The top 12 mobile and wireless issues for 2008: Part 2

Get ready for another year of change in mobile devices, with batteries, web services and open access to the fore, says Craig Mathias.

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In my last column, I gave my predictions for the first six of the top 12 mobile and wireless issues of 2008. This week, I'll wrap it up with the remainder. Again, these are in no particular order, except for the last one, anyway.

7. The last frontier: Battery and power management

No matter what your handheld can do, it can't do it with a dead battery. And as we demand that these devices do more, and faster, they suck down battery power faster than Uncle Ned downs eggnog while opening gifts. Progress in battery technology is much slower than in chips and such; chemistry is more difficult than physics.

But there is progress to report. A combination of incremental improvements in lithium batteries, power-saving wireless protocols, chips that can be partially or completely turned off when not in use, and assorted engineering cleverness will enable us to make at least a little progress here. Don't expect wireless battery recharging in 2008, although this might be possible in five years or so. My advice: Always carry a fully charged spare battery with you when you travel.

8. Think ROI, not cost

I can't tell you how many projects I've seen derailed at the starting gate by a financial type who utters those three fateful words: It's too expensive. This is usually looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. It's not about cost, or at least cost alone, but rather return on investment.

If you're improving the productivity of your field force far in excess of the costs involved in providing them with a mobile offering, that's a good investment. The right way to look at this problem then is to ask a few questions: Is the cash flow manageable? Are the funds available, or what's the cost of obtaining them? Next, look at opportunity cost, the cost of the next best alternative or, more likely, do nothing. And finally, estimate ROI. If all of these look good, it's tough for a chief financial officer to refuse.

9. Web services are the answer

The iPhone brought the debate over local applications versus web services to the forefront during 2007. The iPhone originally wasn't going to have an API for programmers, but it soon will. And yet, with a great browser, one might argue that local apps are so 2007. Both are needed, as it turns out, because there are some local tasks such as editing documents, working with a spreadsheet and preparing a presentation, that can be done offline, and wireless coverage isn't perfect. Wireless on airplanes, by the way, will make progress in 2008.

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