Mobile systems management maturing fast

As wireless devices become even more powerful and are armed with more advanced mobile Web browsing technologies, mobile IT management applications should become fairly ubiquitous among business users.

"We know the BlackBerry is primarily seen as an e-mail device, but this is a clear-cut opportunity for companies to defend their investments in mobile technologies by adding value in the IT department, one of the biggest cost centers today," said Paul Dumais, founder and vice president of product development at Rove.

"From large enterprises that want to un-tether IT workers from their desks to small companies that may only have a handful of support professionals, we're hearing that it hasn't been hard for people to defend the investment, especially as they hand out greater numbers of smartphone devices to their workers," he said. "People who are paying for these pricier handhelds are looking for these types of PC-like functions to validate their acquisition, and extending deployments further into IT support is a no-brainer."

Tyler Lessard, director of ISV (independent software vendor) alliances at RIM, said that mobile systems management is an area of brisk growth among enterprise BlackBerry users.

The key to Rove's success in recruiting customers, he said, has been the company's work to make its user interface mimic those offered by the desktop tools they interface with, and its focus on aligning itself with specific applications made by vendors including Citrix and Oracle.

"This is an area of rapid adoption from an applications standpoint. We have several partners in this area, but Rove has established itself as a leader because it has matured its products and allowed users to handle a number of tasks while remaining easy-to-use," Lessard said. "Partnering directly with vendors like Citrix has been an important element of this success because customers are looking for that level of integration out of the box."

Industry watchers label handheld systems management as a niche market under the larger umbrella of enterprise mobility, but at least one agreed that many companies are finding value in the tools and adopting them at a steady pace.

As wireless devices become even more powerful and are armed with more advanced mobile Web browsing technologies, mobile IT management applications should become fairly ubiquitous among business users, said Avi Greengart, analyst with market researchers Current Analysis.

"I've spoken with a number of IT managers who are already doing this, and it's become one of the stronger use cases for 3G devices inside of some companies," Greengart said. "In terms of the size of the potential market it's clearly still just a niche as you're talking about a limited number of people within any company who might use these types of tools, but for those who do manage these operations, it's a very relevant product set."

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