Somewhere right about now the vision of what an end-user device is gets blurry (smartphone, netbook, Kindle, whatever Apple is working on), and this is precisely why Odyssey Software's Athena, which helps manage mobile devices, shouldn't seem special. That's not because IT managers are only now reluctantly letting these new devices into the enterprise; some are even encouraging it, making device management a relatively new priority. No, Athena shouldn't seem special because it supports only Windows Mobile.
For a hands-on look at Athena in action, watch our ReviewCam by selecting the "play" button in the video window below.
On the one hand, Athena's got an excellent grip on mobile device management. Not only does it plug into Microsoft's System Center Configuration manager so that IT managers get a unified view of all connected platforms, but it also provides everything from policy control and software delivery to remote control and asset management. On the other hand, it does this only for Windows Mobile (6.5 and CE) devices. Recent ComScore numbers, provided here at Fierce Developer shows Windows Mobile surpassed by the iPhone OS and Research In Motion Blackberry. Odyssey CEO Mark Gentile says the company is developing a version that manages BlackBerry devices. That product is slated for some time this Spring. Odyssey is also planning versions for iPhone, Palm, and Nokia.
Other companies, including Microsoft, offer many of these features, though it's hard to find a product that does so much. (And yet, so little, given Windows Mobile's declining market share. OK, I'll stop now.) The depth upon which it reports data, for instance, is impressive. For a memory profile, it presents everything from storage memory to virtual memory to program memory. For the device, it uncovers the phone ID, circuit card ID, the device radio, the subscriber ID, call statistics, the cell tower the device is connected to, and even location information, so managers can track where a device has been (this is helpful for specific applications, but also for managing lost or stolen devices; or, you know, spying on employees).
Athena, like many end-user management tools, defines collections of administrator-defined devices. Within these collections, IT managers can enforce policy or set up software updates or new packages to install. These don't have to be executables: Content and other media can be pushed in the same manner; and to specific end-users, or to thousands.
As IT managers allow more mobile devices for productivity purposes, support needs will grow, especially with specialized applications (the preponderance of vertical industry apps is remarkable). Remote control will become critical for the help desk. Demonstrations of this -- even on AT&T's network in downtown Manhattan -- proved to be impressively responsive, with screen delays of a second or two at most.
Pricing varies based on the number of devices, volume discounts, and modules (there are seven). Odyssey provided pricing based on a scenario of 1,000 devices (which it says is on the low side of its typical order) and for three modules (which is fairly typical). This lists at about $70 per device managed. These are perpetual licenses, but Odyssey also provides subscription pricing.
Feel free to send links or reviews of other similar software, and I'll keep an eye on this SECTOR. Meanwhile, for more in depth mobile information download and read our reports on application mobilization challenges, healthcare smartphone applications and smartphone security. (Note: all require registration to download.)
Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
Note: I am on the jury for the Cloud Connect Launch Pad, produced by TechWeb. This is a competition that lets companies present their innovative application (either in development and about to launch, or recently launched) to the Cloud Connect community in March. Feel free to submit an entry, following the contest rules.
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