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As mobile devices become part of corporate business, mobile app management company MobileIron sees an opportunity to facilitate enterprise app delivery at scale and to protect company content on mobile devices.
Last week MobileIron introduced three services designed to make the transition from desktop to mobile computing in businesses more manageable and more secure.
“In the next 12 to 18 months, companies will have their business processes on mobile,” said Ojas Rege, VP of strategy for MobileIron, in a phone interview.
But in so doing, businesses face several challenges. The first is app distribution. Rege describes a scenario in which a top pharmaceutical company moves its salespeople to iPads. “iPads are transforming the way selling is done,” he said.
But suppose the company’s custom app weighs in at 1.5 GB. Distributing such a hefty chunk of code to a large sales force would slow many corporate networks to a crawl.
“The correct way is to offload the download onto a secure, global, distributed network,” said Rege. “That’s what we’ve done to our Application Delivery Network.”
The MobileIron Application Delivery Network (ADN) promises provisioning at scale. Think of it as the equivalent of content delivery network Akamai for enterprise mobile apps. Rege contends no one else has this capability at the moment and says the service will be available in the second half of the year, for a monthly per-device fee.
Then there’s MobileIron Docs@Work, an enterprise data loss prevention service for both ActiveSync email attachments and SharePoint content. “Email and SharePoint are the two primary content repositories that all MobileIron’s customers have,” said Rege.
Every organization, insists Rege, is worried about its email attachments being sent to some service like Dropbox and losing control of important data. Docs@Work provides a way to encrypt email and SharePoint documents so they can be read only through MobileIron’s secure reader. The service allows IT administrators to delete documents remotely if necessary.
Finally, App Connect for Android is a service that attempts to relieve IT managers of the burden of managing the fragmented Android ecosystem, with all of its different operating system versions.
The service wraps Android business apps in a virtual container for the sake of security and compatibility. App
.apk files are encapsulated so that data gets encrypted, inter-app communication is secured, and single sign-on can be implemented. By acting as an intermediary between the app and the data flowing in and out of the app, App Connect for Android provides control over business data while leaving personal apps alone.
“It’s our belief that Android will fail in the enterprise unless it can be defragmented,” said Rege.
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Research In Motion on Tuesday clarified earlier statements about removing the ability to manually install Android applications on the BlackBerry PlayBook. The company previously said it was closing the loophole, known as side-loading, in the next PlayBook software update. Now it says the option will still be available, but locked down more than before.
The reason RIM first said it would shut down Android side-loading was because Android application privacy was a big problem to developers and the market was a “chaotic cesspool”. Unlike the Apple iTunes App Store, which is generally the only way to get apps on iOS devices, Android users can install apps from sources outside of the Google Play app store. An application’s .apk, or installation file, can be manually installed on most Android devices.
In a blog post, RIM’s VP of developer relations, Alec Saunders, clarified the company’s stance:
“Side-loading on our platform is changing in nature. Side-loading is a developer feature. It exists so that developers can load their apps onto their own devices to test. It’s there so developers can send a beta release to their testing community for review. It is definitely not there for some people to side load a pirated app.”
The idea makes sense but my gut says that Android developers aren’t building apps for the PlayBook because the device isn’t selling well; not because of a piracy fear. Regardless, it’s in RIM’s interest to better control the overall experience of the devices it makes. And if it’s going to allow developers to side-load apps for testing, it will do just that.
Will current PlayBook owners agree with the change? Probably not, since Saunders also said the next PlayBook software release will include “a feature that will encrypt apps so they can only be run by the user who purchased the app.” The real solution? Get enough native PlayBook apps available that users want so they don’t look to other app stores for their needs.
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Microsoft this morning announced that it has signed a deal to license its patent portfolio to LG Electronics covering Android and Chrome OS based tablets, mobile phones and other consumers devices. Terms were not disclosed.
“We are pleased to have built upon our longstanding relationship with LG to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” corporate VP and deputy general counsel for intellectual property Horacio Gutierrez said in a statement. He notes that the company already has similar agreements with 10 other Android and Chrome device makers, including HTC, Samsung and Acer.
MSFT this morning is up 20 cents, or 0.7%, to $27.92.