An upgrade to Zenprise's mobile-phone management software will let IT administrators find lost phones, using GPS to locate the devices.
Device Manager, an add-on to the Zenprise MobileManager, initially only works on BlackBerry phones. If a worker loses a BlackBerry, an IT administrator can remotely locate the device on a Google Map.
Even if the GPS capability is turned off on the phone, an IT administrator can remotely turn it on in order to locate the phone, depending on the privacy policies that company has, said Ahmed Datoo, vice president of marketing for Zenprise.
Finding a lost phone, rather than replacing it, can save organizations money. A company can spend as much as US$4,000 when a worker loses a phone, said Chris Hazelton, an analyst at the 451 Group.
He came up with that figure based on a midlevel attorney who would lose productivity without the phone, plus the time and money IT would spend to reprovision a new phone.
"The cost of a lost device of any employee's smartphone has a direct impact on a company's bottom line," he said.
Zenprise's Device Manager has other tools as well. The device auditor feature displays a list of all third-party applications on the phones.
If the IT department finds applications like games that may not be allowed under company policy, an administrator can ask the user to uninstall the program. Or, the administrator can remotely uninstall the application using tools that come with the BlackBerry server, Datoo said.
"A lot of the challenge has been visibility of what's installed on devices," he said.
The ability to view a list of applications on the phone can do more than just reverse unauthorized downloads, however.
"The success of the iPhone's App Store and the pending success of the BlackBerry App World is going to cause users to install more and more applications, and that has the potential side effect of device-related performance problems," said Datoo.
If a user is complaining that the phone is sluggish, IT can sort the applications by size to find out what's consuming memory.
Some applications might not be necessary and can be deleted. RIM devices come loaded with foreign language support, for example, that the user might not need. The Spanish version of the Research In Motion software takes up half a megabyte, Datoo said.
IT can also remotely look at several other device performance measures, like battery level, how much memory is being used, real-time wireless signal strength, which wireless data network the device is connected to and how long a device has been disconnected.
The Device Manager consists of a small, 100KB application that resides on the phone and communicates with back-end software used by IT managers. Companies can push the phone client out to users over the air.
Once the agent is on the device, it stays in sleep mode unless a command from the IT department wakes it up. That ensures that it doesn't consume battery life unnecessarily.
Device Manager costs $20 per month per phone, in addition to the $35 per month per phone for the MobileManager.
For now, it's only available for BlackBerry devices, but Zenprise expects to extend it to Windows Mobile and the iPhone in the future.