN Symbian Editor, Richard Bloor:
Richard Bloor is a freelance writer and editor with 18 years experience in the IT industry as a developer, analyst and latterly Project Manager with a particularly focus on software testing. Richard has been involved with the Symbian OS since 1995 and has been writing about it for the last 3 years.

Richard is also an associate with System Architecture consultancy Equinox of Wellington, New Zealand.

Richard can be reached at symbian@wirelessdevnet.com.

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