Device Specialization Portends Further BYOD Frustration

Brad Shimmin
Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • Vendors Amazon, Samsung, Google, Apple, and even Microsoft are rushing to either fill or invent gaps remaining within the iPad-dominated tablet marketplace with an array of device sizes, media capabilities and increasingly improved access to enterprise collaborative services.
  • This will leave IT professionals to expand management policies through separate, pure-play mobile management solutions. Thankfully, though collaboration players themselves are seeking to do more than simply support mobile devices.

Like many, I tuned in for a few moments to watch last Thursday’s special news conference put on by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, where the outspoken entrepreneur unveiled a new array of portable media devices, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD family of tablets. I was heartened to see the company directly responded to Google’s recent market bombshell, the Nexus 7 tablet, with a number of device sizes and features tailored to those who prize both high speed (dual-band WiFI and 4G LTE) as well as high (ok improved) audio and video fidelity. This is a good thing specifically for the Android market and broader tablet industry. At least it will make for a very interesting, more competitive holiday season, especially once Apple’s mid-sized device hits the streets.

But what’s good for the market may not be good for IT professionals trying to manage a host of collaboration solutions. Certainly, more devices will spell bigger management, security and governance headaches for organizations allowing or promoting bring your own device (BYOD) programs. That’s a given. What worried me the most about the Amazon Kindle Fire HD — and pretty much every device from Samsung, Acer, Asus, and others — that has and will enter the market this year, is their specialization coupled with their affinity for corporate data and services.

Pricing and market differentiation pressures being what they are, we are standing at the edge of a truly biblical firestorm of specialized devices, each very well-suited to one or more tasks: one for taking handwritten notes (the Samsung Galaxy Note II), one for watching movies and reading magazines (the Amazon Kindle Fire HD), one for checking email (the Google Nexus 7), one for communications (the Apple iPhone). Like the U.S. auto industry, which started with one type of vehicle and quickly burgeoned into an extremely wide array of specialized jalopies (trucks, sports cars, family sedans, etc.), the mobile device industry is specializing, but it’s pushing for far more than the proverbial two car garage.

What I believe we’re moving toward is a work environment where on a given day, an enterprise user will carry two or three devices, changing those devices out from day to day depending upon what he or she is interested in or working on at the time — and that user will expect his/her corporate email, calendar, directory, tasks, files, etc. to follow seamlessly along with this daily musical chairs. That’s the stage set by Mr. Bezos, at any rate, when he announced that the Kindle Fire HD, which is purely aimed at a consumer market, would now come equipped with native, deep integration tools not just for Skype, Yahoo!, Google and the other low-hanging consumer collaboration players but also for Microsoft Exchange (calendar, contacts, and email).

In response, IT will undoubtedly turn to the major collaboration players such as Microsoft, IBM, Google and others, looking for answers. But historically, these companies have not been able to provide a unified and comprehensive solution beyond simply porting their user experience to a set of devices, connecting with corporate authentication servers and offering partial or complete device wipe tools. IT managers have had to look elsewhere, particularly to broad mobile management/platform players like Antenna and SAP or pure-play mobile collaboration players like Good Technology.

This is changing with vendors like Cisco, VMware and IBM actively beginning to create mobile management solutions while establishing deep points of integration between those solutions and their existing collaboration tools. For example, VMware is working on embedding Socialtext and Zimbra directly within its mobile device management solution (Horizon). Likewise, IBM has recently announced the IBM Mobile Foundation, a suite of mobile device management solutions, which will run directly below the company’s collaboration portfolio.

Sadly, until these and other pure-play collaboration players are able to completely address mobility, IT professionals will find themselves with mobile device management solutions that are either incapable of handling the coming influx of devices or unable to address the unique security and governance raised by collaboration products like enterprise social networks. In the meantime, IT professionals should feel free to address thank you notes directly to Mr. Bezos.

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