Net Neutrality, Smartphones: Hot Topics for CIOs

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 08-16-2010

Net Neutrality, Smartphones: Hot Topics for CIOs

As the world's largest search company, most observers expect Google to protect the interests of Web users and small sites. But last week, the company came under fire for a net neutrality proposal that critics say gives undue power to big firms, and leaves Web users and small online services out of the mix. It's worth noting that Google's proposal is in no way the new "law of the land" on the Internet, but it could have a direct impact on the way that CIOs run their operations in the coming years.

For example, it is possible that if the FCC follows Google's proposals, certain services would get preferential treatment online. A proverbial "toll road," would be erected which allows ISPs to institute tiered pricing based on quality of service. This would directly influence how companies access the growing number of online tools that are quickly becoming essential to their day-to-day business operations.

Google's net neutrality idea isn't the only big news. Last week, Apple let go its top iPhone executive, causing some to wonder what the future will look like for that smartphone platform. And Adobe's Flash, while still catching heat from Apple, is steadily making its way onto smartphones. Meanwhile, Microsoft says that Windows Phone 7 will be ready for the corporate world, and the BlackBerry Torch from Research In Motion (RIM) had its big reveal. Let's dig into these stories and find out why every CIO should care about how they will turn out.

Google, Verizon Ink Net Neutrality Proposal

Google and Verizon were forced to take on critics last week over a proposal they wrote on net neutrality. The companies claim that the proposal protects Web users and helps small Web sites. But a deep look into what the proposal really says reveals that the companies want to:

  • limit the FCC's influence
  • offer advanced bandwidth to services that don't cause "meaningful harm" to competitors
  • allow ISPs to control wireless networks the way they see fit

For CIOs, Google and Verizon's proposal could be worrisome. If it became the regulatory basis by which all Web decisions are made, ISPs would be given far more power to do what they want, when they want on the Internet. Plus, certain Web services could get preferential treatment, potentially leaving room for some solutions that companies use to be disadvantaged. Keep a close eye on Google's net neutrality proposal. If it becomes law, you might find an entirely different Web landscape to manage.

Apple Says Good-Bye to Top iPhone Exec

Mark Papermaster, Apple's top iPhone executive, left the company for undisclosed reasons. Numerous reports suggested Papermaster didn't match Apple CEO Steve Jobs' corporate culture, and the antenna problems plaguing the iPhone 4 contributed to his departure.

Exactly where Papermaster, a former IBM employee, will land is unknown. But if you're making buying decisions, his departure is worth considering. On one hand, he helped lead Apple's iPhone division since 2008. During that time, he made the smartphone far more corporate-friendly. How well Apple's iPhone will appeal to companies going forward is anyone's guess. On the other hand, Papermaster could bring his expertise to another handset maker, potentially helping that company deliver a viable enterprise alternative to the iPhone. The mobile market just became much more interesting.

Flash Continues its Growth in Mobile Market

Adobe's Flash platform is making its way to an increasing number of Android smartphones. Depending on which side of the debate you fall on, this will either excite you or be cause for conern. Apple has said time and again that the reason why it won't allow Flash on its smartphone is due to the security issues it can cause for owners. Plus, the company says, it doesn't work as well as it should on mobile devices.

Google and Adobe, on the other hand, believe that Flash has promise in the mobile market. And the companies scoff at claims that Flash causes security problems. At this point, there is no telling if hackers will find a way into smartphones through Flash. But, as the platform makes its way to more Android-based smartphones, it won't be long before the market finds out. That's when you'll be able to decide if Android is really right for your enterprise.

Microsoft Targets Enterprise With Windows Phone 7

Microsoft general manager of investor relations Bill Koefoed says that Windows Phone 7, the company's follow-up to Windows Mobile, will boast several enterprise-friendly features. In his presentation at the Oppenheimer Annual Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Conference in Boston last Tuesday, Koefoed said the software will boast integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange "that is, frankly, unparalleled" in the mobile market.

As a CIO, you're probably happy to hear that. The enterprise is dominated by Windows OS. And Windows Mobile devices, while less desirable than some alternatives, integrate well into existing solutions. Hearing that Microsoft's smartphone platform might work well with existing infrastructure should help put your mind at ease when you need to make your next mobile buying decisions. That said, it's worth noting that Windows Phone 7 is not backward-compatible with mobile apps built for Microsoft's previous mobile iterations. This is especially important for organizations that may have a large field service deployment running an app designed with Windows Mobile 6, 6.5, or even .NET.

BlackBerry Torch Gets Tepid Reviews

RIM launched its BlackBerry Torch smartphone on the AT&T Wireless network in the U.S. on August 12. The device boasts some respectable specs plus RIM's first touchscreen/keyboard slider design. But its major feature is BlackBerry OS 6, the newest version of RIM's mobile operating system, which also made its debut last week and is coming to BlackBerry Enterprise Servers. So far, the Torch has been well received, with most reviewers saying it's a fine BlackBerry. But that's where the laudatory statements end.

The device's design and nominal upgrades to its operating system speak to RIM's seeming unwillingness to change its strategy in the face of a growing Android and iPhone onslaught. And with both of its competitors becoming more enterprise-focused, the Torch, with its AT&T exclusivity, could make some CIOs think twice about bringing it to their companies.