Mobility

The Latest

22 October 2021: Microsoft recently unveiled the latest versions of its Surface line of devices with versatile form factors to cater to different use cases. Highlights include the redesigned 13-inch Surface Pro 8 tablet with 11th generation Intel processor, the portable Surface Go 3, the laptop/tablet Surface Pro 7+, the pocket-sized Surface Duo 2, and the highly anticipated Surface Laptop Studio.

Why it’s Important

Microsoft released its redesigned Surface lineup form factor alongside its rollout of Windows 11 earlier this month. While there are plenty of improvements in the new lineup, most are best described as evolutionary: more computing power, refinement of form factors, etc. 

However, two products stand out as potential new niche market makers: the Duo 2 and the Surface Laptop Studio.

The Duo 2: Win-Win or Double-Trouble?

IBRS has obtained a Surface Duo 2 and finds it fits somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet… yet not quite matching either role. While Samsung found some success with its Galaxy Z Fold device as a smartphone, the Duo 2 tends more towards the tablet end of the market.

If the Duo 2 is to be successful, it will be due to Microsoft defining a new niche for mobile prosumer (professional- level consumers). The success of the device will indicate that there is no single market niche for foldable devices (as they are currently being touted), but several sub-niches tied more to screen size, onscreen keyboard capabilities and photography prowess.

On the flip side (pun intended), first impressions of the Duo 2 suggest it may be a workable alternative to the semi-ruggedised, larger format smartphones which are making inroads against traditional fully-ruggedised tablets. 

The additional screen space and size of the on-screen keyboard, positions the Due 2 slightly above most of the large format phones for field workers. It is even passable (just) for running remote virtual desktop applications. 

Surface Laptop Studio: Solves the problem you didn’t know you had

IBRS has also trialled the Surface Laptop Studio. IBRS believes this device serves a new niche between more traditional laptops (such as the Surface Book) and hybrid devices (such as the Surface Pro).  

The Laptop Studio has a hinge at the back to help set up the device in three versatile constructions: a regular laptop, a ‘stage’ mode where the screen is closed when streaming or engaged in video calls, and the ‘studio’ mode where the screen slides out flat, effectively turning the device into a graphic-intensive tablet.

From observations during ‘digital workspace’ consulting engagements, IBRS has noted that the Surface Pro is often used as a ‘primary desktop’ (meaning, used mostly when seated as a staff-members regular desk and in the home office). The weakness here is that the device is better suited for mobile (nomadic) work.

The Laptop Studio is more geared towards a desk-top experience, while also providing for flexible user configuration. For example, it features more connectivity ports, but less focus on the battery 

Microsoft is not the only company implementing a new form factor to cater to users’ needs for devices that straddle between existing designs. Acer’s ConceptD 3 Ezel and HP’s Spectre Folio also share the same form factor as the Surface Laptop Studio. 

It is likely this ‘desktop oriented yet flexible’ form factor will gain ground as more organisations adapt to the demands of hybrid working. It is not enough to consider someone working between multiple office locations as being a ‘remote worker’. Rather, they are full-time office workers that may wish to move between locations, while gaining the ability to host video conferencing, engage in pen / tablet creative work, and switch back to having a more traditional desktop experience.

Who’s impacted

  • Procurement
  • Digital workspaces / end-user computing teams

What’s Next?

The evolution of end user devices is ongoing - albeit slowly and with more than a few dead-ends. Manufacturers continue to experiment with new market niches, as organisations become more selective with devices that meet specific needs.  

The upshot of this is that care should be taken when developing ‘personas’ for digital workspaces. Keep in mind that a persona is not solely related to a staff member’s ‘job’ (which is really multiple different types of jobs). It needs to factor the environment, the tasks performed in the context of the environment, and the staff's ability to switch between different devices based on needs at any given time.

