11:30 AM

Trouble Ahead: Most Companies Don't Have A Mobile Device Management Plan

With devices taking on important tasks, and more devices coming in to companies, that will be a problem soon.

One reason uptake of mobile device management products hasn't been faster may be that companies aren't all that sure how their mobile strategies are going to evolve. LifeLong's situation is partly a result of the fact that its experience with mobile applications hasn't been stellar: The 371-employee company conducted a pilot electronic-prescription program a few years back, using the since-discontinued Axim PDAs from Dell. Mainly because of a lack of wireless coverage in its Berkeley, Calif., medical facility, the trial led nowhere.

For now, while LifeLong issues a few PDAs to clinicians and managers, most employees use their own cell phones or smartphones, billing the company for partial reimbursement for their service plan. It's hardly ideal. "The problem is that because we have no management strategy, the IT department orders and issues the devices, but nobody really checks the bills," Ami says. Software updates are another problem. To install new software and upgrades, Ami's team has to physically retrieve every smartphone in use in the organization.

ABI Research forecasts that revenue from mobile device management services will exceed $20 billion by 2013, from less than $600 million last year, a striking swell in demand considering the lukewarm interest our survey turns up. In addition to Research In Motion, Hewlett-Packard, the business division of Verizon, and an array of other providers are offering mobile device management in one form or another.

The market got a significant entrant in March when Microsoft began shipping its System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, first unveiled last October. A new server application that works only with Windows Mobile 6.1, Mobile Device Manager 2008 is the first major product by the world's largest software company to make handhelds as manageable and secure as PCs.

The product review site Engadget describes System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 as "dull" and "restrictive," but its popularity is rising among the Microsoft crowd, with 19% of survey respondents using it. Its capabilities include VPN connectivity, over-the-air updates and feature disabling, and remote wiping of data from lost or stolen devices. Microsoft's system is priced at $2,149 per server plus $57 per user or device before discounts.

Significantly, close to 60% of IT departments have standardized on a single mobile device for employees who get them, which should make device management easier. But device homogeneity won't last, as more employees bring their own cell phones and smartphones to work rather than get them through their companies, as with laptops and other standard-issue computing equipment. Apple's iPhone, in particular, is storming the enterprise. Ami and other IT directors are resisting, but resistance is futile: Ami's boss recently started using an iPhone, a gift from his son.

Many IT organizations lack even the most basic information about the devices and services their employees are using. "We don't even know how many are out there," is a typical comment. Another: "We don't have a way to control what the users are doing."

At InformationWeek's Over the Air Mobility Forum in New York last month, one exasperated CIO asked, "So you're telling me I have to figure out what type of device every one of my employees is using, who their carrier is, and what they're running on it?" He didn't say it, but clearly the thought bubble above his head was "Fuhgeddaboutit."

Mobile Device Management Products
Vendor Product Description Advantages
Hewlett-Packard HP Enterprise Mobility Enterprise MDM Includes MDM, services, and devices
LANDesk LANDesk Management Enterprise MDM Console lets IT see and manage devices regardless of type
Motorola Good Good Mobile Messaging Enterprise e-mail and messaging interface Enterprise-class, with security emphasis for messages and device
Movero Technology Movero Maestro Enterprise MDM Lets IT managers buy, change, and track devices from Web-based interface
Nokia Nokia Intellisync Enterprise e-mail and messaging software Incorporates enterprise apps from Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, and others
Novell ZENworks Handhel dManagement Enterprise mobile security software Lets IT managers deploy and manage software and device configurations
Odyssey Software Athena Enterprise device management client software Integrates with enterprise management platforms, including Microsoft's
Research In Motion BlackBerry Enterprise Server Enterprise e-mail and messaging system Part of dominant corporate mobile e-mail
Sybase iAnywhere Afaria Enterprise MDM Heterogeneous device support (Windows, Symbian, Palm, BlackBerry)

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