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“Phones don’t sell phones. Applications sell phones”. That’s the verdict of Forrester analyst Tyler Shields, in a recent blog post in which he outlines the next big battle in the mobile wars.
This time, the fight won’t be between competing handset vendors for the hearts and minds of consumers, says Shields. That’s already been won - by Apple with iOS and Google with Android.
Instead, the fight will be between the vendors of mobile device management (MDM) vendors, who are quickly realising that, while there’s value in helping corporate customers to track, manage and, where necessary, remote-wipe the devices that employees use to access valuable corporate information, there’s even more value in enabling them to manage the applications that employees use.
To do so, however, MDM specialists such as MobileIron, AirWatch, Good Technologies and Zenprise must win the hearts and minds of third-party independent software vendors (ISVs). If these developers are provided with software development kits (SDKs) that enable them to engineer their applications so that they can be managed by enterprise mobility solution from these specialists, goes the thinking, then that will give these solutions a real boost among security-conscious enterprises.
In other words, mobile device management is no longer the frontline on which these companies will wage war. It’s mobile application management (MAM) where the most interesting skirmishes will take place.
Examples of this new trend are everywhere.
In late August, for example, MobileIron launched Anyware, its “next-generation cloud solution for enterprise mobility management”. It’s basically a service for managing both devices and apps, available from the Salesforce.com AppExchange and its appeal should lie in its ability not just to deliver MDM capabilities to non-technical users (think sales managers, for example) but also distribute mobile apps to employees from the Salesforce.com administration console. In other words, it will enable them to perform MDM and MAM tasks. That’s in addition to MobileIron’s existing efforts on Apps@Work, its enterprise apps storefront, and AppConnect SDK, its kit for mobile developers.
Similarly, AirWatch CEO John Marshall used his keynote speech at the company’s early September annual user conference in Atlanta, Georgia to launch AirWatch Workspace, a mobile app that ties together all of the company’s other apps to create an ecosystem of managed corporate apps on devices that are not managed with MDM. Even before that announcement, AirWatch had started to look like a far less device-centric organisation, since launching standalone MAM in January this year.
Meanwhile, Citrix has recently unveiled its Worx App Gallery, a mobile app ecosystem that enables employees using iOS and Android mobile device to download a wide range of secure enterprise apps from the Citrix unified app store, as well as Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play Store. The Worx App Gallery currently has more than 100 third-party enterprise apps available, along with Citrix's WorxMail, WorxWeb, ShareFile and Podio.
It’s far from clear who the eventual winner will be. The MDM market, even as it evolves, remains highly fragmented. There are around 150 companies competing in this space and many of them offer SDKs, says Forrester’s Shields. It is, he says, a “multi-participant high-stakes war.”
Whoever wins that war will likely emerge as a major force in the highly competitive and near commodity mobile device management space. But while first-mover advantage and marketing spend will be critical, the winners will likely be defined, according to Shields, “not necessarily by the technology being sold, but by who the developers choose to embrace.”