Provide New Capabilities for Mobile Professionals
‘Anywhere Solutions’ for Businesses
By P. Paul Lin and Kevin F. Brown
MAY 2007 - To
be successful, professionals should leverage technology to help
productivity. According to In-Stat, a technology research firm,
2006 was a good year for cellphone manufacturers, with about 1 billion
phones sold worldwide, including almost 80 million smartphones (Brad
Smith, “Smartphones Escalate OS Wars,” Wireless Week,
January 1, 2007, http://www.wirelessweek.com/article.aspx?id=78468&terms=Smartphones
Escalate OS Wars). A smartphone is a device that can take care
of one’s communication, handheld computing, and multimedia
needs. Unlike traditional cellphones, a smartphone offers a personal
information manager (PIM), functionality (e.g., contacts, calendars,
and tasks) and allows professionals to install and run various computer
applications that can edit documents, search the Internet, and retrieve
information from enterprise servers. PDA vendors (e.g., BlackBerry
and Palm) have also added phone functionality to their products
so that users can discard their traditional cellphones and rely
solely on PDAs for their communication needs.
professionals cannot work productively without data resources.
The rapid advances of wireless communication, including smartphones
and third-generation (3G) wireless broadband services, can offer
professionals access to the information they need and the convenience
of staying connected anytime and anywhere. With fast and secure
wireless communication, professionals can retrieve documents from
their offices, edit and send documents to their clients and staff,
or prepare PowerPoint slides when traveling. A small but powerful
smartphone can automatically synchronize (using Microsoft ActiveSync)
its data with a laptop or desktop and allow professionals to “carry”
their office in their pocket. With smartphone prices dropping
and data transmission rates significantly improved, this may be
the year that mobile broadband access will finally expand to allow
office mobility for virtually all businesses. This article will
help professionals make informed decisions for their “anywhere/anytime
solution,” explain several adoption issues, and offer suggestions
to enhance mobile security.
1) provides professionals with secure wireless access to their
enterprise servers and business applications. Specifically, professionals
can use their smartphones to retrieve the information they need,
read and send e-mails, or talk to clients while away from the
office. Consequently, a smartphone with a mobile broadband connection
creates the “office-to-go” option. As service plans
have become increasingly complicated, however, the phone functions
have become more complex.
to the design variation found in personal computers, cellphones
are different in terms of mobile standards or technologies and
transmission frequencies. The Global System for Mobile Communications
(GSM) is the most popular standard for cellphones around the world.
GSM services are used by over 2 billion people across more than
200 countries (73% of the worldwide mobile market share in 2006),
but GSM takes second place in the U.S. market. GSM operates in
the 900-MHz and 1800-MHz bands in Europe and Asia, while service
providers in the U.S., including Cingular (AT&T) and T-Mobile,
use the 850-MHz or 1900-MHz spectrum. Consequently, even with
a new local subscriber identification module (SIM) card in a foreign
country, a GSM cellphone from the U.S. may not work in Europe
or Asia. Frequent international business travelers may want to
buy a dual-band, tri-band, or quad-band “world phone.”
Mobile standards and frequency information for foreign countries
worldwide can be found at www.thetravelinsider.info/roadwarriorcontent/quadbandphones.htm.
is the only region in the world where the Code Division Multiplex
Access (CDMA; 800 or 1900 MHz) mobile technology, adopted by Verizon
and Sprint, is the market leader. While accounting for only 14%
of the worldwide mobile market share in 2006, CDMA accounted for
50% of the North American market. GSM follows with about 38% (“North
America Q3 2006 Technology Roundup,” www.cellular-news.com/story/20904.php).
Early on in the market-share competition, GSM held an advantage
over CDMA in roaming readiness and fraud prevention. Today, however,
CDMA compares favorably to GSM for functionalities, including
multimedia messages, video, digital camera, and high-speed Internet
access (Alessandra Carneiro, “Which Technology Is Better:
GSM or CDMA?” June 18, 2005, www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/151).
