Enterprise mobility was an omnipresent theme at #MWC2013

Richard Absalom, Analyst, Consumer Impact Technology, Ovum

At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the topic of enterprise mobility was everywhere – literally, the stands exhibiting all the vendors operating in the space were spread throughout the eight vast halls of Fira Gran Via. Everywhere you looked there were vendors showing off their approaches to enterprise mobility management (EMM), highlighting the importance of mobility for businesses right now: the size of the demand is so big, and there are so many different approaches to EMM, that you could not possibly fit them all under one single (no matter how huge) roof.

A few key themes emerged from the chaos. Significant announcements made by Samsung and AirWatch highlighted the seriousness with which investors and manufacturers are treating the presence of consumer devices in the enterprise. The general trend toward enterprise app provision and management continued to manifest, and most vendors were keen to talk about what they are doing in this space.

Of significant interest to us, but perhaps at the lower end of the publicity scale, were smaller exhibitors showing off innovative solutions to some of the most common challenges faced by enterprises trying to implement a mobility strategy.

Big announcements give the lie to the converging, consolidating landscape

Samsung has already been testing the waters in the enterprise mobility space with its Safe architecture for Android, but the vendor made a bigger splash at MWC with the announcement of KNOX. Scheduled to be shipped on selected Galaxy devices from 2Q13 (although a shipment date of 3Q13 is more likely), KNOX is designed to make Android devices secure enough for the enterprise and includes a secure application container (or a “dual-persona” phone).

This is similar to what BlackBerry has done with Balance and what Red Bend is aiming to do on Android. AT&T Toggle, Enterproid, and Cellrox have already demonstrated the concept on Android, but the difference is that KNOX is built-in ready-to-ship at the hypervisor layer, rather than the app layer.

Although the issues around enterprise mobility go well beyond Android, and extra controls are needed to manage the various other OSs, this is an important moment for the market. It shows that Samsung – the manufacturer with the largest number of smartphone sales – has decided that securing a route into the enterprise market is an important step. As another major player moving into this market, Samsung KNOX will provide both competition and partnership opportunities for the software vendors that currently dominate the EMM space.

Just before MWC, AirWatch announced that it had secured $200m in investment from Insight Venture Partners. Having experienced rapid growth over the past few years, AirWatch was already in a strong position in the EMM market, and according to CEO John Marshall, the extra cash will be ploughed into growing all areas of the business. It is clear that AirWatch and Insight believe that there is plenty of untapped demand for mobility management, and this kind of money is an indication of how the market is progressing.

With several tech giants making serious moves in the space (IBM, SAP, Dell, and Samsung), there is only likely to be room for a few standalone “niche” mobility specialists. AirWatch’s $200m investment certainly puts it in contention for this status. It also signals Insight’s confidence in how far this market has to grow before it is ready for a business such as AirWatch to launch its IPO or be consolidated in a trade sale.

Apps are now central to the discussion

Almost every mobility management vendor was keen to talk about their offerings around mobile app management (MAM), and it was clear that they were aiming to expand beyond a MDM-focused solution. These vendors are beginning to see a real market for mobile enterprise apps, and one vendor stated that around 40% of its US customers were developing apps to be used internally by employees.

MAM specialist Apperian is also gaining traction, picking up investment from Intel and continuing to impress with its pure focus on providing access to, and managing, apps in the enterprise environment. Through partnerships with various app development platform vendors and the developers themselves, Apperian is leading the way in opening up the enormous iOS and Android developer ecosystem to the enterprise.

It is not only among large enterprises that vendors are noting demand for apps. EMM provider Globo unveiled its containerized Enterprise Mobility in a Box service, which sells user licenses in units of 10 to SMEs that want to support BYOD. In addition, developers such as German-based Touching Code, which is re-launching as Apmato, are aiming to cater to the needs of SMEs that want to mobilize their core applications.

Startups offer compelling new solutions to the challenges of BYOD

In among the big names talking about investment and app management, there were some smaller companies demonstrating innovative ideas that address the common problems enterprises face when trying to implement a mobility policy.

UK-based Movirtu’s WorkLife solution, launched the week before MWC opened, allows operators to provide enterprise customers with the ability to easily provision, use, and delete multiple phone numbers on a single SIM. This could enable companies to promote BYOD while keeping ownership of the phone number – keeping work and personal contacts separate, helping to protect against an employee taking all their contacts with them when they leave the organization, and cutting down on the costs of reimbursing employee usage of personal tariffs for work.

When it comes to custom enterprise app development, something we commonly hear is that businesses are being held back by the prohibitive cost of development. California-based Webalo addresses this problem by connecting to back-end infrastructure and digging into existing legacy applications. It then turns data from these into mobile displays that look and feel native to whichever OS the device is running on.

These kind of innovations, although unproven, are exciting in that they demonstrate that people are striving to answer the problems that organizations the world over are grappling with. The obstacles to fully embracing mobile consumerization are being pulled down one by one, and this is opening the door to new ways of working for employees everywhere.

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10 Sep 2013, 9:07 a.m.

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