But someone will still need to provide that overarching software and hardware ecosystem, whatever the specifics of the device, and like McAvan and Lynn, Sullivan is hedging his bets between iOS and Microsoft for the prize.
“I think Microsoft’s big bad is that Apple will keep ignoring business, and keep focusing on the consumer [side], where they sell more devices,” says Sullivan.
“But if Microsoft can crack the business side, they’ll be at an advantage over Apple. However, if Apple changes its direction, and can pull those things in, I think it’s possibly the company that could take over.”
Sullivan believes Microsoft will struggle to maintain its dominance of the endpoint if its Surface platform proves to be a failure.
“It all depends on how much focus Microsoft can get on its tablet,” says Sullivan. “Apple is able to move much faster, because it’s not burdened with that previous success [on the desktop].”
At the same time, however, Sullivan believes that it would only take a slight tweak to its existing hardware loadout for Apple to fit neatly into his kiosk vision.
“If you had the ability to Airplay your [device’s] display at work, you’d be able to have a lot more of what you did in the day driven off one of these mobile devices,” he says.
Is Sullivan suggesting Apple may actually produce an enterprise-led multi-device solution? “I think that’s the concept that will catch on,” he says. “I think that’s what Microsoft is going after with the Surface concept. They’re pretending it’s an iPad killer, but in the back of their minds, by putting a keyboard on it, they’re making the business device of the future.”
Sullivan, however, is bemused by Google’s Android strategy. If the future endpoint is all about drawing together threads to create an all-encompassing mobile package, he believes Google has missed the mark in a critical way.
“Android’s story is, ‘Get it out there and make it ubiquitous’. But I think the fragmentation is quite costly compared to the Apple side; it has been for us,” he says.
NaviSite’s McAvan thinks along similar lines when asked if the Android platform could lead us towards a golden, interconnected open-source future.
“It’s difficult to say. It’s fragmented. The open-source nature of it means it could potentially dominate the market, but in so many different forms it would be difficult to homogenise one and say it’s all Android. Whether Google can actually own it, or ever own it now, is debatable.”
Like Sullivan, McAvan is wary of the heavy support costs this fragmentation brings: “I think the app developers on mobile platforms, who are currently slightly ahead of corporate developers, are struggling to make money on that platform, perhaps because of the fragmentation.”
So while in a far-off future we may be storing our accounts information on dead organic tissue while recording minutes from meetings on a chip in our arm and then reading them via a laser drawing directly onto our retinas, the next five years or so look like an exodus to the mobile platform. From tablet back to phone, and even down to the level of NFC-chipped clothing, the enterprise will be dependent on hollow, disposable conduits. This will place even greater pressure on software providers to fit it all together: whichever is best at doing this will own the endpoint of tomorrow.
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