In addition, when determining mobile force field device needs, do not limit the evaluation to the features of fully rugged products. Instead, consider the lifecycle of the products and software dependencies. Only then should an organisation decide which available devices on the market can best cater to the work contexts and personas you have.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. The use and abuse of Personas for end-user computing strategies
  3. Examples of Persona Templates
  4. VENDORiQ: Samsung unveils new smartphones

Conclusion:

Dual SIM mobile phones can deliver value to employers and employees alike in an increasing transient and gig economy workforce. Mobile phone policies need to be modified and adapted to ensure BYO devices are enabled with a corporate SIMs business number, and a suite of corporate apps. It should be as effective as providing a new starter with a laptop.

The market is responding with increasing product sophistication to address these overlapping demands of business and personal use. A business number and applications can reside effectively on one handset alongside a private number and personal applications provided both are addressed by technology and policies. The business policy must be designed to promote business benefits first principles.

Porting of business numbers has become clumsy with businesses bearing the cost of number porting. Users are also left with the dilemma of managing one or more handsets to retain their personal information, or worse still, having to sacrifice a long-held number to accept a business phone. Reducing these legacy policies and supporting dual SIM phones will contribute to greater employee choice and satisfaction rather than addressing business benefits alone.

Conclusion:

Allowing employees to use personal devices for work purposes comes with a unique security challenge. How can the organisation keep track of so many endpoints and make sure that each one is secure? Organisations need to examine their mobile device management (MDM) capabilities in order to protect the organisation from security breaches as a result of insecure mobile devices.

The Latest

15 January 2021: Samsung released a set of three Galaxy S series smartphones, aimed at the consumer market. All models support 5G. The high-end model - the Galaxy S21 Ultra - has features that rival its flagship executive-level smartphone, the Galaxy Note. In addition, the announcement stressed Samsung’s workplace features:

  • Wireless DeX for using smartphone as desktop
  • Office 365 integration
  • Knox Suite for device management and end-point security.

Why it’s Important

Despite the market for smartphones declining sharply in 2020 (a drop of 16 percent), Samsung gained around 5% market share. The decline in the market is due to consumers retaining their smartphones for longer periods of time due to the increasing costs of premier devices.  

Samsung’s efforts to sell into enterprises - blending consumer and enterprise features - are proving effective in shoring up its strength against rivals. The vendor has been making inroads into the enterprise space with both consumer-grade devices and semi-ruggedised devices. The S21 series of devices support Samsung’s enterprise security features, DeX and the Knox (as well as third-party) end-point management services. 

The devices also include new cameras that make them attractive for field-based asset management activities. The S21 Ultra is a large format device that supports pen-input (via an add-on pen and case) positioning it against Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note.

Who’s impacted

  • Field support teams
  • Telecoms / comms teams
  • Workforce transformation strategists
  • End-point / security teams

What’s Next?

While Samsung’s DeX feature is interesting, IBRS has seen very few organisations launching DeX desktop experiences from smartphones. For now, this remains an ‘experimental’ idea, limited to tech. However, launching DeX desktop experiences from tablets is growing in popularity.

Samsung is betting heavily on 5G, especially in regard to new services on its devices. The new cameras can produce not only high-resolution images, but high-colour sensitivity (12-bit) RAW images and depth of field information, which open up new applications for asset management, field maintenance, and design. Any files that leverage these camera capabilities will be large. 5G networks will make such files viable in field applications.

From recent client research, IBRS notes that organisations using premium consumer-grade devices (namely Apple and Samsung) for field force tasks overestimate the battery life of these devices, and as a result, the replacement cycle needed. When such devices are used for ‘typical’ consumer use, batteries last for 3-4 years before their capacity diminishes to a point where they are problematic. In contrast, such devices used for field-forces result in batteries decaying within 2 to 2 ½  years. Therefore, buyers of enterprise smartphone devices need to monitor device health, adjust their device procurement lifecycles - and budgets - accordingly.

Samsung’s new S21 range supports enterprise features and cameras that make them attractive for field use. The range of price points for the S21 series make them attractive against their rival in enterprise smartphones.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. Keeping your mobile device strategies up to date

IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.