MobileIron's management software prepares for Android

Expecting more workers to choose Android phones next year, MobileIron is boosting its device management capabilities

MobileIron hopes to help businesses prepare for what it believes will be an onslaught of Android phones in 2012 with an updated version of its mobile device management software.

MobileIron 4.5, available Wednesday, adds encryption enforcement, VPN management through Cisco's AnyConnect product and certificate management.

Android has proved challenging for businesses to manage because of the many versions of the OS as well as different implementations of it by handset makers, Ojas Rege, vice president of products and marketing for MobileIron said. For instance, Samsung and Motorola have separately added encryption to some of their phones and Google added it for tablets with Android 3.0 and for phones too with the recently released Android 4.0. That presents challenges for IT administrators trying to manage the different varieties of encryption implementations.

With MobileIron 4.5, IT administrators set a policy, such as that a user with a phone without encryption can't receive corporate email. Once all users have the MobileIron client on their Android phones, MobileIron takes care of enforcing that policy. "The complexity gets hidden from IT," Rege said.

IT managers typically send users an email with a link to the software, which can be downloaded from the Android Market.

For now, version 4.5 detects the encryption technology implemented in Samsung Galaxy, Android 4.0 and Android 3.0 devices. Over the next few months, it will also be able to detect phones with security technology from 3LM, the company Motorola recently bought.

In addition to the added encryption capabilities, MobileIron 4.5 lets administrators remotely provision and authenticate for Cisco AnyConnect, an SSL VPN product, on Android phones.

Also, on some Samsung Galaxy devices, MobileIron allows IT managers to authenticate the devices using certificates. Administrators can also remotely disable hardware like a camera, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The management tools will become useful to IT departments that are expected to see an increasing number of Android phones next year, Rege said. Companies are feeling increasing pressure to let their workers use the device of their choosing. In the U.S., around two thirds of MobileIron's customers already let at least some workers bring their own device to work, Rege said. "As our customer base starts moving some percentage of users to bring your own, that set of devices starts to look more representative of the consumer mix," he said. Android is the most widely used smartphone OS in the U.S.

MobileIron has found that almost 50 percent of its customers are doing Android deployments but many are just testing the phones by deploying only a handful. That indicates that companies are trying to figure out how to manage Android phones in preparation for allowing more workers to use them, Rege said.

He also said that companies that use ruggedized phones in manufacturing or field services are starting to think about replacing their aging equipment. The bulk of those devices run Windows Mobile but the device makers are migrating to Android for its flexibility, Rege said.

MobileIron's software lets IT administrators manage iOS, Android, BlackBerry, WebOS, Symbian and Windows Phone devices. It serves companies with as few as 500 devices to many thousands. It competes with Sybase, Zenprise, BoxTone, Fiberlink and now Research In Motion, which on Tuesday announced its management software will also support Android and iOS phones.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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