Nevertheless, the question of superiority may be moot for users
in areas with only one of the technologies.
between CDMA and GSM has intensified as mobile data service providers
have launched their 3G mobile networks in selected U.S. metropolitan
areas. CDMA service providers adopted the EV-DO (Evolution Data
Only) technology, which transmits data at speeds of 300 to 500
kbps and can theoretically reach transmission rates of 2.4 Mbps
(similar to a landline cable modem). Meanwhile, Cingular, a GSM
service provider, initially used the Enhanced Data Rates for Global
Evolution technology (EDGE; with 384 kbps transfer rates) before
migrating to the wideband CDMA technology (WCDMA; transfer rates
up to 2 Mbps). In October 2006, T-Mobile announced that it would
also move to a 3G network, using the Universal Mobile Telephone
Service technology (UMTS; 400 to 700 bps).
service providers implement their expensive 3G mobile networks
in the United States, the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave
Access technology (WiMax) is on the horizon as the fourth generation
(4G) of wireless technology. WiMax has the ability to deliver
true mobile broadband services on a grand scale. In practice,
WiMax can deliver data at 10 Mbps (about five times faster than
the typical cable modem) at distances up to six miles in a “line
of sight” environment and over 1.25 miles in the typical
urban environment (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiMax).
WiMax is expected to deliver high-throughput, low-cost broadband
wireless services by 2012. For example, Sprint announced in August
2006 that it would invest up to $3 billion over the next two years
to build a 4G wireless network based on the WiMax standard. Many
mobile service providers have yet to recover their multibillion-dollar
investments in the 3G networks, however, and any 4G build-out
will place an even greater strain on their financial resources.
and Operating Systems
To run a
typical computer application and save documents or data, one must
have several hardware components, including a processor, memory,
a keyboard, a mouse (or trackball), and a display screen. Due
to space constraints, however, the hardware components of a smartphone
are typically smaller and less powerful than a laptop computer
to In-Stat, popular operating systems installed in smartphones
include the Symbian OS (62.3% of the 80 million units sold worldwide
in 2006), Linux (19.6%), Microsoft Windows Mobile (8.4%), RIM
BlackBerry OS (6.8%), and Palm OS (2.6%). Software vendors also
offer special versions of their products (e.g., Microsoft’s
Office Mobile) so that the programs can work in the “lean”
computing platform of a smartphone. Many Internet companies (e.g.,
Google) provide separate mobile-friendly websites for visitors
using smartphones or PDAs (e.g., www.google.com/pda/).
is the product of Symbian Ltd., a software company owned by a
group of phone manufacturers that includes Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens,
and Samsung. By outsourcing the operating system design to Symbian,
these manufacturers can focus on hardware design and production.
Furthermore, the Symbian OS is not designed for any specific phone’s
display size or data input method; therefore, manufacturers have
the flexibility to develop innovative designs and deliver them
to the market quickly.
another operating system alternative, offers business professionals
a transfer of their previous Windows experience. In addition,
Windows Mobile is designed to work seamlessly with existing Windows-based
PC and server applications and data. Professionals can use smartphones
to check or compose e-mail with Outlook Mobile, create sales charts
with Excel Mobile, check inventory quantities from their enterprise
server, place orders with vendors, communicate with their staff,
get driving directions with Internet Explorer Mobile, prepare
slides with PowerPoint Mobile, and perform other duties by using
a variety of business applications. The shipment of Windows Mobile
had an astonishing growth rate of 239% in the third quarter of
2006 over the same period in 2005 (www.symbian.com/about/fastfacts/fastfacts.html).
