Mobile Ransomware, “Dumb” Smartphones, Apple in the Enterprise and More : @VMblog


VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual series exclusive.

By Joel Windels, CMO
at NetMotion Software

The year’s end gives us
a chance to reflect on the major events and products that grabbed our attention
over the past twelve months. With technology driving so much of our lives, we
thought it was time again to dust off our crystal ball and take a big picture
look at what may be coming down the pipe in 2020. Businesses continue to shift
their technologies and policies to keep up with an increasingly mobile employee
base that wants to log on and work anytime, from any place and using any
device. Here are some of the changes we think this trend will spark in 2020.

1.  The
first major mobile-based ransomware attack

Over the past year
we’ve seen an unfortunate flood of ransomware attacks aimed particularly at
local, city and county-level governments around the world. These attacks have
primarily taken advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows computers running
unsupported, outdated or unpatched software. In the typical scenario, hackers
gain access to the computer network and then hold valuable systems and data
hostage to extort an untraceable Bitcoin ransom. This puts the victim in an incredibly
difficult situation – facing already strained budgets, the city or local
government has to decide whether to pay and (hopefully) have their systems
restored or take the more expensive and time-consuming route of rebuilding
their networks while inconveniencing employees and the public they serve.
Either way, the government loses: not paying the ransom can leave the
government crippled while paying the ransom can result in serious public
backlash while encouraging the hackers to continue attacking other targets.

These attacks have been
incredibly successful, resulting in multimillion-dollar payouts. For that
reason, it’s only natural that hackers will turn their focus to new, exposed
targets in 2020. As a result, we may see the first concerted ransomware attacks
on mobile applications running on Android or (less likely) iOS devices. As OS
fragmentation becomes a bigger issue for Android devices, in particular, many
of these devices have been left unsupported with older software and less
frequent security patches. This has proven to be a headache for IT teams simply
from an application compatibility perspective, but time will tell whether it
becomes a genuine security threat, too.

2.  The
emergence of the really dumb smartphone

Remember all the buzz
about thin clients? The logic back then
was that a new wave of powerful servers and fast network connections would
allow us to run all kinds of data-intensive programs on a server, allowing us
to deploy cheaper computers needing only limited processing power. While the
promise of the thin client never really materialized, that period did help to
usher in the cloud computing environment we all enjoy today.

Although the thin
client didn’t quite make it, perhaps the ‘dumb smartphone’ will. With the
rollout of 5G and what’s being touted as incredibly fast and reliable mobile
networks, it may be time to rethink the kinds of smartphone hardware that we
need. With flagship smartphones today often exceeding $1,000, (and phones like
Motorola’s reborn Razr costing $1,500 and
even the Samsung Galaxy Fold tipping the scales at
$1,980) there’s no doubt that we’re living in an incredible age of mobility.

The staggering cost of
new devices may push many consumers and organizations to decide that they no
longer want or need to pay a premium for the latest and greatest smartphones.
Instead, they may be better served by ‘dumb’ devices with a big screen and
decent cameras that can rely on the speed of the network and the processing
power of the cloud to do the heavy lifting usually done on the phone’s internal

There are already
examples of this appearing in the world of gaming. With Microsoft and Sony
widely expected to release the last generation of their
gaming consoles

in 2020, the launch of Google’s Stadia cloud-gaming platform, and even rumors of an Amazon cloud gaming
everything is pointing to the cloud. We’ve seen this play out before. Netflix
made DVDs obsolete, and now platforms like Stadia make expensive onboard
storage and processing muscle irrelevant.

Will we see dumb
smartphones make a big splash in 2020? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is for sure;
all the ingredients for disruption are in place.

3.  Google’s
‘free’ storage will earn it billions

Back in 2004, Google’s launch of Gmail helped democratize
cloud storage, and we’ve never turned back. At the time, Google gave each user
1 GB of free space and slowly increased that to 15 GB in 2013 for use across
Gmail, Google Drive and other Google properties. If we stay within that limit,
all of our photos, documents and emails can be stored safely, conveniently and
automatically in the cloud, for the low, low price of giving Google access to
our personal information.

But who can stick to 15
GB? Our appetite for online storage is nothing short of insatiable. We’re
constantly backing up the data on our phones, our personal laptops and work
devices. Many of us have backups of backups.

At the same time, the
company is changing its policies toward Google hardware, which had
traditionally come bundled with generous free cloud storage. Chromebooks used
to come with 100 GB of online storage for two years, but while the amount
hasn’t changed, the length has dropped to just one year as of May. The previous
Pixel 3 smartphone allowed unlimited storage of the original, full resolution
images, while this year’s Pixel 4 only allows free unlimited
storage of compressed, lower quality images. Anyone hoping to take advantage of
the Pixel 4’s high quality camera will need to pay extra to keep all those
photos intact.

