June 24, 2011, 6:47 AM — It was only a few years ago that mobile device management was as simple as using Research in Motion's BlackBerry Enterprise Server as the hub for all your devices.
But that was before the iPhone. And Android. And Windows Phone. And webOS. And ... well, you get the picture. IT departments today not only have to deal with multiple operating systems, but they have to deal with multiple variations of multiple operating systems as OS developers never push out new versions of their software to all devices at the same time. So what can IT managers do to keep themselves sane in this environment?
During a webinar presentation today, Gartner analyst Phillip Redman suggested that the answer may be to invest in mobile device management (MDM) software. At the start of his presentation, Redman said that many enterprises he'd talked with recently had started allowing multiple device types onto their networks without coming up with a comprehensive plan for managing them all.
"The complexity of these devices and platforms is driving the need to get a better handle on mobile devices," he said. "The BlackBerry Enterprise Service worked well with one type of device and operating system and a limited number of applications ... but very few enterprises haven't started supporting devices outside BlackBerry."
Redman said that MDM had grown into a $200 million industry in 2010 and noted that several companies have strong offerings in the MDM market, including Sybase, Good Technology, MobileIron, AirWatch, Zenprise, Symantec and RIM. Redman also compared the burgeoning MDM industry to the telecom expense management (TEM) industry in that both enable IT departments to get a handle on their workers' telecom use by customizing their own policies. Many MDM clients can be downloaded directly off of smartphone application stores such as the Android Market and Apple's App Store. From there they'll need to connect with a central MDM platform that the IT department has installed on its back-end system.