Keeping Pace with the Changing Face of Mobile Management | Page 2

As far as automation is concerned, devices based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform will increasingly use the company's System Center Mobile Device Manager module (as well as other management systems like Odyssey's Athena. For Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices, there's RIM's own BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and applications such as CA's Mobile Device Management (MDM). Nokia's Symbian-based devices will be managed by a variety of systems including Nokia Intellisync and Sybase's Afaria.

There's a very obvious problem here.

These phone management systems are designed for devices running Windows, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems, yet employees at all levels want to use the handsets of their choice—the ones they form personal attachments to, such as the iPhone, or perhaps the Pre or Droid. Workers are prepared to buy the phones they want for themselves, and they want to use them for business as well as pleasure.

Could the iPhone be used in a tightly managed corporate environment? Right now the device is nowhere near ready to abandon its jeans and black turtleneck and put on a suit and tie, despite what Mr. Jobs would have you believe.

With little management software available, and no prospect in the near future of any automated patching and update capabilities (thanks to Apple's closed software approach and the consequent lack of access to vital APIs, plus the simple fact that it won't currently run installed applications in the background)the iPhone is simply not ready.

But Android-powered devices are no better.

Being open and flexible, Android smartphones are the anti-iPhone in many ways. Whereas Apple guards its code, Android vendors are quite free to add proprietary extensions to Google's open source operating system.

But ironically it's Android's very openness that may be its downfall in the enterprise: the last thing an IT department wants to have to do is run corporate mobile apps on a fleet of devices with similar, but not identical, implementations of the base operating system.

One solution is to ban the use of employee-owned phones for any type of business use. But over the coming months the corporate use of employee-owned consumer handsets is going to become an increasingly big issue, and one which isn't going to go away. How does a member of the IT staff tell the CEO that he or she is banned from using a new iPhone, and instead have a company-issued Nokia E51?

For that reason a variety of innovative solutions are likely to emerge—including virtual machine environments running business applications and holding corporate data that can be centrally managed (or wiped if the employee leaves) running on employee owned handsets.

Most recently, we've seen mobile management firms including Good Technology, Zenprise and MobileIron roll out support for the fragmented mobile OS space, with services for Palm's webOS, Android and the iPhone.

Management, security, compliance, the use of employee-owned consumer handsets in the enterprise—these are interesting times in the enterprise mobile device space, and there's no doubt that plenty more interesting issues will emerge. Over the coming months I'll be taking a close look at the most important ones as this fast moving market evolves. I hope you'll join me.

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