As the Los Angeles
Times recently pointed out, Google successfully
lured billions of consumers to its services, so it should come as no surprise
that the company is now poised to turn our addiction into billions in profits.

4.  The
death of the 5-day work week

For decades now most of
us have been working a 40-hour week spread over five days, from Monday to
Friday. But now, companies are starting to rethink the logic behind the
traditional work week.

Does it make sense to
put limits on the when and where employees get their jobs done? Is there a
better way to motivate employees and improve their productivity? Mobility has
already helped many of us work anytime, anywhere, and now companies as diverse
as Microsoft and Shake Shack have trialed a 4-day work

By all accounts the
results seem promising. Who wouldn’t want to work a couple extra hours during
the week if it meant a three-day weekend? So far there don’t seem to be many
trade-offs. Microsoft has claimed a productivity boost of 40 percent, lower
power bills and happier employees. Long-term, we don’t know how this will play
out, but 2020 will be the year when the 4-day work week will start to make some
serious waves.

In the UK, the Labour
party even has a plan to introduce a four-day work week within the next decade
that would reduce the average full-time employee to 32 hours per week.

5.  Apple
turns its attention to the enterprise

There’s no doubt that
Apple products are popular with consumers, thanks in no small part to their
reputation for usability, slick software and longevity. For many in the
enterprise space, though, Apple’s focus on the iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple TV,
HomePod and its range of streaming content services may appear as a major
distraction from their core business needs.

Granted, Apple is doing
more to make itself a business-friendly company. It now offers a Device Enrollment Program that makes it easier
for IT administrators to create Apple IDs and handle Mobile Device Management
(MDM) tasks. In recent years, companies like IBM have prominently been quoted
as saying that not only do Apple’s products save them money over Windows
competitors, but that they make employees happier
and more productive

But there’s still a lot
of room for Apple to grow in the enterprise. Apple is still fighting a battle
on the software front, where Google’s G-suite and Microsoft’s Office 365 are
far more common for business productivity.

As Apple strives to
compete with Microsoft and Google in the business and education spaces, the
tech giant may finally take the gloves off in 2020 by introducing a more robust
set of business-centric productivity and device management tools focused on
policy controls and security. We may even have seen the first swipe, with Apple’s
SVP of marketing, Phil Schiller, taking a jab at Google by saying
that students who use Google’s ‘cheap’ Chromebooks at school ‘are not going to
succeed.’ Ouch!

And if all of those predictions weren’t enough,
here’s a bonus one worth thinking about.

6.  Amazon will spin out AWS

Consolidation and
diversification are common in our boom and bust tech space. For a company as
big as Amazon, then, it’s no surprise that there have been some big
acquisitions throughout its history, including Audible in 2008, Zappos in 2009, Woot in 2010, and more
recently Whole Foods in 2017 and Eero in 2019. On the flip
side, while we’ve seen Amazon drop unsuccessful products like the Fire Phone relatively quickly,
the company as a whole has stayed very intact as it has grown.

Let’s look specifically
at Amazon’s powerhouse AWS cloud computing
service. It goes without saying that the pay-as-you-go platform has a very
different clientele to Amazon’s core e-Commerce business. Although AWS is
already a subsidiary of Amazon, back in 2017 AWS’s CEO Andy Jassy commented that he’d be very

if the unit was spun out. But the tide may be turning.

One of the primary
factors is AWS’s recent loss to Microsoft in its
bid for the Pentagon’s 10-year ‘JEDI’ cloud contract. Amazon claims that it was
overlooked due to pressure from
President Trump which resulted from Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the Washington
Post. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Amazon take a similar route
to Google, which famously created its Alphabet holding company so that
it could focus on its core search and Android businesses while separating Waymo and other moonshot
entities from its balance sheet.

On a side note, by clearly separating AWS from
Amazon, the combined value of the companies would likely be worth more than
Amazon today; a move that would be sure to please shareholders.


About the Author

Joel Windels 

Joel Windels is Chief Marketing Officer at NetMotion Software, responsible for channel development and inbound marketing activities. He joined NetMotion in 2018 and is based in their Victoria, BC office. Before NetMotion, Joel held VP of Marketing roles at mobile security firm Wandera and social analytics company Brandwatch. He has an MBA from the Imperial College Business School and a BA from the University of Sussex.

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