Beating crackberry: if Apple, Google and Microsoft were serious about enterprise smartphones

There is a lot of interest from corporate users in the iPhone and iPad and Android devices, and maybe even the Windows mobile 7 (we will wait and see), however Apple, Google and Microsoft are yet to really break the RIM stranglehold on the enterprise market. There is really only one thing that holding them back.

This article adds to my post on securely deploying iOS and Android devices in the enterprise.

Sure there is some talk of bring your own device and plenty of companies performing trials and proof of concepts, as well as allowing executive management to play with iPads and Droids but I am not aware of major blue chips rushing to do large scale global deployments to replace their fleet of Blackberry devices and the Forrester data backs me up:




The reason for this domination is not the business case, there is plenty of user demand, it would definitely save money, maybe even improve user mobility and productivity. However when something is as entrenched as the Blackberry these reasons are not compelling enough. I believe the major reason for the resistance to change especially in IT departments is the lack of a true, integrated, simple Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that is presented with the iOS and Android usurpers. Whether Microsoft does this with WP7 is yet to be determined.

Defining the problem

The problems to be solved for IT departments regarding enterprise smart phones and tablets are the following:
  • Activation – it must be really easy to issue a device anywhere around the world and for the IT helpdesk to remotely activate it, connect it to the corporate network, download the correct software and profile and for it to just work quickly

  • Standard configuration – this is really important, the devices must be able to have a standard configuration based on roles. Without this troubleshooting and support is a nightmare

  • Software / APP deployment – it must be simple and easy to push software including new version updates based on user profiles. Also to remove or disable unrequired software and stop users from downloading their own

  • Custom software / APP’s – there must be a development platform that is compatible with enterprise development e.g. J2EE, .Net that allows the companies developers to easily port enterprise apps to the mobile platform and make them available only to the companies staff

  • Security – I discuss security in detail in this post so I will not go into it here. In summary at a minimum you need to support enterprise integrated strong access control, on device encryption, Network Access Control and remote online and offline device wipe
  • Scale – it must be simple to increase the amount of mobile devices by a significant proportion quickly e.g. when another company is acquired and similarly to reduce the estate to constrain costs.
  • Geographically distributed performance – the user must get the same experience, performance and availability regardless of where they travel

  • Push email, alerts and notifications – goes without saying, also includes company broadcasts

  • Reliability – there is no fury like when the CEO’s crackberry does not work

  • Integration – this is a really key one. The mobile must support standards based API’s and integration. At a minimum it must integrate with Exchange / Send mail, LDAP / Active Directory (for user profiles, authentication and authorization), Sharepoint and other workflow tools, Salesforce / CRM, ideally SAP and other ERP tools

  • Management – company IT must be able to easily and centrally manage all of the relevant infrastructure and all devices with role based access and appropriate approvals for risky actions

  • Price – The total cost of ownership must be lower than the current crackberry estate by a significant enough margin to justify the project and change costs. This includes any licensing, the devices including ongoing upgrades and replacements, the infrastructure, support, maintenance and all software. There must be a payback period of 1-2 years to make it a really attractive project.
Some solutions

I do not believe that Apple, Google or Microsoft have successfully addressed these problems and articulated a clear and simple solution. This is why they are all struggling to challenge RIM, with Microsoft being the closest with Exchange and Active Directory integration.

The Apple profile manager is an absolute joke and I have not heard of anything for Android. What is really needed is a proper Mobile Data Management infrastructure and platform to support these brilliant consumer devices.

There are a few out there although they are very good for Symbian and Windows mobile 6 and older operating systems, not much for Apple and Android OS at the time of writing and obviously not Windows Mobile 7.

The ones I have evaluated personally include:
  • Soti – this is very good for Windows mobile and Symbian
  • Juniper Junos Pulse – emerging platform with good hooks into Apple for the VPN support
  • Sybase Aferia – again emerging support for Apple and Android
  • Checkpoint - currently only Windows mobile and Symbian
  • Good Technology - not the best solution in my view but quick and already good iPhone integration. Probably the most successfull company at bringing iPhone to the enterprise
  • Citrix Xen desktop - a different approach to the others but compelling in providing enterprise users a similar experience to their desktop regardless on the device
An excellent opportunity more for Google or Microsoft, because Apple likes to buy rather than partner,  is to partner with a carrier e.g. Vodaphone and offer a totally outsourced package including voice, data, management, security as a service e.g. if they could be profitable at £3-5 / user / month that would be very compelling.

Making the transition is key also, to convince IT management and make it easier for internal sponsors the vendors need to come with a high level transition plan. Be like the banks that promise to take care of all your direct debits if you switch accounts, make a statement like we will integrate all your current un-approved iPhone and iPad globally users with corporate email and calender within 3 months, in 2 months all new and replacement Blackberry's will be offered the new option, total project completed in 1 year.

Conclusions

Ultimately there maybe good reasons for Apple and Google to not want to seriously play in the enterprise markets. These include culture (Apple has never been a suit, Google still has a hacker culture), scale and capacity (Apple has yet to even release a white iPhone, Samsung switched from AMOLED to SLCD because of supply problems for the glass) and a view that there is more money is in the consumer market because of the sheer number of possible customers.

I think this is missing a trick though, while lower in number enterprises are potentially a lot more profitable as RIM has demonstrated, also once you are in a major blue chip you do get a certain lockin where it is another major project to get you out. Hopefully you have such a good product and combined with continuous innovation (areas which Apple and Google have never had an issue with) that once you are in, you never get replaced.

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