The battle over who will control your smartphone -- the business or the user -- is already ending. The winner: Both. As more and more companies accept users bringing in their own smartphones (more than half do aready, according to Forrester Research) and IT gives up on the ideas of making everyone use a BlackBerry for business purposes, a profound shift has begun.
What's changing is that vendors have figured out how to give IT the control necessary over corporate data and applications while granting users the same control for their personal data and applications -- on the same device. In fact, there are several ways to do this now, with more to come. As IT and users realize that the separation between business and personal needn't mean discrete devices, both can move on to figuring out how to take more advantage of mobile, freed from the battle over who controls it.
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The technologies that make business/personal unification possible
Although the major mobile OSes have plenty of differences, they're becoming more similar in their ability to manage the personal/business duality.
Source tagging. Apple's iOS 4 and Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS 6 -- both new -- provide a simple, elegant approach to managing business content and apps separately from personal content and apps. They track where the data and apps came from, and let that provider manage what it delivered. On a BlackBerry running OS 6 and connected to the latest edition of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), anything provisioned by BES can be managed by IT. Email, apps, contacts, appointments, and so forth can be remotely wiped or locked down, leaving the users' personal data and apps alone. Thus, the user can have one email and calendar client across business and personal, but IT can wipe the business email and calendars at any time; for the user, that information has simply gone.
Apple's iOS 4, when used by the new breed of iOS-savvy management tools available this summer, can do the same thing. However, it doesn't have some of the BlackBerry's finer controls, such as the ability to set a policy that prevents forwarding messages from a BES-provisioned account to another account on the smartphone (to prevent users from forwarding their way out of your policies).
At some point, Google will copy the source-tagging approach into the Android OS; the folks at mobile management vendor MobileIron say the Android team gets it and is moving quickly in this direction. It's a no-brainer for Microsoft to do the same for the forthcoming Windows Phone 7, as Exchange already has the notion of server-managed information separate from local information. For the record, that's where the Exchange-oriented iOS got the idea, though in iOS 4 Apple has implemented the concept devicewide without relying on Exchange ActiveSync.
Sandboxing. All the major mobile OSes let developers create sandboxes for their apps. Those sandboxes are separate from each other, so they can be managed separately. That's the path IBM has chosen for deploying Lotus Notes access on iOS and Google's Android OS, in fact. Any email, calendar appointments, contacts, and file accessed through Lotus Notes Traveler is stored in that sandbox, separate from everything else. Notes can wipe that sandbox, leaving the rest of the mobile device untouched. (NitroDesk's TouchDown app for Android, which allows for secured Exchange connections, works the same way.)