Next year could well be the one many IT leaders finally start to get their mobile computing management house in order.
The process of integrating consumer smartphones, tablets and other devices into the workplace has been chaotic for many organizations, although there have been some notable accomplishments. Or at least, there have been some accomplishments in setting strategy, if not actual practice.
Nobody in IT boasts they have figured out the world of mobile computing with its constant influx of new smartphones and tablets that raise security and other management worries and pose the long-term potential need for storing data in the cloud.
IT shops have by now been wresting with the demands of the bring your own device (BYOD)-demand for several years, at least back to the introduction of the iPhone five years ago.
As with most complex technologies, it has taken more technology -- in the form of Mobile Device Management (MDM) or, more recently, Mobile Application Management,(MAM) for example -- to help organize the complexity.
"IT is still challenged by BYOD and MDM," Gartner analyst Phillip Redman told Computerworld. "They don't see any clear way to do that. They are trying to figure out policy, device strategies and app strategies. Devices also change so frequently -- just look at the iPad. There are still a lot of questions in the marketplace around all of this."
Redman predicted it will be several more years before a majority of enterprises have a better grip on BYOD and related demands. "It's a whole change in the way enterprises think about devices -- and PCs too," he said.
Redman said it's not so much that there's confusion when picking among more than 100 device management vendors, with some recently attaching application management capabilities. The bigger issue is how the enterprise and the device management vendor, once selected, plan to keep up with changes in mobile operating systems and architectures.
"If a new OS is popular, then MDM's ability can be pushed back," he said. "If Windows 8 grows or a thin client like Chrome grows or there's a new version of iPhone that's difficult for IT to support, who knows how effective the MDM will be?"
The effectiveness of device management, even with 10 top vendors selling 80% of the software, "could be moving backwards and forwards," as time progresses, Redman said, based on those market changes in OSes and devices.
One thing that could make things simpler for IT decisionmakers in 2013 is consolidation among MDM vendors that is expected to accelerate as time goes on.
Citrix announced in December plans to buy Zenprise to round out its mobile management offering, following Research in Motion's purchase of Ubitexx in May for iOS and Android device management. Likewise, traditional systems management vendor BMC Software in January announced plans to purchase Numara Software, Redman noted.
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