December 14, 2012

This week, I trekked in from my home office in outer Brooklyn to Manhattan for two meetings: Monday, with Microsoft; and Tuesday, with John Hancock Financial Network.

At Microsoft, the idea was to learn about how the operating system Windows 8 would affect the insurance industry. With John Hancock, the focus was to be on the challenges of financial product distribution in the 21st century.

But both meetings ended up tending toward the same topic: the bring-your-own-device phenomenon. Microsoft's representatives touted the myriad of devices Windows 8 can run on — 1,500 by their count — as proof that no matter the desired or needed form factor, insurers could find a device that suited their employees.

And John Hancock's Bruce Harrington — a man holding the title "head of sales" — spoke less about closing deals and more about managing advisor expectations for tools on their preferred device.

The big game-changer this year in enterprise mobile is undoubtedly the racheted-up acceptance of the tablet as a credible computing platform. Apple's iPad is still far preferred, but Microsoft obviously isn't ceding defeat. The coming Surface RT is touted as an enterprise-ready tablet, which will give business users the content creation capabilities they desire from the platform.

But as Harrington warns, you can't just change users' preferences overnight. Despite the fact that the iPad couldn't handle natively the engine John Hancock wanted to provide their advisors, the company went ahead with a lighter version of it, anticipating it would help take-up.

Next year, we'll get even more clarity on what the enterprise computing platforms of the future will look like, and who will own them. The best security, usability, and compatibility with legacy systems are all on the table for the tablet makers to fight out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...