Four themes seemed to dominate this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona: security, privacy, the increased pace of mobile device management (MDM) consolidation, and OEMs jockeying for best enterprise pole position.
Given the recent hacks of US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, posted on YouTube; reports from the Sochi Olympics of mobile device security breaches; and continuing revelations about the NSA's collection of phone data, attendees seemed more interested than usual in products promising better security.
On the security and privacy front, two companies -- one a large multinational and the other a startup -- announced two radically different products and approaches toward the sticky problem of mobile security, data loss prevention, and hacking. Boeing announced a secure phone called Black, while a joint venture of Maryland-based Silent Circle and Geeksphone (SGP Technologies) of Spain announced the Blackphone. Although the names suggest the same type of product, Boeing is targeting government customers while Silent Circle is aiming for those who would prefer to stay out of government's reach, as well as those in regulated industries.
[Read how the government hopes to eliminate clunky smartcard readers for mobile device security. Feds Move Toward Hardwired Credentials On Mobile Devices.]
Besides security news, there was a buzz among attendees wondering which global IT industry heavyweight would make the next big, bold move at mobile consolidation. Once on the periphery of enterprise computing, mobility is now central to most government and large corporate enterprise IT strategies. It's a forgone conclusion that to compete in the hyper-competitive global computing space, companies must have a credible mobile strategy.
Good Technology signaled it's not sitting still, with an announcement that it plans to acquire Maryland-based BoxTone; and Samsung surprised many by announcing its own cloud-based mobile device management software called Knox Enterprise Mobility Management.
BoxTone's automated enterprise mobility management platform has long been regarded as best-of-breed in monitoring, auditing, and optimizing mobile and network performance. The acquisition wasn't a total surprise: BoxTone and Good worked together on a landmark MDM/MAS award issued last year by the Defense Information Systems Agency. Although BoxTone's management is well respected, especially in government, questions have persisted about the company's ability to finance future growth plans.
Good Technology, which Gartner placed as a leader in its Magic Quadrant for the MDM market, is poised go public, setting off speculation about how Good Technology might respond to VMware's recent acquisition of Air Watch for $1.54 billion. Good Technology is suing Air Watch over alleged infringements of its IP for mail synchronization. Air Watch, founded by Alan Dabbiere, has grown quickly in the MDM market by undercutting competitors on price.
In related MDM news, Samsung made a spate of announcements including the introduction of Knox Enterprise Mobility Management, a cloud-based MDM for small to midsized businesses. The news surprised MDM players that are currently part of the Samsung Enterprise Alliance Program and that see Samsung beginning to compete with established partners -- many of whom aided Samsung in gaining enterprise acceptance. Although Samsung remains the 800-pound gorilla in enterprise mobility, it's clear manufacturers including LG, Kyocera, HTC, Microsoft, and BlackBerry are not going to sit on their hands while the company makes its moves.
Samsung, to its credit, is offering one of the first real and viable alternatives to BlackBerry with its Knox platform. The question remains: Will an enterprise or government agency bet the farm on a single OEM vendor the way it did with BlackBerry in the past? It's not likely in this age of BYOD, especially given Apple's continuing penetration into enterprise operations.
Nevertheless, Samsung has thrown its considerable resources and clout into its mobile business, hiring industry veterans from BlackBerry, and beefing up its sales and marketing efforts. It promises to be the OEM to watch in government.
Too many companies treat digital and mobile strategies as pet projects. Here are four ideas to shake up your company. Also in the Digital Disruption issue of InformationWeek: Six enduring truths about selecting enterprise software. (Free registration required.)