B2B 2013 predictions - embrace emerging technologies in 2013

B2B 2013 predictions - embrace emerging technologies in 2013
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Peter Kelly, Enterprise director, Vodafone UK

Smart mix of technology will increase productivity, save costs and improve employee retention

In 2013, more and more British businesses will reap the benefits of the better ways of working that can be introduced through the smart use of mobile technology as they look to increase productivity, save costs and improve employee retention.

The arrival of competitive 4G services in the coming year will provide a further boost to this trend as it will allow workers to download and send larger presentations and take part in high-quality video conferences when they are out of the office.

Many businesses across the UK used the Olympics as a chance to test out their flexible working practices and the opportunity now is to help them embed the lessons they learned during last summer into their business for the future. This is not just a trend for big business and the public sector.

Implementing the better ways of working that are created by good use of mobile technology can also help small businesses thrive and compete more fiercely with their larger rivals.

The combination of Vodafone and Cable & Wireless Worldwide, meanwhile, will give us a major advantage as more and more businesses look to bring together their fixed-line and mobile services to create much-needed efficiencies and help all their employees work smarter.

Simon Woodman, Business development director, Micro-P

Microsoft has come up with its killer opportunity

Windows 8 ecosystem is set to be the hottest trend in mobile for 2013. It brings with it an unprecedented opportunity for mobile, IT and b2b resellers to diversify their product offerings through smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs. I believe Windows Phone 8 is set to enable us to engage further with the channel over the next year. Windows 8 is one of the biggest opportunities the channel has seen, thanks to its integration of the desktop with the mobile, which will open up a world of cross-selling opportunities that hasn’t existed previously. The longevity of this operating system along with the  huge cross-selling opportunity, plus trends such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the workplace, means that Microsoft has come up with the killer opportunity for the next 12 months, and Micro-P is ideally positioned to help our channels capitalise on these opportunities.

New mobile devices are coming out in throngs on Windows Phone 8, including Nokia’s 820, 920 and the new 620. These are strong, slick devices that work for consumers and for business users as well.On the side of this growing ecosystem is the accessory market. The mobile phone has become the remote control to your life; everyone has a strong personal attachment to their device. Because of that consumers and business users are looking for high-quality accessories that enhance their devices’ uses and extend the life of the products.

Campbell Williams, Group strategy and marketing director, Six Degrees

The cloud: it’s all about data retention

2012 was yet another year of cloud as more and more companies migrated their data to ease their data retention and delivery problems. SSD (Solid State Drive) costs have reduced and at the same time there have been significant advancements in SSD technology – making it more attractive for the enterprise. The next generation of storage is moving away from monolithic arrays to a more block bases approach such as Tintri and XIO. As we move into 2013, we will see increasing pressures to be compliant with data retention, data management legislation and best practice that will see customers evaluate cloud/hosting providers more ruthlessly.

Dropbox, for example, is a service that allows users to access documents from anywhere, and companies have realised that there is need for enterprise-grade ‘cloud drive’ technologies to meet this demand safely and securely.Consistent with computer and device trends, storage hardware will become more commoditised, as the value will lie in software and management, compounded by virtualisation specialists such as VMware pushing more features (replication,  zero detection, WAN clustering, etc) into their products. Quality hardware still underpins a great solution but the intelligence will be up the stack.

Paul Leonard, MD, Sprint Communications 

Dealer community will continue to consolidate

The arrival of 4G gives the UK mobile data speeds it actually deserves (the year of data, finally?). Manufacturers will need to create an ecosystem of handsets that are compatible with all 4G variants, and a range of price points to optimise on market conditions.

Due to the continuation of the recession and the cost of travelling continuing to rise, this will inevitably lead to increased sales in products that allow remote collaboration, and more customers will make purchasing decisions remotely, leading to a rise in regulated call centre activity as cost to serve is driven down.

