Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Sybase's Eric Lai

I have read many articles related to enterprise mobility over the past few months from Sybase's Eric Lai.  This is interesting for a number of reasons, 1) Sybase traditionally has not chosen to participate in the social media space, 2) Sybase has not traditionally had full time writers helping educate the public, 3) Sybase has rarely let employees share thoughts and insights publicly as Eric does, and 4) Eric Lai was a writer at Computer World for over five years and is a very good writer.
Sybase's Senior Writer
Eric Lai

For the above reasons, I thought it would be interesting to interview Eric.

Note:  These are not Eric's exact words, but rather my notes from our discussion.

Kevin:  Eric tell me about yourself.
Eric:  I lived in Washington state (Everett area) for many years.  Worked for Computer World for five years.  We have two young boys.  Moved to California nine months ago, where I am now Senior Writer for Sybase.

Kevin:  What mobile device(s) do you carry?
Eric: iPhone 4 (he left his iPhone 3 on the roof of his car in San Francisco), old company issued Dell laptop and a NetBook.  I was a BlackBerry user for many years, but love the iPhone now.  I want an iPad.

Kevin: What are some of your favorite mobile applications?
Eric: Outside of our own Sybase mobile enterprise solutions, it is Angry Birds, a Mandarin Chinese language app called Qing Wen (for $2.99 you get a language application far better than any text book) and Chess (he plays multi-user mode with friends).

Kevin:  Where can we find your articles today?
Eric: Sybase.com, ZDNet, Forbes and SCN (SAP Community Network)

Kevin:  Who else at Sybase is writing articles regularly?
Eric:  Mostly myself and Ian Thain.

Kevin: In your research for articles, what industries do you see implementing enterprise mobility?
Eric:  Just about all of them, but I see huge increases in education, health care and the insurance fields.  I have been tracking iPad sales, and these industries are buying tablets in large numbers.

Kevin:  What was the biggest enterprise mobility surprise for you in 2010?
Eric: In the past I was NOT a fan of tablets.  I wrote many skeptical articles about tablets.  I did not anticipate their success and popularity in 2010.

Kevin:  How important is mobile device management to an enterprise buyer?
Eric: Very important.  MDM (mobile device management) is crucial.  Here is how Sybase handles it internally - it is Sybase's policy to let employees buy their own personal mobile devices from a long list of company supported devices.  The employee must purchase their own device, but the company covers the expense of the voice and data plans.  Enterprise applications are kept secure on the personal device by implementing a secure sandbox on the device.  Within the sandbox, the company manages, controls and secures the apps and data.  Outside of the sandbox it is all personal.  Thirty percent of employees take advantage of this plan today.

Kevin:  How does Sybase want to alter their image in 2011?
Eric: We want to emphasize that we are a complete solution company in 2011.  We want to focus less on the technology, and more on the solutions.  Less emphasis on the platforms and more on applications.

Kevin: What should people know about Sybase?
Eric:  Our message about SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) has been out there for years, but it has not really been heard.  Even when SAP acquired Sybase, people seemed surprised that Sybase had mobile platforms and solutions.  Hopefully, SAP can help us get the word out there to a broader audience.  In the past our marketing was quite narrow and focused on a small group of serious mobile developers.

Kevin:  What are some of the most interesting new trend in mobility?
Eric: The new "super" smartphone category of devices with dual processors and more flash memory.

Kevin:  Do you have any 2011 predictions for us?
Eric:  Yes, a report I just read said 20 percent of enterprises will be deploying over 20 different mobile applications this year.  That is exciting!

I want to thank Eric for his time, and I look forward to reading much more from him in 2011!


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Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
Phone +1 208-991-4410
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.