Palm OS was
developed by PalmSource, a subsidiary of Access, a Japanese developer
of cellphone browser technology. PalmSource focuses on its belief
in the most important uses of a mobile device for business professionals:
working with corporate data and using e-mail. Corporate data are
typically hosted by a variety of enterprise solutions from companies
such as Oracle, SAP, Sun, Lotus, RSA, and Siebel. Because PalmSource
serves only the mobile market, it has created close working relationships
with leaders in corporate computing, including ERP vendors. As
a result, Palm OS integrates well with a wide variety of enterprise
solutions. Palm OS remains the number-one platform among smartphone
owners in the U.S., according to IDC’s 2006 survey (“With
Smart Phones, It’s All About the OS,” November 29,
Selecting a Service Provider and a Smartphone
3G mobile broadband, it’s all about the service provider
because the mode (CDMA or GSM) and transmission speeds depend
on what a carrier offers. A user’s selection might be limited,
however, because one’s preferred 3G network may not extend
to all of one’s business locations. Even worse, the expensive
installation of 3G networks has limited mobile broadband services
to certain areas. Before making a selection, buyers should compare
online coverage maps of service providers with their residence,
work, and travel locales. If possible, speak to current subscribers
in these areas because the service-providers’ maps might
be inaccurate, especially for locations at the edge of a coverage
Reports conducted a comprehensive survey in September 2006,
collecting 42,921 responses from its readers in 20 metro areas
(“Best Cell Services,” Consumer Reports,
January 2007). About a quarter of the participants indicated that
they switched service providers during the past three years largely
because of poor service. Furthermore, about 28% of the switches
occurred while subscribers were still under contract, despite
the early- termination fees that may have been imposed. The detailed
information provided in this survey could be helpful, even if
one’s business needs are outside those 20 metro areas, because
of the potential insight into overall consistency and service.
functionalities of smartphones have become more complex, selecting
a device is not unlike buying a car. Just as a test drive is essential
when buying a car, the handling of a prospective smartphone is
critical. If possible, one should stop in a retail store and evaluate
the phone’s functionalities and ease of use. If one is comfortable
with a particular model, Consumer Reports suggests purchasing
the product online. Survey responses from 18,000 subscribers (covering
34 cellphones) revealed that 61% of participants were “completely
satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the prices
they paid online compared to 46% for those who made in-store purchases
(“Best Cell-Phone Deals,” Consumer Reports,
January 2007). The reviews can shed some light on product performance
and assist in purchase decisions.
Concerns for Mobile Offices
and convenience are always trade-offs when using a mobile device.
Mobile networks offer flexibility, but privacy is a concern. Hackers
do not need to have physical access to the network, and they do
not have to be close to an individual’s phone (if they employ
booster antennas) to compromise security. Hackers can also take
their time cracking passwords or PINs to read one’s network
data without leaving a trace. Furthermore, smartphones pose even
higher threats because the key personnel who tend to have access
to more-sensitive business information are also more likely to
use their mobile devices to view, edit, and store such information.
threats for laptops apply not only to smartphones, but often make
mobile devices even more susceptible because the lean computing
platforms of smartphones do not have adequate resources to create
a good defense. The threats for mobile devices include criminals
eavesdropping, stealing data, hacking into servers, planting malware
(e.g., viruses and spyware), and cloning the devices. Theft of
the devices, which can easily be misplaced, is also a looming
most businesses mandate Wi-Fi security on laptops, some may overlook
the same security threats to their smartphones. Smartphones are
equipped with Bluetooth, a wireless technology that allows users
to transfer files between different devices, such as sending data
from cellphones to desktop computers or transferring addresses
stored on laptops to smartphones. Many people do not realize that
Bluetooth and Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) are typically
enabled on their smartphones. An active wireless device cradled
to a desktop using Bluetooth can create a back door into a company’s
server and network. Mobile devices have become tempting and relatively
easy targets for hackers.
cases of mobile malware and wireless attacks have emerged in recent
years. For example, the Doomboot trojan corrupted Symbian-powered
devices and the Commwarrior worm spread malware from one device
to another by Bluetooth and MMS (Lisa Phifer, “Mobile Security:
Where Risk Meets Opportunity, Part 2,” July 24, 2006, itmanagement.earthweb.com/secu/article.php/3621986).
