The Move Towards Converged Mobile Devices

The global demand for wireless devices continues to be driven by the converged market. This segment of the wireless marketplace has continued to show impressive growth, accelerating the replacement cycle on a global basis. According to Gartner, global sales of smartphones in the first quarter of 2008 totaled 32.3 million units, up nearly 30 percent vs. 2007. In North America, sales more than doubled to 7.3 million units.

Location Based Services

Based on its business and market intelligence in 28 countries around the world and global industry sources, Brightpoint, Inc. expects 75 percent of all global handset shipments to be converged devices in the next three to five years (especially in matured markets). This is in comparison to the current rate of 15 to 20 percent. While mobile e-mail and messaging are the current killer apps for converged devices, manufacturers, distributors and developers are looking for a new wave of applications to drive sales into the next decade. The Mobile Internet seems to be the theme for the next several years, and the best candidates for the new killer apps are those that take advantage of it. 

One category of mobile applications that is already gaining traction is LBS (Location Based Services) solutions. While standalone navigation devices are gaining increasing share among the average consumer, enterprise customers are looking for more. Converged devices with GPS capability present a rich platform for developers and offer a reasonably quick deployment option that reaches far beyond simply turn-by-turn navigation. In addition, the recent entry of the major Navigation manufacturers into the mobile area shows that they see this potential for growth as well. Deploying converged devices with an LBS application embedded in them allows an enterprise to not only manage their telecom spending on the voice side, but to also utilize unique fleet management applications such as driver deployment and route planning—especially important with gas prices rising. 

Managing mobile workers

In addition to LBS services, employers are using converged device applications to better manage remotely-deployed employees. Various applications can be run on smartphones that allow hourly employees to have their "on the clock" time accurately tracked or to give contract-based employees an easy and accurate way to keep track of service calls without having to keep written logs or having to physically report to a central location.

The use of converged devices is also on the rise in the warehouse environment. These advanced devices can not only do the work of less-capable "voice-only" phones in keeping employees in contact on spacious warehouse floors, they can also scan inventory, upload it to central databases, and log job progress in real-time. This helps to eliminate the need for extra tools, as the employee's communication device also serves as their main source of transmitting shipping and storage data.

The future of converged devices

Looking to the future, the converged device appears to be the tool that will truly un-tether the average business employee from his or her office. In addition to the applications previously mentioned, Enterprise-grade Wi-Fi and VoIP services are already deployed that allow the device to integrate with IPPBX systems and turn the handset into a mobile version of the desk phone. These services not only free the worker from being connected to a desk, but can help lower the enterprise telecom bill. Coming technology will allow hi-resolution, full-color business presentations, downloaded movies, and stored pictures to be projected directly from a converged device, all without any peripherals. With beefed-up mobile device processors being rolled out as fast as desktop/laptop CPUs, and with the proliferation of high-speed 3G data networks, the power and capabilities of the converged mobile device are quickly approaching those of your desktop or laptop PC.