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Getting Ready for Mobile Devices

According to a July 2011 report there were 82 million U.S. users of smart phones, increasing at the rate of 10% per quarter. (1)  Google’s Android platform leads, with 42% market share. Blackberry market share keeps declining to 20%. Microsoft and Symbian saw their market shares decrease to 5.7 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.

There has been also an enormous increase in the number of tablets to over 100 million, as they have started replacing laptops. Spurring this development has been the rapid increase in the number of low cost applications that are instantly downloadable (Apps) and rapidly deployable. Over 250,000 Android and 150,000 Apple Apps are now available. There are thousands of individual developers who have entered into the market place to sell Apps through Google and Apple. Development platforms and application templates are readily available, which accelerates the rate at which special purpose Apps become available.

Mobile devices are now priced as affordable consumer appliances. They offer attractive alternatives for delivering to DoD personnel communication services at a fraction of the current cost.
The introduction of mobile computing is disrupting the DoD computing processes:

A rapidly changing environment requires the standardization of selected applications for special uses, such as submarine support, special force communications or coalition warfare deployment.
Off-the shelf applications can be easily acquired and installed by anyone.
Testing of applications, by prior users, makes the applications open source.
The diversity of applications makes it necessary for a user to access a variety of services.

We need a user-centric rather than production-centric computing environment. DoD has to start planning for ways how diverse mobile devices will be able to extract and then to display results obtained from a variety of applications.

One of the solutions is to impose between the varieties of existing applications an additional cloud-based layer that will mediate between customized mobile devices and the variety of dispersed applications. Such a cloud layer, now available for about $30 per seat per year, offers a single sign-on access to on-line web applications such as offered by commercial firms such as Microsoft, SalesForce, FaceBook, Adobe or Intuit as well as DoD authored Apps that offer military solutions.

The rapid rate how the installation of a variety of mobile devices is progressing is already swamping the capability of DoD computer operations to support military and civilian personnel needs. This situation is particularly acute for operations that need to be deployed rapidly. A complete overhaul in organizing system development is now in order. There is no question that DoD is now entering into the “post PC” era.


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