A lot has been written about whether Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 will have any impact on the smartphone market by the time devices start hitting the stores late this year. At one point, Windows Mobile was a leading mobile platform, particularly for businesses, but Microsoft failed to move quickly with the changing times as Apple launched the iPhone and revolutionized the smartphone market and really developed the strong consumer appeal for these devices. Google's Android OS quickly evolved with many strong smartphone contenders on various carriers. And meanwhile, Microsoft went back to the drawing board.
I mean, I understand why a behemoth of a company such as Microsoft is less agile, particularly when they already have (or had) a successful product in the space. It can be very difficult to abandon what has worked—until it proves to be absolutely no longer viable. Which is why I find what Zenprise is doing these days particularly impressive.
Remember when Zenprise used to be a product just for Microsoft Exchange Server monitoring and management? Well, as the smartphone market has evolved, so has Zenprise. Responding to customer requests several years ago, the company added support for Blackberry devices. And according to Zenprise's vice president of marketing, Ahmed Datoo, within the last year, "We have expanded our product actually now to support in terms of smartphones, Blackberrys, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Windows Mobile, and Palm devices—so, typically all the major types of platforms that you'd see in the enterprise."
Zenprise MobileManager has evolved as a complete end-to-end mobile management platform, and now the company is adding features to address the growing number of employee-owned devices connecting to corporate systems. The new additions, available as part of the latest release of MobileManager released this week, are Profiles, Remote Lifeline, and Selective Wipe.
The Profiles features gives IT departments the ability to establish different profiles for corporate-owned versus employee-owned devices. So, on corporate assets, you can feel free to apply that tighter level of security policies that on employee-owned devices would cause an uproar. It's all still managed through the Zenprise console and tied into Active Directory (AD). And the Remote Lifeline feature let your IT department offer support to those employee-owned devices that wouldn't normally receive support. For instance, you've got a company exec on the road with an iPhone that suddenly isn't syncing the business email—with Remote Lifeline, you can use MobileManager to troubleshoot the problem.
Device wipe can be a problem for any business, particularly if you work with sensitive data. The problem gets even more complicated when you allow those employee-owned devices in. Zenprise's new Selective Wipe feature is a pretty good answer. It lets you clear all work-related data from the device without affecting the user's personal data, such as pictures, music, applications, and so forth. Unfortunately, this feature works only on iPhones or iPads because it's based on how Apple tags data that comes from Exchange. Still, it's a great start.
And, as we know, iPhones, and now iPads, continue to make inroads on the corporate landscape. As Jayaram Bhat, CEO for Zenprise, told me, "Today we hear 8 out of 10 prospects ask us about the iPhone. Even those companies who are supposedly standardized on Blackberry want to make sure they have the ability to support iPhones, especially the consumer-owned ones. So, it's a dramatic change—this is a very dynamic market."
The complexity and speed at which the mobility marketplace is changing make it all the more important that IT departments have a handle on what their employees are using—and what they're using them for. Taking a look at a mobile management product such as MobileManager might save a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run. Has your IT department developed a strategy for mobile device management, or are you using a third-party product already? I'd love to hear about it.