$5bn market to sort wireless hodgepodge

Mobile management for SMEs

There's a $5bn market for anybody who can help smaller companies manage their wireless and mobile hardware, says Strategy Analytics in a new report.

"Managing a hodgepodge of wireless devices as fully administered extensions of a company's IT fabric is a daunting proposition," observes author Cliff Raskind, summarising his findings.

The report, "Market Outlook: Strategic Perspectives on Enterprise Mobile Device Management," says the issue "will be most acute for smaller businesses, less able to exercise control over a growing population of network-hungry devices as diverse as the individuals who purchased them."

This report also highlights opportunities available to mobile operators and MDM (mobile device management) players such as Sybase's iAnywhere (formerly Xcellenet Afaria) that can effectively remove the device management barrier to wireless adoption "by addressing an expanded scope of IT concerns."

Beyond patching application software and configuring device settings OTA (over-the-air) potential showstoppers include "the inability to lockdown a device in the event it is lost or stolen, or remotely enforce data encryption, synchronisation and/or backups," says the report.

The operators can also score, says the report, by helping users thread their way through billing options. Today's user will have to personally manage a switch from the GSM network to the local WiFi hotspot, and again, when moving back into their office, the switch to their own office LAN.

Raskind says the MDM market, now dominated by software licensing, is poised to grow ten-fold by 2010 into a $5bn global market dominated by managed services.

"Early enterprise adoption of mobility has either been the result of proactive, well considered strategies granting wireless access to process workers, or reactive short term measures in response to the uncoordinated purchases of wireless devices by knowledge workers," he summarised. "In both cases, IT managers have to make critical policy decisions to protect the integrity of enterprise IT services."

The problem, Raskind believes, is that with PCs, it's very clear who owns the device. With mobile and wireless, these policy decisions are not helped by the "unclear lines of device ownership - and the mobility inherent in wireless devices."

Some of the strategies available to larger outfits are pretty sophisticated, but the opportunities lie elsewhere. "The market will ultimately be lead by SME's seeking competitive advantage and cost reduction by leveraging less expensive smartphones and personal productivity solutions like email available from operators," he said.

What he calls an "under-served SME segment" will provide greater opportunities for operators in terms of service differentiation in the form of customer support and network-centric MDM tasks like least-cost routing and device lockdown. "However, the SME market will not be without challenges, as IT comes under increasing pressure to accommodate users who 'self-fulfill' with their own open OS smartphones."

Here, successful operator differentiation must enable smaller businesses to uniformly manage a heterogeneous assortment of devices - one-in-three of which will be purchased outside of the operator's portfolio, Raskind believes.

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