The Mobile Force Awakens: Predicting a Year of Chaos

The original Star Wars movie opened in 1977 when I was in sixth grade. I saw it five times because I loved the story and the characters. Inspired by the return of Star Wars to the big screen this holiday season, here are my enterprise mobility predictions for 2016.

2016 will be a year of battles, battles, and more battles. The “Mobile Force” has awakened and the resulting IT disruption will seed several conflicts:

  1. Rebel Alliance vs. Empire: The major conflict in Star Wars was a splinter group fighting against the establishment. In 2016, we will see a similar tension between the mobile and desktop teams in enterprise IT. The catalyst will be Windows 10, which will allow organizations to adopt enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions to secure the next generation of laptops and desktops. Over time, this approach will replace the traditional system image for many use cases because it promises greater security, agility, and cost-effectiveness. However, it will also disrupt existing desktop operations and create technology, budget, and organizational tensions between the splinter mobile team and the established desktop team. This is the battle between modern and legacy.
  2. Identity Conflict: Star Wars fans are debating Luke Skywalker’s evolving identity: Will he be a Jedi or a Sith in the upcoming movie? In the enterprise, we have our own battle for identity, with many players and many approaches. Two of the key participants are Microsoft and Google, and this will be a long-term conflict. In 2016, we will see the battle lines drawn clearly. Both companies believe that identity is the foundation upon which services are provided to the user community. Both believe that if your platform is the authoritative source of that identity, then you will have a better chance of providing those services than the other guy. One battle line was drawn in 2015 when Microsoft did not support Google’s Android for Work initiative for most of the year, partially because it brought Google identity into the enterprise. Microsoft sees identity as its central control point for the cloud - the “who / what / where / how” of all enterprise services. This is the battle for the ownership of end-user identity.
  3. Boba Fett and the Rise of the Mobile Hacker: Characters with shady backgrounds were common in the original Star Wars trilogy. Some ended up being good guys (Han Solo). Some did not (Boba Fett). In 2015, we saw our own shady characters do more damage through mobile malware than ever before, with a string of exploits such as Stagefright, KeyRaider, XcodeGhost, and YiSpecter. In 2016, we will see hackers continue to figure out clever ways to make apps appear “trusted.” As a result, I expect Apple in particular to continue to close down untrusted ways of distributing apps to devices and become much stricter in controlling the use of private APIs. This is the battle between the OS and the hacker.
  4. The IoT Force Fit: In Star Wars, the Force bound the galaxy together and was difficult to master. Our technology version of this connective fabric, the Internet of Things, will continue to be mostly experimental in 2016. Every vendor will claim to do it, but very few will describe what “it” actually is. By the end of 2016, a set of high-value IoT use cases will emerge, and vendors will enter 2017 with the ability to commercialize useful solutions. One subset of IoT, smartwatches, will start achieving its potential in 2016 as the first generation of simple and low-value extension apps is replaced by a second generation that truly takes advantage of the new form factor and interaction methods. A compelling data snacking model will emerge for work as well as home, but IoT innovation in the enterprise will require developers to rethink the company’s underlying business processes instead of simply porting existing apps to new platforms. This is the battle between invention and inertia.
  5. The Sovereignty of Cloud City: Most of the second original Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, took place on Lando Calrissian’s Cloud City. The sovereignty of Cloud City was unclear. It was independent, run by smugglers, but held knowledge and assets desired by the Empire, not unlike cloud computing in our world. In 2015, the data sovereignty debate for cloud came to a head with the European Court of Justice invalidating Safe Harbor. In 2016, this scrutiny of cloud data will intensify, and regulatory bodies will debate actions that might impact the ability of cloud vendors to scale and innovate. This is the battle between scale and sovereignty.
  6. Inner Peace: You cannot truly use the Force unless you are at peace with yourself. Will we see that inner peace across the mobile community in 2016? Not at all. Rapid technology change, evolving user demands, and app fragmentation will continue. CIOs will realize that neutrality is core to their mission and that they must be able to offer choice and best-of-breed solutions to their end users. Restricting choice forces the user community to seek out its own solutions and becomes a catalyst for shadow IT. This is the battle between best-of-breed apps and the closed stack.

2016 will be a challenging year for IT. Mobile and cloud will force CIOs to adopt a more agile model of information security, policy design, technology evaluation, and lifecycle management. However, changing thirty years of process and mindset is difficult for even the most progressive organization.

My recommendation is to steel yourself for this evolution and be willing to openly consider new approaches. Then, go see Star Wars Episode VII in December and leave inspired for 2016, the first year of true mobile transformation in the enterprise.

Ojas Rege

Chief Strategy Officer

About the author

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Ojas Rege's perspective on enterprise mobility has been covered by Bloomberg, CIO Magazine, Financial Times, Forbes, and Reuters. He coined the term “Mobile First” on TechCrunch in 2007, one week after the launch of the first iPhone, to represent a new model of personal and business computing. He is co-inventor on six mobility patents, including the enterprise app store and BYOD privacy. Ojas is also a Fellow of the Ponemon Institute for information security policy. Ojas has a BS/MS in Computer Engineering from M.I.T. and an MBA from Stanford. Ojas is also Board Chair for Pact, a non-profit in Oakland, California that provides adoption services for children of color and their parents.