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Mobile management software improving - but watch for platform support

If there's one area where companies can - and should be - pinching pennies, it's on smartphones.Today, another player in the Web-based mobile management software game, called Zenprise, is beefing its portfolio with a version update that includes security management and expense management modules.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

If there's one area where companies can - and should be - pinching pennies, it's on smartphones.

Today, another player in the Web-based mobile management software game, called Zenprise, is beefing its portfolio with a version update that includes security management and expense management modules. I've written in the past about how IT departments can benefit from mobile management software if they're really looking to re-gain control over something that's becoming unruly.

Think about it: some devices are company-issued while others are employee-owned. Increasingly, Blackberry isn't the only platform in use - the iPhone is out there, as well as phone running Palm, Windows Mobile and others. And, employees are doing more than just e-mail. They're also surfing the Web, running apps, streaming music and video, tweeting and even playing games. Sometimes those actions can impact the monthly service bill. In a worst-case scenario, the employees may be giving hackers a back-door entrance into the company network from a Web-connected phone.

Zenprise seems to have a good understanding for the various scenarios that come with managing the mobile devices and service plans for companies. The security features include remote wipe and lock, as well as the ability to disable features such as camera use if company policy prohibits it.

But the other players in this space, including Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services, are offering many of the same services - so it's getting tougher to figure out which one is best, especially because the needs vary from company to company. One area I'm watching, though, is the platforms that these mobile management software companies are supporting. Zenprise, for example, supports Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile and Palm.

Hey, what about Google's Android? The company says it's watching Android but doesn't support it now. During a briefing, I kind of dinged them about that, largely because the mobile space is one that's constantly changing. If a company wants to be the software provider of the entire mobile management services for a company, it needs to be flexible enough to adapt for the changes.

Sure, Android is a small player now - but Motorola, for example, is betting the farm on it with a rollout of more than a dozen new Android devices worldwide before the end of the year. If these companies offering a full suite of mobile management services expects to be a contender and simplify the processes within an IT department, then it needs to come to the table with a full suite.

Zenprise's MobileManager 5.0 upgrade will be available next month.

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