Monday, January 29, 2007

Will "unlocked cell phones" drive mobile device management?

The CNET story provides an interesting insight into the unlocked cell phone market. As $20 range unlocked cell phones appear, people will be able to afford to carry multiple cell phones, yet would like to share data on all of his phones, including carrier's service, PIM etc. It would be a different kind of service from carriers where subscribers would pay $50 per month for service, yet would be able to use any phone to access the network out of 2 or 3 phones they own. Yes, I am aware of issues like which phone to ring when incoming call comes in, but I am it is as easy as ringing cell phone and wired phone at the same time, as carriers are starting to do today.

Even if the above scenario does not play out, subscribers would like to move their unlocked phones with them when they move from their current carrier to the new one. However, even though unlocked phones will make voice calls on the carrier's network, many features may not work as they work on the phones purchased from carrier directly, simply because the carrier's networks are built "a" little differently, even if they are GSM. For example, T-Mobile phones, when unlocked will not work properly on Cingular's network for all the services.

I also agree that the Voice over WiFi and Mesh Networks would make it harder for carriers to keep the current business model, 
as subscriber's would be able (and like) to make most calls on these low cost networks, and bypass the carrier's network. And those networks would behave more like
wired Internet, where one can buy any device and connect to the network.

And that is where lies the opportunity.

A new kind of business can emerge where retail stores can offer service to configure cell phones for new carrier. Of course the new carrier would also like to offer this service, as a way to get the customer. The service would offer applying carrier specific patches, without losing subscriber's personal data. That can be achieved by first backing up all the user data, applying the patch and then restoring user data.

Unlocked phones also means carriers are not in control, and hence the real competition is between handset makers, thus driving the cost of handsets even further down and providing a large choice. The handset makers may jump into device management service business and thus own the subscriber. They can provide self service portals for subscribers to configure the device for the carrier they desire. They can also layer other device management services like backup and restore, device data migration when subscriber buys new device. One can also imagine device leasing companies, that provide all of the above services, with device insurance as well.

Since Asia and Europe are large markets for unlocked phones, where more than 70 percent of phones are sold outside of carrier, the market for such a service is large there. And we might see any one of these services succeed there first.


What Would Symantec Do About Mobile Device Management?

Since Nearly half of the revenue of Altiris comes from services business, this acquisition brings Symantec into security services business for serving enterprise market.
Certainly it makes sense for Symantec to move in remote end point management services business, and combine its security products with Altiris PC management products. But what is still missing is a mobile device management piece, because the mobile device market is poised for large growth, as Smart Phone platforms become mainstream and UMPCs are launched. While Symantec has been moving into the mobile security space, it still does not have any mobile device management piece. Would Symantec build that part of the equation or is another acquisition in order?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why Enterprise MVNOs should embrace device management?

 While the debate for enteprise MVNOs is still not settled, and the business models are still being tested, it is clear to me that enterprise MVNOs can not compete on brand-only like Virgin Mobile and AMP'd. While competing just on price is too risky in consumer MVNO space as well, it is even riskier in enterprise space, where the cost pressures are too great, especially in SMBs. The ever increasing cost of doing business, including health care and oil, is already straining the bottom line of SMBs, and the competition keeps them from raising prices. Thus, the only place where the cost has to be reduced is in optimizing business processes. In this networked world, business processes depend on communication infrastructure. Thus the onlyway to have optimized business processes is to have a streamlined, cost effective communication infrastructure. And while telecom industry tends to use FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence or Wired-Wireless Convergence) as a buzz word, I like to forget wireless or wireline convergence issues and simply focus on cost of communication as the driving factor in all these initiatives. In enterprise space, the large component of cost of communication is still carrier's monthly bill. And as the consolidation has happened in mobile carrier space, they seem to have even lesser incentive to cut the bill, in fact some have been increasing it (read recent SMS rate hikes from Cingular and Verizon). While VOIP is putting pressure on wireline carriers' traditional voice and voice related services revenue, their prices have not dropped sharply, largely because the industry is very mature anyway.

As VoWLAN picks up and cities cover their business parks with free WiFi networks (that is another way of enticing businesses to come open a shop in your city), SMBs will be the first ones to try out these free or tax break related services. But at the same time, the need to manage the devices that move between multiple networks (both free and paid, open and closed) would go up. No matter how seamless the phone manufacturers make their phones to move between these networks, the need for secure access policies, troubleshooting would still remain and perhaps increase. In those cases, where an application would work on closed network and would either fail or not perform on a free network (I can count many reasons why that might happen), the end user would not know who to call and how to resolve the issues.

And that is whare enterprise MVNO play will happen. But what should MVNOs offer other than consolidated carrier bill and bandwidth sharing across all enterprise users? I believe enterprise MVNOs can provide device manage as value add. Here are the service that I think enterprise MVNOs can provide a comprehensive device management solution-
  • Enterprise class help desk - using remote view and control capabilities across all enterprise mobile devices
  • Periodic and on-demand backup of corporate data from enterprise devices, without touching the personal content of the user on the device.
  • Encrypting corporate content only, thus preventing data theft.
  • Inventory in-field devices for application licenses for compliance with licensing requirements
  • Wipe out corporate data remotely from stolen devices, to protect against data theft
  • Since the line between personal and enterprise devices is very thin in SMBs, manage seamless mobility of devices between enterprise and home networks. The end user perhaps would like a single button press approach to switch between home to enterprise networks. The device management systems have to manage all the network access configurations behind the scene, without breaking the user's home network access settings.
  • Provide Managed Services for device lifecycle management, right from buying the devices for enterprises, to stocking to RMAs, to device migration from older to newer models.
  • Provide behind the firewall connectivity for all types of devices, not just BlackBerries.
  • Manage multiple enterprise network access policies.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Palm and Movero to offer rental mobile devices for SMBs

Palm Treos will be now available to SMBs, through Movero Technology, for rental.
The service will offer replacement of lost or stolen devices, remote erasure of corporate data from stolen devices etc. This model opens up the possibility of offering other value added mobile device management services. While replacing stolen device instantly is of great value, much greater value would come from providing a migration service, where the backup data (including PIM) from the stolen device is restored on to new device, effectively making the new device as if it is old device. Remote configuration of email and network settings would also become possible, including location profile and schedule based settings.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Comprehensive Mobile Device Management solution

Pervacio, Inc. based in Asburn, VA provides a feature rich, scalable device management solution. The solution is device and network neutral, with support for four popular platforms in smart phones industry. The server side is built on industry standard J2EE technology and runs on JBoss or Weblogic. When you compare other industry products in the same segment, Pervacio's Freedom Suite product line is impressive in terms of features, and is very open platform for rapid development of vertical applications. The product should be attractive to verticals like mobile content sharing companies, location based content distribution, application service providers (read software as a service).