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Inside Looking Out: An Executive View on Enterprise Mobility With Mort Rosenthal

Welcome to the latest edition of Inside Looking Out.  I recently had the chance to sit down with Mort Rosenthal, President and CEO of Enterprise Mobile, a Boston-based company that provides mobility implementation and outsourcing services.

I’ve known Mort for quite some time now.  I love his no-nonsense style…he’s a very straight shooter…and when he talks, people usually want to listen.

The Enterprise Mobility Foundation: Hi Mort.  Good to see you again.  You and I have discussed in the past the fact that mobility in the enterprise is not as mature as are other IT processes and systems.  What can companies do to help accelerate that maturation process?

Mort Rosenthal:  Hi Philippe.  Solutions for managing a technology can’t mature until the technology becomes stable, and right now, mobility technology isn’t stable. The rate of change is very rapid, with many diverse platforms competing in the marketplace. All of those platforms are trying to win the innovation race. On the one hand, the situation is good for the enterprise because it provides a rich choice of exciting technologies. On the other hand, the conflicting platforms lead to instability, which companies cannot control.  Until the industry standardizes on infrastructure for enterprise mobility, it will be difficult for mobility processes and systems to fully mature. One area where there is significant consolidation is around Microsoft ActiveSync.  It provides more than just a connection to Exchange; it’s also a simplified device management tool.

EMF: RIM recently announced the BES Express platform – its response to the onslaught of individually liable devices.  What’s your take on it?

MR: By providing the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express free (RIM offers the server and CAL at no charge), RIM gives SMBs a cost effective, practical alternative for managing BlackBerries in their environment. This could be a good move for RIM – a way to compete with iPhone, Windows Phone and Android in the SMB space.

EMF: Speaking of individually liable devices, Android has been making tons of noise. What does that mean for the IT manager?

MR: Our customers are telling us that they want to look at Android but it’s too early to add an Android device to their list of approved smartphones, as Android devices are not necessarily “good corporate citizens” with appropriate management and security.  Of course that won’t stop employees from bringing the Droid or Nexus One into the workplace and wanting to connect to corporate networks.

IT managers tell me they’re struggling to keep up with the rapid innovation in all the major mobile operating systems. This is especially true for companies that support multiple platforms. Our consultants help them understand the best practices that apply to each platform – and how to implement them most efficiently.

EMF: So can individually liable devices be “controlled”?

MR: On the surface, individual liable devices are quite appealing because theoretically they remove the mobility expense from the company ledger. In most cases, though, the mobility expense just goes from being a direct company payment to a reimbursement on an expense report. On the flip side, the company can negotiate a better price for service for corporate liable devices because they are likely to get a better deal as a single payer.

Although the individual liable approach is tempting, companies need to be aware of their responsibility beyond determining who pays for devices and wireless plans. IT organizations are responsible for connecting individual liable devices to internal data and therefore they must create and enforce policies for using corporate data. As the number of employees using mobile devices increases, so does the risk of security breaches.  For that reason, companies have to be accountable for devices that have corporate data on them, regardless of who’s receiving the bill.

Even though it places a greater burden on the enterprise, the corporate liable approach is gaining traction. IT must determine which devices and plans will best support business objectives, typically with little or no input from users. For companies that are especially concerned about security and device management, this can be the best option.  

EMF: Apple also made news recently with iPhone OS 4.0.  What’s your take on it from a corporate perspective?

MR: iPhone OS 4.0 represents a significant step forward for Apple, which traditionally focuses on the individual consumer rather than the enterprise.  They’re starting to do a very good job of listening, however, and are responding more and more to the enterprise wish list.  We won’t know 4.0’s true capabilities until June, but it appears that the iPhone has made significant steps forward in terms of responding to security and management needs.

Recently, I spoke with a CIO who works for a large hospital that has deployed Blackberry, primarily because of RIM’s commitment to device management and robust security. Now the CIO is having second thoughts about excluding Apple, given the noise around Apple’s impressive at-rest encryption technology. It’s clear that Apple has made great strides in device security.

Apple seems to be making sure its infrastructure support is aligned with enterprise requirements. For example, one challenge for the enterprise has been putting a proprietary application on the iPhone and pushing it outside of the company. It looks like they’re doing a good job at remedying those concerns, but, of course, the devil’s in the details.

EMF: There has also been much press recently on the “Doom & Gloom” for the likes of Blackberry, Palm and Microsoft because of all the interest in the iPhone and Android. Is this warranted?

MR: All of those companies are pretty innovative.  Blackberry isn’t resting on their dominant market share and will continue to innovate. Today if you’re heavily reliant on email, Blackberry remains a compelling story.

Windows Phone 7 Series is very appealing because it seems to possess some of the interactive characteristics of the iPhone. It will be very attractive for consumers and enterprises. Microsoft has the enterprise in its genes and will always do an excellent job meeting the needs of the enterprise.

EMF: One last question.  In the greater IT space, it seems as if all the rage is “something” as a Service.  Do you see that as the future of mobile managed services?

MR: Currently there’s a lot of intelligence on the device, and the device is connected to a back end system. Gradually, more and more management of devices and applications will be in the cloud. Look at Palm, Windows Phone 7, and RIM devices, they’re using more and more intelligence in the cloud and that’s increasingly becoming the norm. With iPhone, the applications are on the device and data flows back and forth between device and the app store. Windows Phone 7 is very cloud-centric.  In the near future, management of devices will be increasingly cloud-based.  In fact, we’re currently working with a company that has a really strong cloud-based device management and security application that moves smartphone data seamlessly from the cloud to a device.

Thank you Mort for taking the time to speak with me.  If interested, you can connect with him on LinkedIn here.  Do you know anyone who should be a guest here on Inside Looking Out? Drop us a line.

3 Comments

  1. Posted May 5, 2010 at 09:51 | Permalink

    Excellent interview Philippe and experienced views from Mort.

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  2. Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:09 | Permalink

    Thanks Ahmed. I told you Mort was smart ;-)

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  3. Posted May 25, 2010 at 14:19 | Permalink

    Thanks and keep the interviews coming

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One Trackback

  1. [...] I sat down with Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation not long ago to talk about a range of mobility topics. We conversed about the temptation for enterprises to take an individual liable approach for the mobile devices their employees use to conduct business and the overarching issue of corporate responsibility. Then we touched on recently announced capabilities for iPhone 4.0, and Apple’s increased focus on addressing the enterprise’s security and management requirements. See the full interview here. [...]

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