Mobile Devices Everywhere...

The landscapes are changing in the world of technology at an unprecedented pace.  However, there may be no arena within technology that is changing faster and having a more significant day-to-day consumer impact than that of mobile communications devices.  About fifteen years ago we had the first set of mobile cellular based telephones.  The smallest ones were “bag phones," which were approximately the size of today’s carry-on luggage for airlines.  With respect to functionality you could do two things, make calls and receive calls, and that was if you happened to be in one of the few places where there was cellular coverage.  Now there are devices smaller than a deck of cards, with bright and vibrant screens, of which voice communication is just a minor component of their functionality.  In addition to being a phone, these devices are digital cameras and camcorders, music and video players, web browsers, e-mail and text messaging devices, game consoles, and GPS navigation systems.  This is what can be done in 2008. I cannot even imagine what they will do in another couple of years.

As these devices have migrated from the voice to data world (or more accurately, these two worlds have collided), the issues of access, compatibility, support, and training begin to surface.  This is affecting many, many industries, and higher education, including Skidmore, is not immune.

Your colleagues in IT have been monitoring this environment both from afar and up close.  We do this to better position ourselves to meet the growing expectations of our community members who want to use these devices with Skidmore resources.

One of the largest challenges is the wide variety of functionality that exists, combined with the plethora of standards and architectures that are being utilized. Whether it is the implementation of the carrier (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Cellular One, etc.) or the platform of the device (Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, etc.), the combinations are truly endless.  Thinking about support for this world is daunting compared to the relatively simple world of computing, which has just two (some argue three) main architectures.

So what is the future of these devices at Skidmore College?  Well, it is clear that we will continue to see growth in their in utilization across campus.  They are already highly utilized by our student body and I expect usage will increase among our faculty and staff in the coming years, both as a work tool and as a personal device.  Unfortunately, we won’t be able to adequately support these devices in the way we support the college’s desktop computers.  However, in order to ease your efforts, we will do our best to document the settings you will use to connect these devices to our wireless networks, e-mail and calendar systems, or other systems.  I am willing to bet there are some people who are already using these devices to register for classes, search the library card catalog, take a web-based exam, or submit online time sheets.  The options are endless.  We are making an effort to ensure our systems will be compatible with the emerging market, but this is a complex task and there may be some devices that are so far off of the mainstream that we will never be able to tweak our systems for full compatibility.  For those working in the technology field these challenges can be both rewarding and daunting but always exciting. 

- Justin Sipher, Chief Technology Officer


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