As a student, I remember watching reruns of “Star Trek” in my college dormitory with other University of California matriculates, and yes, I was a bit of a geek for sure! My favorite phrase uttered episode after episode was, “Kirk to Enterprise. Come in, Enterprise,” and with a simple flick of the wrist, a well-equipped Federation personnel would “beam” Captain Kirk back to Enterprise from wherever he was. Maybe Gene Roddenberry and the other geniuses behind the 1960s hit were really technology gurus and visionaries. Think about it; Captain Kirk talking directly to someone on another space vessel, or even in another galaxy, via a live connection on a wide screen display. Does this remind you of Cisco TelePresence perhaps? What about the electronic “pads” the yeoman was always handing to Captain Kirk to sign-off on. Did Steve Jobs have that vision in mind as he fleshed out the first iPad design? Maybe the most prescient device on the show was the communicator. Could it have been a precursor to today’s smartphone? I don’t think Roddenberry, even in his wildest dreams, imagined the direction of today’s smartphones; a device powerful enough to allow users to play word games with friends while talking to their mother and searching a website for a great place for sushi. Interestingly enough, it was Canada where both of these wonders were born.
The smart phone revolution was of course pioneered by Canadian giant Research In Motion (RIM), and I’m not sure not even the company’s corporate strategists could have foreseen how deep the insertion would be when Blackberry first hit the market. The term “CrackBerry” snidely referred to those individuals who, even with a crowbar, couldn’t be separated from their BlackBerry devices. RIM enjoyed a tremendous advantage in being first to market, and their legions of converts who eagerly consumed everything BlackBerry were harbingers of a new era of business mobility. The days of “out of office” greetings were numbered as any smart, aggressive organization knew that if they were more accessible to their customers and prospects the likelihood of closing business and creating agile customer service was astronomically better than those not embracing the mobility trend.
In the case of small business intranet, as well as in the wild, the hunter often becomes the hunted. Even though RIM had a pretty strong foothold on the fledgling market, others soon came to dislodge the leader from the mountaintop. Even PDA makers such as Palm, Inc.,with their Treo devices, jumped into the fray after seeing their product was becoming obsolete. Soon others with new operating systems like the Apple iPhone and the Google-backed Android device were introduced to the market. Of course, it wouldn’t really be a party without Microsoft, who has been trying to crack the smartphone and mobility market for several years with their Windows Phone. Though lagging behind in feature set, the Windows Phone was thought to have a slight advantage in ease of incorporation into full Windows-based environments. However the comparative ease of the competition to do the same, as well as weaker Windows Phone feature sets, kept Microsoft on the outside looking in for the most part; until now. Industry watchers are carefully keeping an eye on the next iteration of the Windows Phone operating system, Windows Phone 8. Microsoft has placed some heavy bets on this product touting the seamless user interface between the phone and the desktop or laptop. Time will tell whether this strategy will be a winner or a disaster.