The New IT era: It's mobile or bust
Along with the move toward services-based IT is the rapid emergence of mobile technology as a key business resource, and this trend is having a huge impact on major players in the market.
Some see Microsoft as being a key provider in enterprise mobility. "If you're looking for stability, it has plenty of stability," says Ken Dulaney, a vice president at Gartner. "Microsoft has lots of software ties into back-end systems for its Windows Phone and other devices," and many companies today are looking to expand their investment in Microsoft technology rather than make big infrastructure swap-outs, he says.
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That includes using Windows-based mobile devices and desktops that basically have the same user interface, Dulaney says. "It doesn't matter how many apps are in the store if the enterprise is buying the device" to justify a Windows environment, he says.
Along with Microsoft, Google and Amazon will play increasingly important roles in the enterprise as they take a stronger focus on mobile applications and services, says Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.
Apple is still seen by some as more of a consumer-driven company than a fully enterprise-focused provider in the mobility market. "Now and then it wanders into enterprise solutions," Dulaney says. "But it's very secretive, so you don't always know what it's going to do. What keeps it strong is its [large] ecosystem."
Despite being best known for offering products popular with consumers, Apple "has succeeded in the enterprise largely without any huge effort on its part," Jackdaw's Dawson says. That's largely because of its popularity with users, who have brought the technology into the workplace, he says.
As a result, Apple now sells as many iOS units as Microsoft does Windows units, and Apple's mobile devices have become the new corporate standard -- displacing BlackBerry and being deployed instead of Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Windows 8, despite IT's fondness for its traditional providers.
Furthermore, Apple has ramped up its sales efforts for the enterprise market, Dawson says, "but it doesn't have broad ambitions beyond providing smartphones and tablets and some basic management in the enterprise," he says. "It will leave the vast majority of the management and mobilization work that needs to be done to specialists and partners."
Samsung is the major supplier of Android-based mobile devices, and for now is trying to assume the enterprise mantle as BlackBerry declines, but its long-term commitment as an enterprise provider must be proven, Dulaney says. "Does it have a comprehensive program to stay in the enterprise?" he says. "I don't see any Android player such as Google, [Google subsidiary] Motorola Mobility, or HTC that's clearly long-term stable yet" as an enterprise mobile vendor, he says. BlackBerry for financial reasons and Nokia as part of Microsoft are also question marks, he says.
Large telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon are providing the connectivity and devices for enterprises' mobile fleets, and as such are in a good spot to help them with mobilizing applications, managing devices, and generally enabling the mobile enterprise, Dawson says.
The telcos "are never going to be as good at core IT as IBM, as cheap for cloud storage as Amazon, or as nimble as Google or Salesforce.com, but they bring a combination of capabilities, an enterprise-grade approach, and an ability to integrate that I believe makes them strong candidates to succeed in the [back-end mobile] space," Dawson says.
The enterprise mobility management (EMM) space has so far been dominated by small niche players or startups. "In an immature market, the likes of Good Technology, [EMC VMware subsidiary] AirWatch, MobileIron, [Citrix Systems subsidiary] Zenprise, [IBM subsidiary] Fiberlink, and Soti have been able to take the lead in terms of features and innovation as they focused purely on the issue of how best to manage and secure data on mobile apps and devices," says Richard Absalom, senior analyst for enterprise mobility at research firm Ovum.
Now, the market is maturing and some of the bigger IT vendors are taking an interest. "Many have bought directly into it to complement existing endpoint management offerings and those leading niche players are being slowly picked off," Absalom says. "Symantec, LANDesk, Dell, CA, and Oracle, to name a few, have all made significant acquisitions. This consolidation is bound to continue as there are so many vendors in the space."
For example, EMC VMware recently bought AirWatch, Citrix Systems recently bought Zenprise, and IBM recently bought Fiberlink, a sign that major providers see EMM as an important capability to offer enterprises. Before that, Dell bought Kace, Quest Software, SonicWall, and Wyse, and Symantec bought Nukona and Odyssey Software.