Symantec’s Acquisition Of Nukona Is A Signal That Mobile Management Is Finally Growing Up

On Tuesday, Symantec announced it will acquire Nukona – an application management solution. Haven’t heard of them?

I don’t blame you. And here’s why: The scope of mobile management is confusing and expansive, including things like mobile device management (MDM), persona separation technology, enterprise application stores, application management and a slew of other tools. Some vendors focus purely on one mobile management category, like device management, while plenty of others tackle two or three different enterprise challenges. At the same time, this market is evolving so fast that any assessment of the technologies and their vendors is out of date within 2-3 months.

But before I explain why Symantec’s acquisition is so important, let me give some more context. Mobile management has three main components which I&O professionals are thinking about, the device, the apps, and the data. Today, most first firms follow a very similar path: devices first – get an MDM solution to provide some control over the environment, set a mobile policy for employees, and start trying to figure out what to do about applications and data. Realistically, MDM only solves your challenge around device control – probably the least important of the three. That’s the path that many vendors are following today. As the MDM market becomes more commoditized, most vendors are turning their engineers towards data protection and sharing tools and application management technology. Had a conversation about Dropbox or Box.net lately? That’s a conversation about both apps and the data.

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Mobile Enablement Means Access

Music is a very important part of my life. At home I've always got something playing on the sound system, I never go anywhere without headphones, and my music collection takes up more space in my house (not to mention on my computer) than anything else. That's why on a recent trip up to Maine – a 4.5 hour ride from Boston – the first thing I did to prepare was make sure I had my phone for music on the drive, without which I'd be stuck with the radio. Having to listen to the same 40 songs for four and a half hours is something that could easily give me nightmares but it got me thinking about how much choice matters.

Ten years ago I would have been happy enough with just the radio. Then came Napster and the iPod and my world changed. I became aware the technology existed which meant I knew there was a better alternative to the radio. What's more, I was excited about it. I wanted to use my iPod and put new music on it. The product engaged me as it had engaged everyone around me. I think that correlates with what we're seeing today in firms across all industries where employees have long been locked into aging technology – which often doesn't do everything they need it to – by lack of choice.

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What Does Google's Acquisition Of Motorola Mobility Mean To I&O Professionals?

Google sent shock waves through the mobile world this morning as it announced a planned acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in cash. The initial commentary has largely focused around Motorola’s patent portfolio, how this will affect the other Android manufacturers, and what Google will do with the rest of Moto’s hardware business which my colleague John McCarthy summed up nicely in his blog post.

So what kind of an impact does this have on infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals? For the most part, not much of one.  I&O professionals are working to make their organizations platform-agnostic by deploying mobile device management (MDM) solutions. For them, Android is only one in an increasingly crowded space of platforms including iOS, Blackberry, and Windows 7 Mobile. 

Still, there is one interesting implication in this deal that I&O pros should take note of — Google gets 3LM. Back in February Motorola Mobility acquired 3LM, a startup including former Google employees who worked on Android, which specializes in enterprise security and management software. Rumors had already been flying that some of the 3LM functionality like storage encryption and anti-malware would be included in the next version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich). With 3LM now a part of Google, firms might finally management and security capabilities I&O and security pros have been asking for in Android.

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RIM Puts Mobile Device Management Vendors On Notice

Supporting non-BlackBerry mobile devices is a priority for every company I speak with these days. Regardless of industry and size, firms are bringing in mobile device management (MDM) solutions alongside their BES to manage the increasing number of Android and iOS devices that are in their employees’ hands.

Now let’s be clear, even with these MDM solutions in place I&O professionals should not expect the same levels of security and management for Android and iOS that they’ve come to know on BlackBerry with a BES, yet. Ultimately these MDM solutions are limited by Apple and Google’s APIs, but eventually they will have all of the necessary components to challenge RIM’s position as the enterprise mobile device, especially as more companies allow personal devices inside their networks.

RIM is obviously putting a lot of work into combating the market share erosion it’s seeing in the hardware and platform space, but what about device management? With well over 25 vendors in the MDM space currently, the fight is on for who will manage mobile devices moving forward. Cue RIM’s announcement last week at BlackBerry World stating that it will expand BES and BES Express support to include both Android and iOS devices later this year, you can feel the other MDM vendors collectively shudder.

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