June 21, 2010

Mobile Employees, Consultants Need Mobile WiFi Hotspots

One of the quirks of being a full-time consultant is scheduling one's day with multiple clients in multiple locations, with multiple technology environments. Just as one might consider who they are meeting with when selecting a morning's outfit, one also has to think about which offices have which capabilities, and just which devices or cables should be carried. Oftentimes, thanks to security reasons, or simply imperfect setups, a company's wireless network (or an alternative network) is not available to third parties. While in the past, that would mean working "without a net", one can now bring WiFi with them, through MiFi cards, portable wireless hubs, or mobile WiFi capabilities on leading smartphones. For me, the new capability has greatly increased my productivity at client sites where previously I've felt like a second class citizen.

The opportunity to use my HTC EVO device, powered by Sprint, as a mobile hotspot, has, for me, further widened the mental gulf between it and its comparable cousin in the iPhone family, even as the newest offering doesn't allow for wireless hotspotting unless you jailbreak the device. Even for those who find Apple's offering superior, the iPhone cannot deliver for me while the EVO does.

While speeds over the EVO's 3G (or 4G) network are not as fast as standard 802.11 based connections, the mere opportunity to get on the Web, rather than sitting dumbly or asking for the client to look at a Web site on their computer, is a lifesaver - and no doubt is worth the $30 a month it takes to enable the functionality in addition to standard Sprint service.

As more people are turning to consulting roles, or hoping to bring value to partners, one should not always expect free unencumbered WiFi available. While yes, it's fun to turn the phone into a Hotspot and enable Wireless access to the whole family while riding in the car, it's actually bringing the Web to clients that makes the feature a requirement. So Apple, if you want to be considered as a real corporate solution, you have to bring this functionality soon, or you're not even an option.