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HP Software's community for IT leaders // April 2013
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A vision of seamless mobility

The chief technologist of HP’s Communications, Media, and Entertainment unit talks about truly integrating with users’ mobile lifestyle.

One of the key problems in the transition to the mobile era is that users—your customers, colleagues, and employees—are no longer working on one, deskbound digital device. Instead they’re shifting from laptop and desktop to smartphone, tablet, and—perhaps in the near future—wristwatches and eyeglasses.

HP’s Enterprise 20/20 project, a crowdsourced ebook that ponders the technology shifts between now and 2020, recently released a chapter on mobility. In it, Jeff Edlund, chief technologist of HP’s Communications, Media, and Entertainment unit, speaks about the need to allow users to shift seamlessly—invisibly—from device to device.
 
Discover Performance asked him to give us a little more depth on how to better manage our armloads of mobile devices, and Edlund reframed the question: “It’s about ubiquitous availability of your mobile lifestyle."

Q: In the Enterprise 20/20 mobility chapter, you mention that the process of mobility needs to be invisible to the user. Can you explain that?

Jeff Edlund: It’s the biggest macro theme we’re neglecting in mobility, the one that would allow us to meet the primary need of the end user in regard to mobility. Every device or platform has a different application ecosystem—the apps, the store, etc. But even within the Apple ecosystem, once you move off of those platforms (iPhone, iPad) to another Apple platform like a MacBook Air, you’re in a different application ecosystem. So not only do we have industry fragmentation, we’ve got ecosystem fragmentation, and ultimately consumer confusion and lack of willingness to pay for what vendors think is a perceived value.

Q: How do we solve this?

JE: We need to bring enterprise customers better technology and better integration solutions that solve these problems. I see this problem getting even worse as we experience the acceleration of the Internet of Things and M2M as a revenue-producing economy.

Q: So where do we start? Is it a matter of getting the right people to sit up and listen—industry groups, etc.?

JE: It’s driving of standards bodies. It’s development of new code and ecosystems solutions. And it’s really starting to put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer, and then solve for use cases based upon bad experiences. We’ve got access to technologies that will help us do this. Cloud is one of them. With the cloud, you can put application entities or services in place that can act on the consumer’s behalf. They can start to answer some of these problems.

Q: What would the solution look like—the mobile nirvana?

JE: Nirvana would be that everybody complies with a set of standards and delivery mechanisms. But we’re a long way from getting to that nirvana. Consumer behaviors are going to help drive that. Think about bring-your-own-device in the enterprise. Each enterprise views its own notion of corporate data containers, security. That adds another layer of complexity that today’s ecosystem is not designed to solve. We need a new model that says: “This is invisible to the user. We take care of the details on a platform somewhere else on that consumer’s behalf.” And that platform is the cloud.

Q: In the mobility chapter, you describe an intelligent avatar holding all this together …

JE: Right. I see the user as the center of the universe. All services and experiences should surround the user. The avatar lives in the cloud and is the entity that stitches together all of these complex spokes that need access to the hub, which is the user.

Q: What needs to be done to get to this reality? Will we get there by 2020?

JE: I think we can. Based upon work that we’re doing in HP Labs, it’s not a question of having to develop lots of new technologies or creating a state of the art that doesn’t exist today. It’s more about access to the investment resources needed to apply the concerted effort to go out and solve these problems. It’s going to be a crawl-walk-run scenario, a set of baby steps. We’re testing hypotheses. We’ve decided the cloud is the platform. There’s got to be a piece of artificial intelligence that lives up in the cloud that can manage these interactions. We’ve picked an ecosystem that’s open and relatively inexpensive for us to experiment in—Android, for example. We’re starting to play with these use models to see what we can actually do.

Q: Can you describe a use model?

JE: User in the center. What he has is his own mobile personal grid. One vector off that is connectivity—what’s the access method [or network]? Another is persona and context—is he behaving as a worker or as dad/hockey player? Another is devices—phones, tablets, laptops. The final vector is the cloud, which is responsible for what we call pervasive and persistent bonding across that personal grid (connectivity, persona/context, devices). The approach unifies mobile with infrastructure and the cloud. Mobility isn’t just about ubiquitous broadband availability and connectivity: it’s about ubiquitous availability of your mobile lifestyle.
 
We have a use case of a guy, Steve, he’s a marketer. He’s got a set of devices and a set of contexts. He’s using a tablet, a mobile phone, and a laptop.  He’s got an employer-provided cell phone, and a Regus conferencing center. All of these are disaggregated channels of service delivery. In our world of mobility, the cloud and his personal avatar bring them all together. So the vision is for us to integrate multiple devices, multiple media-rich applications, across enterprise infrastructure software and public infrastructure.
 
As workers and users increasingly go mobile, enterprise IT will have to evolve to the needs of the user and the opportunities of new platforms and technologies. For more on how the enterprise must adapt to the fast-changing mobile era, read the full Enterprise 20/20 chapter on mobility—and join the conversation.


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