Mobile Device Management Evolves as OSes Multiply

Carl Weinschenk

GigaOM Pro is, if anything, a bit behind the times on this one. The site has a post-an excerpt of which is available at the main site-suggesting that the use of smartphones for combined consumer and business purposes has serious ramifications. The post, however, says that "businesses will soon need coherent enterprise mobility strategies."

They won't need them soon. They need them now.


The increasing interest in bringing smartphpones to work is common across the Android and Apple categories and demands an aggressive approach to mobile device management (MDM). (BlackBerry, of course, has long been ensconced in the business culture and has strong management tools.) The job is even more complex than it first appears. Multiple versions of each OS must be supported.

In the final analysis, the post says, the strategy of separating consumer and business devices no longer is feasible simply because so many phones serve both roles. The obvious answer is to forget about segregating devices. The goal is to separate the business and consumer data on those devices by partitioning the handset itself.

In the big picture, companies not rushing to support the iPhone and Android MDM are flirting with disaster. The saving grace for them is that things happen gradually and there was a long period in which it was possible to get it wrong before the sky fell. We are reaching the crossover point and companies not implementing effective strategies backed by top-notch technology will be in trouble. A significant silver lining for the laggards is that tools are becoming available as OS vendors and third parties see the need -- and the potential for profit.

There is good news on this front, at least from Apple. This long feature at Computerworld describes in great detail the MDM features in recently released iOS 4, which drives the iPhone 4 now and the iPad in the future. Writer Ryan Faas was surprised that Apple didn't handle the implementation of the MDM functions itself. By leaving that key task to the marketplace, he said, organizations will be able to choose between many competitors doing it -- seven, at last count.


Faas describes the differences between the approaches to iOS 4 MDM and provides other details. The bottom line is that organizations that pay attention can make the newest iteration of the iPhone OS far more ready for the office than previous versions. These approaches can both secure the device and protect the enterprise from it. For instance, managers now are able to disable cameras that can compromise corporate secrets.

This clearly is a great area for vendors and service providers. Earlier this week, BoxTone-which defines its product as mobile service management -- received $7.5 million in funding from Lazard Technology Partners. Also last week, AirWatch made its product available in a software appliance. It already was available in another software configuration and in a software-as-a-service format.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 11, 2010 5:38 PM Ojas Rege Ojas Rege  says:

I agree that the "ostrich approach" (head-in-sand) doesn't work for multi-OS.  But I still see it a lot:  IT looking for a band-aid because their CEO got a cool new device and they can't say "no" to supporting it, instead of realizing this is the future and they need a real strategy plus real tools to manage this new class of platform.  This isn't a discretionary effort.  Those that aren't already taking it seriously are going to have some painful times ahead.


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