Zenprise adds Android support to mobile management tool

Growth in Google's Android platform spurs decision to add IT support to MobileManager

Zenprise announced today it is adding the ability to manage smartphones that run the Android operating system to the list of devices it can monitor with its MobileManager software tool.

MobileManager previously allowed IT management of the BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Palm smartphones, said Ahmed Datoo, Zenprise vice president of marketing, in a telephone interview.

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Android was seen as important to support, given the growing number of Android phones and analyst predictions of its rapidly improving share of the market in coming years, Datoo said. Gartner expects Android-based smartphones to grow from less than 2 percent of all smartphones in 2009 to 18 percent in 2012, for example.

MobileManager version 5.0.1 is a slight upgrade to 5.0, which first shipped in November and included major additions of security and expense management tools, he noted. MobileManager, first launched in 2005, is priced at $35 per smartphone subscriber for companies with 1,000 users, with a lower price for more users and a higher price for fewer users. The annual fee is 40 percent of the initial subscription.

MobileManager is resold by BMC, which competes with other major companies offering mobile device management, including Hewlett-Packard, CA, and IBM, Datoo said.

Zenprise expects renewed interest in its product as more workers bring smartphones to work that they received as holiday gifts. Many of those users will ask IT shops to enable e-mail on their devices, even if the IT department has little or no experience with the device.

Datoo said some companies, hoping to avoid extra costs because of the recession, rely on workers to buy their own smartphones and pay their own monthly wireless bills, with the company reimbursing users for business calls and related costs.

The newest MobileManager also includes a 100-item troubleshooting checklist that will run automatically to evaluate a device in case a user calls the help desk with a problem, such as not being able to receive e-mail.

In a demonstration of MobileManager, Datoo showed that the checklist will run wirelessly to a device and will present an IT manager with a list of problems, including whether the user altered the settings that might cause the problem.

A typical e-mail outage could take 10 to 15 steps for an IT help desk worker to solve, but MobileManager will reduce the process to one step, drastically reducing time, especially in a large organization with multiple help desk calls regarding smartphones each day, Datoo said.

Expense management in the tool can help IT managers take note of users who aren't using their smartphones, which would allow IT to disable the phones to avoid paying monthly wireless service fees. Reports from MobileManager will note usage patterns as well, which could help an IT manager decide if a user needs an unlimited data plan or something less expensive. Security capabilities in the software also allow IT shops to disable a smartphone for certain tasks, including taking photos. IT also can remotely wipe a device clean should it be lost or stolen.

MobileManager runs on Microsoft Active Directory and the Microsoft SQL Server database. Following installation, MobileManager will discover what devices in an organization are connected to corporate e-mail and applications.

Most of Zenprise's 300 customers are based in the U.S. where Symbian-based smartphones are not as prominent as they are in other countries. As a result, management of Symbian devices is not a part of MobileManager and not in plans for upgrades, Datoo said.

This story, "Zenprise adds Android support to mobile management tool" was originally published by Computerworld.