Malware can also infect smartphones when users download programs,
photos, video clips, or even ringtones. Moreover, if Bluetooth
is enabled on a smartphone and is within 30 feet of another Bluetooth-enabled
and infected device, that phone might get infected. Similar to
the file-sharing option on a computer, the Bluetooth feature of
a smartphone should be turned off or set to the “non-discoverable”
mode when it’s not in use. Additionally, if a phone is equipped
with a “beam” communication device (infrared receiver),
one should allow it to receive incoming beams only when receiving
data from a source that’s trustworthy (“Help Avoid
Computer Viruses that Spread over Mobile Devices,” September
20, 2006, www.microsoft.com/athome/security/viruses/mobilevirus.mspx).
2006, hackers unleashed spyware that could copy “short message
server” (SMS) messages and send the messages to a server
accessed by the hackers. In September 2006, another spyware program
was detected that could retrieve SMS messages, contact numbers,
and call logs (Andrew R. Hickey, “Mobile Spyware —It’s
Here,” December 20, 2006, search mobilecomputing.techtarget.com/).
the copying of another phone’s identity, is an additional
security threat. Older analog cellphones could be cloned remotely
with some radio reception equipment, but criminals need more resources
for over-the-air cloning of digital GSM phones. For example, such
a scheme requires over-the-air access to the targeted cellphones
for a relatively long period of time, along with some sophisticated
technical expertise (“GSM Cloning,” www.isaac.cs.berkeley.edu/isaac/gsm.html).
CDMA cellphone is less difficult and is accomplished by duplicating
a phone’s electronic serial number (ESN) and mobile identification
number (MIN). With this information, the perpetrator can make
many copies of one phone number so that all the services used
will be charged to that one account.
Readers would likely be disturbed to learn that there are several
blog postings by those desperate enough to obtain copies of the
software capable of changing ESNs and MINs. As a result of this
nefarious demand, this type of crime will continue to escalate.
Mobile service subscribers should check their bills regularly
to detect any unauthorized use, especially international calls.
See the Sidebar
for suggestions to enhance the security of smartphones.
“anywhere solution” is the right choice for a business
depends on several factors. Are staff (e.g., executives, sales
personnel, auditors, or customer support teams) constantly on
the road? What kind of data do staff need in the field? What types
of mobile applications do they need? What is the budget? Mobility
and wireless offer significant benefits to businesses in terms
of productivity and growth, and can have a short payback period
(“Wireless Notebooks to See Rapid Growth, Enhance Small
Business Productivity, States ITSPA,” May 19, 2004, www.itspa.net/pressroom/press_detail.asp?id=81).
There is still a cost associated with this technology, however,
which may significantly affect the budgets of small and medium-size
businesses. Such companies should assess where the greatest payback
will be when introducing mobility into their business processes.
can capitalize on smartphones to create an anywhere solution to
enhance staff productivity, mobile devices are not a panacea.
They can also distract employees with multimedia entertainment
(e.g., music, video clips). Abuses of company-issued cellphones
by employees not only decrease productivity by adding distractions,
but might also increase phone bills. Companies should have explicit
policies regarding smartphones to deter abuse.
for mobile devices and wireless broadband will continue to grow.
IDC predicts that 90% of enterprise mailboxes will be accessed
with mobile devices by the end of 2007 (Lisa Phifer, “Mobile
Security: Where Risk Meets Opportunity: Part 1,” July 17,
Furthermore, new models of smartphones featuring more-powerful
capabilities and innovative designs are constantly appearing.
In this fast-changing environment, choosing the right technology
for one’s anywhere solution is an important decision for
Paul Lin, PhD, is an associate professor of accountancy,
and Kevin F. Brown, PhD, CPA, is an assistant
professor of accountancy, both at Wright State University, Dayton,