The independent dealer community will continue to consolidate, with smaller players being consumed by the bigger ones. Independent mobile dealers will need to work even smarter to carve out a niche as the sales by discount becomes an outdated model and adding value to the customer proposition will be key. GC23 and compliance will play a bigger part in the industry as regulation requirements become more prevalent.

The war of the OS will be in full swing, with BB10 joining the fray, leading to BYOD solutions becoming key to bigger business customers.

There will be a rise in m2m and telematics requirements as more processes are automated and duty of care regulations are enforced on UK businesses.

Paul Hooper MD, Uplands

Key focus is to ‘embrace emerging technologies’

2013 is going to be an extremely challenging year, not just for our industry but for UK business as a whole. What may be different next year is the increased proliferation of tablet players. No longer is anyone talking about PCs – or indeed laptops – more and more are coming second place to a mobilised tablet device, with current projections showing that one in four of us will own a tablet in the next four years.We’ve got 4G already out there and as this coverage improves and is embraced across all networks, we’re going to see our thirst for doing it more and doing it quicker quenched.

Another really encouraging thing for both business and consumers is that we’ve got a new kid on the block called Microsoft. We’re all going to be living our life in tiles, and businesses are going to see an increased flexibility afforded to them by Windows, while employees will be encouraged to bring their own devices, which is good for them.

Our key focus over next year is about embracing emerging technologies and stacking them within our existing portfolio in a way that helps support our local business customers. We will be working really hard in a vital year to deliver as many savings for our business customers as possible while working closely with them to ensure that they grow and prosper in these challenging times. For us also, 2013 will be about the flexible world of work and looking at new and innovative ways of working. Not just to deliver cost savings for UK business but also to deliver greater flexibility and greater work/life balance.

Andy Tow, MD, Avenir

Windows Phone 8 must be able to steal a march

We believe that 2013 will be a year of resurgence. Apple and Samsung have totally dominated the market in the past year, not only from a smartphone perspective, but tablets too. However, as with all markets, the leader cannot dominate forever, and although the mobile phone market is saturated, the smartphone market still has massive potential. This is where, we believe, HTC, Nokia, Microsoft and BlackBerry will come back into the fore in 2013.The Windows Phone 8 operating system must surely be able to steal a march on its competitors, seeing as Windows is still the global leader in IT operating systems: meaning that compatibility and ease of use, especially for the b2b market, must put it ahead of the game, especially with its new Surface tablet. The Microsoft/HTC partnership is a real one to watch for 2013.

BlackBerry 10 is being launched early this year and the fact that BlackBerry still has more than 80 million subscribers worldwide means that it is in an excellent position to refocus its attention on the business market, especially with its history of security and the inclusion of 4G.Nokia has an opportunity to concentrate on a huge part of the market that has not yet adopted smartphones. It is renowned for its ease-of-use handsets, and so if it gets this right, it could do well. And, of course, Apple and Samsung will continue to play a leading role, albeit with much stiffer competition.
In terms of the networks, traditional voice is declining and so we can only predict more unlimited tariffs, with bigger data bundles, along with a greater focus on unified comms: combined bills and money-saving bundles are vital for customers in today’s economic climate.

Jason Kemp, Director of marketing, Data Select

Further simplification in airtime tariffs for both business and consumer

As ever, 2013 will be another event-filled year in distribution. From a hardware and operating system perspective, expect BlackBerry to come back with a bang, Windows 8 to gain traction, Sony to continue to grow, LG and Motorola struggle to make an impact and HTC to hang in the balance (depending on the strength of its products). Nokia will grow sales of Windows 8, but so will every other vendor with a Windows 8 device. The Apple and Samsung show will continue – but expect them to have more competition. I expect to see further simplification in airtime tariffs for both business and consumer, with ‘all you can eat’ tariffs becoming the choice across the board. This will lead to both a network pricing war and a degree of head scratching for networks to differentiate their propositions away from just price.

Businesses will begin to embrace Android as third-party security and device management software allays security fears and provides real value-added opportunities for maximising efficiencies. Expect manufacturers such as Acer and Huawei to finally have an opportunity as businesses select devices based on specification and price, not brand!

