It’s time to unite devices and software under

Imagine you’ve just presented a team member with the latest, top-of-the-line mobile device. You both share satisfaction in that moment, and for a brief time, there is no one better equipped than that team member to take on the digital business world.

Unfortunately, that feeling fades when a more advanced next-gen model comes along, perhaps mere months after you made your capital investment. When Latest-and-Greatest Device 12.0 is surpassed in six months by Big Time Device 13.0, most companies are in no mood for another expensive upgrade. And this scenario is not limited to mobile devices.

That’s not the way it works with software investments these days. Today’s Software-as-a-Service is a boon to CIOs; in my experience, they love access to cloud-based programs on a subscription basis rather than having to buy copies of the software. But they still need to buy the hardware on which to run the apps—or do they?

ESCAPING THE SHACKLES OF OWNERSHIP

Owning something outright doesn’t always make sense. Many people prefer leasing a car to buying one, because they don’t have to pay for maintenance or deal with depreciation. The monthly cost is often less than payments on a car loan. Plus, they can trade it in for a new model in a few years. And while it’s true the lessor doesn’t own the asset, rapid depreciation means the value of the asset is always less than what a buyer paid for it new.

Mobile devices required for business operations apps present a similar proposition for organizations, and that creates a misalignment between the way companies search for software and associated hardware to keep the business operating. With SaaS apps, your employees can use the latest-and-greatest, always-up-to-date software, but they have to run them on whatever device the company most recently bought—even if it is already obsolete by the standards of today’s device marketplace.

Your employees need access to these devices to do their jobs, of course. But when your organization owns the devices, you not only pay for the purchase but also to have them serviced and eventually replaced. Then you have an old phone, tablet, or desktop sitting around that you can try to sell for a fraction of its cost, or at least wipe it before disposal so company data can’t fall into the wrong hands.

And there’s another drawback. The sheer expense of some of these devices could mean not every employee is likely to get one—leaving many workers disconnected from the larger team.

Why would any company subscribe to cloud-based software, then go ahead and buy devices in the hopes that the latter can do a good job hosting the former? I believe having access to mobile devices—without having to own them and dedicate IT staff to manage, maintain, and replace them when they break—is a much better business proposition.

BUILT FOR THE JOB

It is also worth asking: Why do we assume we’ll need smartphones, tablets, or computers to run the apps we need on the job, just because they are the most familiar devices? Many apps could run just as well—if not better—on devices designed specifically for those apps. A voice-based app, for example, might run best on a smart speaker or even a headset designed by the app developer and provided directly to users of the app.

What if there was a way the device and software could come together, from the same provider, for a subscription price that wouldn’t require capital investment or ownership of any physical asset?

After all, in my experience, it is not the device itself that companies and their employees care about; companies care about results and effectiveness. So as long as you can deploy the right app on a device that will run effectively, it’s irrelevant whether it is strictly utilitarian or the hottest smartphone on the market.

I believe the solution to the incongruency between software and hardware procurements is to pair SaaS with a companion model that’s known as Device-as-a-Service. The result is a new standard known as Everything-as-a-Service.

DELIVERING APPS AND DEVICES TOGETHER

In the past three years, the business technology world has seen a dramatic shift in the spending priorities of CIOs. According to Christopher Gilchrist, a principal research analyst at Forrester, 60% of organizations are accelerating a move away from capital expenditures in favor of operating expenditures. CIOs know that Capex purchases almost always come with diminishing returns and constantly require maintenance and upgrades. If CIOs can get what they need while baking the costs into manageable and predictable Opex, why wouldn’t they? I believe this is why SaaS is so popular.

DaaS can fit into this trend, too, and it opens the door for providers to offer EaaS. In other words, it’s the hardware and the software apps provided together as part of the same subscription package.

This means a solution provider can design a device specifically to run the vendor’s app or apps and provide the subscriber with new or updated programming automatically as part of the package. And if the programming grows to the point where the supplied device can no longer support it, the vendor can upgrade or provide a replacement device—just as it would with the software.

I believe Device-as-a-Service is an idea whose time has come. It is already shaking up the status quo that once saw buying mobile devices as a justifiable and rational business strategy. And when DaaS goes hand-in-hand with SaaS—marrying cloud-based software delivery with hardware specifically designed to run it—Everything-as-a-Service subscriptions could become a new standard for solution delivery.


As the Co-Founder and CTO of Theater, Ravi Kumar leads solution architecture and innovation projects.

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