Work. There’s a phone for that!

The recent launch of eMobile for our business customers and the launch of the Nokia Lumia 820 got me thinking about the device I currently use for work and how that has transformed over the years.

Thu, March 14th, 15:39


I suppose I’ve been a “personal mobile device” guy for a while now. From my very first pre-work Casio Personal Organiser around 1994 and my first work-supplied Franklin Electronic Rolodex that I was given as a Christmas bonus in 1996 by my boss in Oakland California, the idea of having your PIM (Personal Information Management) data with you wherever you go struck a chord with me from the very earliest moments of my career.

Syncing and beaming with my Palm Pilot

Those early PDA devices were eclipsed and rendered redundant a few months later with the arrival of my first Palm Pilot, the beautifully designed Palm Vx with its flared out tail and graffiti handwriting recognition. This could (through a cable and a cradle and no small amount of hard work – remember “HotSync”!) synchronise my work email, calendar and contact information as well as taking notes, being a calculator, a clock and other useful “apps”. It also had an Infra-Red Port (imagine) which would allow you to “beam” your business card to another Vx user. And there were a lot of us. It was a very popular device in late ‘90s corporate America and we were beaming each other to beat the band.

Internet ‘surfing’ with my Nokia 7110

Mobile phones hadn’t really caught fire in the States at the time and it wasn’t until 2000 when I moved back to Ireland that I got my hands on my first mobile phone, the truly gorgeous Nokia 7110. If you don’t remember it, it was the one (or very like the one) that Neo used in the Matrix. The one with the delightful slider which you swished open with a little silver button to reveal the keypad beneath. This phone had the distinction of being “WAP” (Wireless Access Protocol) enabled. As such, it could access some appalling walled-garden operator-provided services, and not much else. However, it was also capable of acting as a modem to dial up an internet connection. When you lined this up with the silver brick Compaq iPaq (I mean literally lined them up, back to back, IR-Port to IR-Port), you could suddenly surf the internet on your iPaq. Now, I say “surf”. Awkward paddling was closer to the mark, but you get the idea.

Blackberry introduces me to email on-the-go

Fast forward through a few years of decent enough, but not world-changing Nokias (like the 6230i), Motorolas (like the RAZR and MPX-200) and HP iPaqs until April 2004 when I was able to send this email from the 103 bus on Whitworth Road.

Unless you are a gadget nut like me, you probably cannot even imagine how exciting and life changing this was. This was my first email sent from a BlackBerry and it was nothing short of revolutionary. Gone was the need to manually “sync” email/contacts/calendar to your phone; it just arrived, pushed seemingly magically over the air. Furthermore, you had fast (GPRS) access to the internet in the palm of your hand, with no awkward extra connections required.

Smartphones emerge as viable business platforms

App development as we understand it today was still a long way off, but the BlackBerry platform actually gave us a development environment to do just that. A short while later in fact, we would replace all eircom technician laptops with BlackBerrys – crucially with no loss of functionality. At this point we were starting to see that the smartphone really could be a platform that business could use to deliver real and substantive value, with the underpinning data network crucial to its success.

Shortly after that, we began to migrate away from BlackBerry for Mail and PIM users as more smartphone platforms began to emerge. Windows Mobile 6, Symbian and others began to appear as contenders and devices like the Nokia E61, E71, Motorola Q9, HTC S620 all passed through my hot little hands and provided different flavours of “more of the same”.

iPhone turns smartphone industry on its head

And then in 2007, everything changed. Apple turned the entire industry on its head with the release of the iPhone. Suddenly the people who had scoffed at my side-plate-sized smartphones and my tendency to look up things on the internet while “not-at-a-computer” joined in the revolution. Most thought, of course, that this was some revolutionary technology at play, where in fact it was nothing of the sort. This was existing technology and ideas ramped up to the max, made accessible, and beautifully and artfully packaged and marketed, as only Apple can. But that was what it took to shake the industry to the core. And shake it did. From that point forward, all other vendors (whether they realised it or accepted it) were now in catch-up mode. The market had moved out from under them and suddenly they all looked dated and irrelevant. I must admit, I never jumped on the Apple bandwagon. At least not until recently when the iPad turned my head a bit, but that’s not a phone and we shall talk no more of that particular dalliance at this time.

Android invades the smartphone market

We in the non-iPhone world struggled on until 2011 through Symbian’s various incarnations, Palm OS, Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 to name but a few. Those of you who lived through that with me will know how those platforms were hard children to love at times. At the same time, of course, another contender was on the rise – Android. Google’s Open Source, Wild West OS had a stuttering start, but very quickly gained market share as well as heart-and-mind share amongst non-Apple die-hards and before we knew it, it was the number two platform, having been voraciously adopted by most of the major hardware manufacturers (Samsung, HTC, etc.).

Microsoft gets in on the act with Windows Phone 7

In 2011, Microsoft finally shed its Pocket PC skin and tried something completely different. Windows Phone 7 looked and felt different. And not just to its own predecessors, but everything else in the market as well. Where Android shamelessly aped the iPhone feature for feature (and subsequently Apple did the same to Android), Windows Phone 7 dared to try something different. It’s a pity the OS hasn’t gained more traction, but it’s early days yet and the new Windows Phone 8 sharing its UI with Windows 8 and Xbox 360 will perhaps be a shot in the arm for Microsoft.

Either way, I have to say, I’m a huge fan of this OS. I’ve been through four Windows 7 phones now and one Windows 8: the Samsung Omnia 7, the HTC Radar, the HTC Trophy, the Nokia Lumia 800 and my current main squeeze, the Nokia Lumia 820. This is an extraordinary device which I use for just about everything, from notebook to GPS running monitor, from flashlight to book reader, not to mention email, phone, internet, SMS, video calling, camera, contacts, music player, video camera, sat nav and social networking; it really is limitless.

The smartphone truly has come of age and I feel very privileged to have witnessed its rise first hand. What’s next I wonder? The answer may be here, but we shall see …

Stephen Mulligan is Solution Principal at eircom, specialising in Unified Communications. Contact Stephen on LinkedIn or here to discuss how UC can benefit your business

Stephen Mulligan

eircom Business Centre