AirWatch upgrades management platform with closer ties to Apple

The platform will also be able to manage ChromeBooks

Authentication using Apple's Touch ID and more control when rolling out new apps are two of the upgrades in the latest version of AirWatch's mobile management platform.

The timing of the launch isn't a coincidence; Tuesday marks the first anniversary of VMware's acquisition of AirWatch. The company wants to show it hasn't been slowed down by the deal, which is important in the fast-moving enterprise mobility management sector.

Enterprise mobility management, though, is a bit of misnomer for this market, as vendors are increasingly focused on adding desktop management functions. This integration is a step in the right direction since using different tools to manage laptops and smartphones increases costs.

"Many of our customers are interested in pulling in the Mac management they are doing to our platform," said Blake Brannon, lead solutions engineer at AirWatch.

The growing interest in Apple's products and the apps they run has prompted several new features in version 8 of AirWatch's management platform.

With the upgrade, users will be able to access enterprise apps with Apple's Touch ID. The fingerprint recognition feature can be used either on its own or as part of a two-factor authentication system. Adding two-factor authentication increases security by validating users with something they know (a regular password) and something they have (in this case, their fingerprint).

TouchID works with AirWatch's own apps and third party applications, as long as they have been integrated with the company's platform using its app-wrapping technology.

To reduce the strain on IT departments, AirWatch has integrated version 8 with AppleCare, letting them keep track of information such as warranty status. The platform has also been integrated with Apple's Volume Purchase Program for Mac OS X to simplify license management.

Better Apple integration is only one part of AirWatch's strategy to expand its platform to all kinds of devices and operating systems. Laptops running Google's Chrome OS can be managed with version 8, as well.

AirWatch also has the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) sector in its sights, and has added the ability to activate and deactivate soft SIM cards from Jasper, which has made a name for itself with a cloud-based IoT platform.

AirWatch's bread and butter is still application management, and improvements in this area in version 8 include a new app dashboard to give administrators more insight into why applications aren't installed. There are also more options when deciding how applications are deployed.

To keep hackers at bay, version 8 has been integrated with Veracode's cloud-based platform to find malicious mobile applications. If an employee installs a dangerous app on their smartphone, access to enterprise systems can be revoked.

On the hardware side, it's now possible to pre-register Intel-powered devices running Android so as to auto-enroll them once they are turned on.

AirWatch 8 will start shipping by the end of March, and pricing will stay the same. Next week AirWatch is organizing the Connect conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

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