Not a handful of years ago (circa 2009), bring your own device — or BYOD — meant, “bring in any kind of laptop and, maybe, a Mac.” IT could support only a small set of clients, and, because expectations were low, there wasn’t too much grumbling from workers. At the time, it wasn’t altogether clear that BYOD would really make inroads in enterprise IT and become the force it has turned into today.

And by 2020, BYOD will have changed even more dramatically.

  • For important applications, the web browser will no longer be good enough. An application is required.
  • What does the application run on? It must run on smartphones, tablets, laptops (including Mac) and maybe even smart TVs/set-top-boxes like AppleTV, Xbox and GoogleTV.
  • The application functionality will vary depending on the device. For example, Spotify or Evernote have different interfaces for the iPhone/Android phone, the iPad and the Mac/laptop. That’s a lot of development testing and support work. Does every application have to support such a wide range of clients?

Why core vs. non-core matters for BYOD

It depends on the application. If it’s a “core” application, an application that creates differentiation for the enterprise, then the answer is probably yes.

If however, the application doesn’t differentiate the enterprise (like payroll or expenses), then maybe an application for smartphones and a browser application for other devices will be fine. However, such non-core applications are increasingly offered by SaaS providers. The SaaS providers see cool user interfaces as a differentiation against their competition — enterprise IT developing the applications themselves. The SaaS providers will offer a cool application for smartphones, tablets, laptops, and — depending on the application — on smart TVs.

The business strongly influences the sourcing choice for applications. Today, the business pays enterprise IT to provide applications. But if they feel that a SaaS offering for, say, expenses will be easier and faster for their businesspeople to use than enterprise IT’s version, then they will move their funding. The Golden Rule says, “he who has the gold, makes the rules.”

I therefore believe that the demand for multi-device applications will favor the SaaS providers for non-core applications like payroll, expenses, and email.

However, an enterprise doesn’t want to use a SaaS provider for those applications that give it a differentiation. The enterprise has to create these core applications itself.

Development, testing and support tools

And so, enterprises need to “tool up.” They need to develop, test and support applications that are multi-device with application functionality that varies depending on the device — less for smartphones, more for tablets, and more keyboard-orientated for laptops.

In the area of testing, I believe that we will see multi-device testing as a cloud service. An enterprise may develop and test an app on iPhone, iPad, and Windows 10 laptop, and then have a cloud testing service complete the tests on Android phone and tablet, the Mac, and Xbox, for example.

Security, privacy and BYOD

By 2020, nearly 1 million more mobile applications will be available. Malware is already starting to creep into mobile apps. With this huge increase in mobile application numbers, the malware problem on mobile devices will be very serious unless we take active steps to control it.

Despite these threats, employees will increasingly insist on being able to bring their own devices to work. Companies will be forced to allow this, but in turn, they can’t allow such “dirty” devices to pollute corporate networks. Devices will therefore probably have two or more complete machines running inside them. Yes, they will have one screen and one keyboard, but the processors and storage for each machine will be separate – not virtual machines implemented in software, but a physical separation at the hardware level.

Six things you need to know about the future of BYOD

1. BYOD is coming.

2. There is a move from consuming functionality in a web browser to using an application. There will be an expectation that these applications run on smartphones, tablets, laptops/Mac, and smart TVs.

3. This puts a huge strain on enterprise IT’s development and support organizations. Even for large enterprises, the cost of developing and supporting multi-device applications will be high and sometimes hard to justify.

4. There will thus be huge demand for tools that allow us to create, test, and support multi-device applications. These tools need to vary the user interface type depending on the device’s power and size.

5. SaaS providers will have an advantage. They can spread such multi-device application development and support over huge installed bases.

6. Security of mobile devices will be a real issue. Mobile devices will get malware infections which mustn’t make their way onto the corporate networks, and thus, corporate data. Mobile devices will need to adopt the levels of security we already see in Microsoft Windows PCs. Mobile devices will contain a separate machine for access to corporate assets.

What do you think?

What do you think about multi-device application support in the enterprise?

We are creating a crowd-sourced vision for the world in 2020. Please feel free to go to the Enterprise 20/20 site and explore from there , or go directly to the CIO 20/20 chapter and the Dev Center 2020 chapter and add your comments. We will take your comments and use them to amend our initial CIO 20/20 view that published on August 19, 2012.