In the distribution market, 20:20 Mobile will finally be sold, Ingram Micro will struggle to integrate Brightpoint into its UK business, Micro-P will keep pressing forward, but ultimately leave Data Select and Tech Data to slug it out (obviously Data Select will win). The increased competition and choice within hardware vendors will be a blessing to all distributors following 2012’s Samsung and Apple two-horse race!

Overall, another great year in store for consumers and I for one am looking forward to the return of BlackBerry and Sony.

Rufus Grig, chief technical officer, Azzurri Communications

Consumers want to interact with methods of their own choosing

1) The rise of Choose Your Own Device

In 2012, the BYOD market hype reached fever pitch. Organisations are striving to adapt to the proliferation of consumer mobile devices entering the workplace, but there is still no well-defined starting point or best practice path to follow. Our recent survey revealed CYOD is the best fit for 63% of firms that are currently considering some form of BYOD strategy. We therefore expect more organisations to evaluate this option – which sits between a pure BYOD policy, and a head-in-the-sand ‘Don’t Bring Your Own Device’ (DBYOD) approach.

2) The shift from wired to wireless networking is accelerating

The proliferation of Wi-Fi-only devices, such as tablets and smartphones, is forcing a rethink in the way Wi-Fi is provisioned in business environments. Previously considered as an overlay for wired networks, Wi-Fi now becomes the primary access mechanism for workers using these devices. But this surge in wireless traffic opens up the potential for significant performance issues, capacity concerns and security vulnerabilities – all of which customers need help with.

3) Customer interactions are becoming complex due to rise of new multimedia channels and social business

Consumers increasingly want to interact with firms via the contact methods of their choosing. With the rise of social media, these methods are even more diverse and managing them increasingly complex. Organisations need to take decisions about how they manage interactions across different channels and how they set themselves up to deliver the most effective service.

4) Cloud evolution – the shift to a hybrid reality with a mix of on-premise solutions and multiple cloud offerings

Unified communications help to save money and improve productivity by providing effective tools to the workforce. But with budgets under pressure, cloud-based offerings are increasingly attractive.The challenge for firms is to upgrade a unified communications infrastructure, or outsource elements entirely to provide the measurable productivity and efficiency improvements that the business needs – without dramatically increasing costs. 

Kevin Baughan, director of wireless, Virgin Media Business 

The past 12 months has seen lots of chatter about the idea of super connected cities. In 2013 we’ll start to see that chatter turned into a reality, but what will it mean for us in our day to day lives? This year we put forward our vision of the future, where ubiquitous high-speed connectivity enables technology such as 3D printing in your home and crowdsourcing on a massive scale. What we called ‘Generation IP’ mapped out the possibilities technology could unlock for society, underpinned by robust, reliable, and quick connectivity.

For our part, we’re helping to make the UK more connected by  pioneering new technologies such as the  deployment  of small cell technology. Small cells  take all the radio capacity that would have been used over a large area and concentrate it in a much smaller area  enabling everyone's  mobile  internet connections  to go faster.  The key is to combine them with high performance fibre connectivity back to the Internet so that there are no bottlenecks. Trials we’ve carried out show  that 4G small cells can deliver data speeds of up to 90Mb/s.  

If you’re a commuter in London, then you may have experienced Wi-Fi thanks to our small cell network in the London Underground. Passengers are already enjoying speeds that are faster than the average UK home and  before the end of the year  1.2 million people in Bradford and Leeds will have access to a free public Wi-Fi service based on  a small cell network covering two of the busiest shopping streets in the cities.But small cells are just one piece to the connectivity puzzle for mobile operators to ensure they have the capacity to meet the rising demand from the number of smartphones and tablets people are using every day. We’re right on the tip of connectivity allowing us to achieve so much, and it’s a real thrill to be involved right at the beginning of the path to ubiquitous connectivity.

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