Motorola's new mission: Make its products consumerization-of-IT friendly. Will it pay off?

Serdar Yegulalp, Contributor

February 9, 2012

6 Min Read

How seriously does Motorola want to be taken in the CoIT space? Very.

That's how Christy Wyatt, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise mobile devices division for Motorola, wants people to see it. She's been in charge of the newly-minted division for some six months now, and during a roundtable invitation-only event in New York on Wednesday she sat with a small clutch of press folks and answered questions about Motorola's current and forthcoming inroads into the consumerization of IT, a.k.a CoIT.

"CoIT is exploding," Wyatt said, an assertion no one in the room challenged. She went on to describe how Motorola planned to make the best of that situation. For IT managers, she pointed out, the problem is not with CoIT-ed devices that are in the 10% of the smartphone market that is made up of pre-approved, managed corporate devices. The problem lies in the 30% of the market that's the prosumer space--people who know exactly which phone they're going to get and demand support for from their IT guy as soon as it comes out. This has created a management challenge for IT like nothing seen before.

Motorola's initiative for building devices that satisfy that CoIT segment is branded with the slogan "Business Ready"--a way to describe Android devices that have been built from the inside out by Motorola to satisfy that need. This means more than just hardware. It also includes OS-level customizations to make Android more IT-department friendly.

Motorola hardware on display. Its current generation of devices is designed to be more manageable--and more CoIT friendly.

The gap between what Google has provided for IT departments faced with CoIT issues and what those same departments actually need has been narrowing with each successive revision of Android--but Motorola wants to give everyone involved as few excuses as possible to use Motorola's devices. To that end, "clearly you have to start with the IT organization," Wyatt said, and enumerated three things IT departments ask of Android: Is it secure? Is it manageable? What will it cost?

Regarding the first two concerns, Motorola found that simply bolting a software layer on top of Android wouldn't cut it. Motorola wanted to bake as much functionality directly into the mobile operating system as possible, and one of the ways it did this was through the acquisition of 3LM about a year and a half ago.

3LM's mobile device management system does not work by sandboxing the entire phone into "work" and "personal" sections like LG's solution. Instead, it allows individual apps to be designated as work or personal, and by allowing specific behaviors to be sandboxed instead. For example, a sandboxed work app would be designated by a special icon set; might have cut-and-paste capabilities to all work apps disabled; and would take all of its data with it when locally or remotely wiped from the phone. Also, things such as geolocation can be used in 3LM security policies—e.g., "Disable the camera when you're in the corporate offices."

Much of the rationale for this app-centric security approach came from the user experience side. Users, Wyatt explained, find a dual-facet phone confusing. A phone with discrete home and work screens is counter-intuitive, she claims. She also came out against the idea that a curated app store along the lines of Apple's, or solutions like Google Bouncer are the kinds of security solutions needed for an enterprise. No platform is invulnerable, she pointed out, and IT security needs require a more granular solution.

With end users and prosumers, Wyatt added, security is more about privacy--or rather, the perception of privacy. "One in four users would rather let you use their toothbrush than their cellphone--but other than worrying about it, they're pretty much not doing anything about it." They express more concern about the monitoring of their activities by their IT organization, or about losing their own data when their work's data is cleared from the device, she said.

The third problem, cost, revolves mainly around controlling data plans. "There's a lot of exploration going on regarding what's corporate data versus what's private data." This is where a sandboxed approach of some kind becomes crucial: how do you separate a user's YouTube addiction from his genuine corporate Citrix usage, especially if they're all on the same billing plan? Different SIM cards isn't a solution, and so work continues to crack that nut as well.

What came out again and again was how Motorola plans to dig as deeply as it possibly can into Android's core to do what needs to be done. Wyatt noted that this wouldn't be possible with a proprietary platform--at least, not to the degree that Motorola has deemed necessary.

One advantage that Motorola has, Wyatt emphasized, is a consistency of software deployment across all their Android products, so the low-level work done with their phones for app security can be cross-applied to their tablets with minimal retooling.

That brought us to the subject of tablets for the vertical business space. Motorola is very choosy about which vertical markets it participates in, but education and health care are both becoming crucial. As for horizontal, BYOD-type environments, the question it asked itself was "How much work is getting done with these devices at work?" Motorola found there was a broad swath of users who were happy with, for example, simply opening and reading documents via QuickOffice on the local machine. A smaller number who wanted the full-blown Microsoft Office experience were opening Citrix.

But "the gap is closing," Wyatt declared. More and more people want to use a tablet to actually create things, even if that means attaching a full keyboard to it. Most of the tablets shown at the event featured keyboard add-ons.

Another repeated point was the depth of Motorola's commitment to Android. There will be no Motorola Windows Phone devices, Wyatt said. Based on her earlier comments, at least some of that seems to be driven by Android's open-source nature, and Wyatt is no stranger to open source. She served as Motorola's board representative to the Linux and Eclipse foundations.

The fruit of her labors, and Motorola's generally, will become clearer by the end of the year as their next waves of Android-powered handsets and devices make their way into the market. Among them, the DROID 4 will be the subject of a forthcoming BYTE review.

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Serdar Yegulalp


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