Enterprises gain mobile management options

Vendors at the CTIA Wireless trade show offer products to manage, secure mobile devices

Amid the glitz of consumer-oriented products and services coming out at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas this week, some enterprise issues will also be on the table.

Security, dual-mode cellular and Wi-Fi phones, and the spread of fast 3G (third-generation) networks are all mobile issues that enterprises will be grappling with over the next few years. At CTIA, two vendors are already hitting the road with products for another pressing business issue, management of wireless devices.

Nokia will let carriers take mobile device control off enterprises' hands with a product it is set to introduce at the show.

In February, Nokia acquired Intellisync and its server-based system for handling wireless handheld and laptop inventory, enforcing enterprise policies and wiping off corporate data if a device is lost or stolen. Now it's offering that system to carriers so they can set up and host it for their enterprise customers.

Intellisync Device Management for Carriers will work with mobile devices that run major operating systems such as Palm OS, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Nokia's Series 60, as well as laptop and tablet PCs, according to Bill Jones, a director of product management at Nokia.

In addition to keeping inventory and securing its devices, an enterprise can use the system to control what software is loaded on them and what hardware settings are used, Jones said.

Enterprise adoption of mobile data devices is still at an early stage, and many organizations would probably prefer to let a carrier manage them, said Ovum analyst Roger Entner.

"Enterprises want an easy solution from somebody they trust," Entner said. "IT departments are typically installation-avoidance departments."

Nokia is offering the management system to carriers worldwide today and has at least one customer already, Eurotel Praha in the Czech Republic.

Also at CTIA, Sprint Nextel will extend the capabilities of its mobile device management system for enterprises and introduce a set of location-based applications to its CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network.

The Sprint Mobility Management offering, previously called the Sprint Managed Mobility Service, lets enterprises centralize control of their employees' mobile devices and the software on them. The service will now be able to manage some types of mobile devices that are on other mobile operators' networks, according to Barry Tishgart, director of marketing at Sprint. Support for Microsoft Pocket PC devices and Research In Motion BlackBerry devices also are being added.

In addition, enterprise IT managers will be able to do more through a Web portal without having to call a Sprint representative. For example, the "kill pill" feature for wiping the data off a device that's been lost or stolen will now be available through the portal, Tishgart said.

Sprint also is tapping its Nextel acquisition for mobile applications that use GPS (Global Positioning System). Several of the programs that have been available for Nextel's iDEN phones are being unveiled for Sprint's CDMA phones, Tishgart said. They include software for fleet management, field-force automation and sales-force automation, he said.

Also at the show, Sprint will show off an addition to its lineup of Wi-Fi routers that can tap into the carrier's high-speed cellular network and make it available around an office or work site. The latest such device, from Cisco Systems' Linksys division, will be introduced at the show, Tishgart said.