Requiem for MDM Pure Plays


15291_sharks[1]In its 2013 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management Software study, Gartner Inc. cited awareness of more than 100 vendors possessing at least one critical component of an MDM solution.

This staggering number says two important things about the enterprise mobility market. The first, hardly a surprise, is that workforce mobilization is one of the hottest investment and growth opportunities in the information technology industry. The second, which may not be so obvious, is that the barrier of entry for providing basic mobile device management capabilities is a low one.

The combination of a big pay day and a small hurdle set off a feeding frenzy in the MDM space, unleashing a shiver of sharks, in the form of VC-funded startups, toward the enterprise mobility market.  The blood in the water, of course, was the sudden and prolific infiltration of mobile devices into the workplace. The consumerization of IT, powered by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon, has armed millions of workers with personal devices — smartphones and tablets — that they routinely use to conduct business.

Desperate to apply at least a modicum of order to the management and security chaos wrought by runaway BYOD, enterprises issued distress calls en mass for low cost, low-complexity software capable of applying basic management functions.

Though rapid and overwhelming, the response by the vendor community was in many ways text book – as was the imprint it left on the competitive landscape. Of the dozens of vendors looking to sink their teeth into the MDM market, a handful, bolstered by generous funding or by essentially giving away their products (or both), established some meaningful traction. Out of those survivors, a select few have been rescued from unsustainable business models by large suitors looking to add basic MDM to their portfolios.

That’s largely where the market now stands. As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2014, though, the rapidly evolving enterprise mobility market is undergoing a seismic shift that will shake up the competitive landscape even further.

While the surge of consumer-based mobile devices into the enterprise created an urgent need for basic MDM, characterized by corporate email synchronization and the ability to wipe a device of data in the event it was lost or stolen, enterprises now require mobility solutions that go well beyond basic MDM. These new requirements, which include container-based application management, the secure exposure of core business processes to mobile workers, application development and support for multiple device types and operating systems, have prompted multiple analyst firms and industry observers to declare the coming obsolescence of pure-play MDM solutions.

This is putting tremendous pressure, of course, on one-dimensional MDM players to flesh out their products with additional functionality. One of the most important questions for enterprises and organizations looking to realize productivity and profitability gains through the accelerating of their enterprise mobility efforts in 2014 is whether some of these new sharks are capable of learning old tricks – such as end-to-end security or the delivery of new mobile enterprise apps without compromising usability.

The answer to that question is, of course, still to be determined. To be fair, several recently acquired pure-play MDM vendors have limited windows in which to augment their products with higher-layer EMM capabilities, in some cases aided by the deep pockets of their parent companies.

But fortifying such a critical solution with meaningful enrichment on a quick timeframe is rarely satisfactory to enterprises. Nobody wants to trust the integrity of their intellectual property to an overnight add-on.

BlackBerry has been the worldwide leader in mobile enterprise security since 1999. Nearly all of the largest government agencies and organizations in regulated industries partner with BlackBerry because they recognize that its end-to-end security solutions have reached a level of trustworthiness unrivaled in the industry.

BlackBerry started at the high-end of the security stack, recognizing that a well-tempered sword constructed to defend a fortress could meet the security needs of any enterprise. Given their heritages in the low-end MDM space, rival vendors are now bolting on security and application management capabilities. If not an impossible task, it is the metaphorical equivalent of forging a sword from tin foil.

We are just now transitioning into a new and critical phase of a movement on course to be so disruptive as to redefine the way we work and the role that information technology plays in the success and competitiveness of today’s businesses. As this movement progresses, the demand for mobile security and app management that is simultaneously ironclad and transparent, affording workers a consistent experience regardless of their location or device, will only intensify – as will the requirement for a vendor with a proven mobile enterprise pedigree.

About Joe McGarvey

An Enterprise Mobility Strategist at BlackBerry, McGarvey has covered the enterprise and telecommunications industries for more than 20 years as both a journalist and analyst. He is best-known as a long-time principal analyst at leading market research firm Current Analysis. McGarvey has also been an analyst for Heavy Reading and an editor at several leading technology magazines.

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