Forrester Research calls mobile device management 'heavy-handed approach'

BYOD is going to force companies to rethink how they handle mobile devices

Forrester Research predicts that with the BYOD (bring your own device) trend expected to increasingly include laptops in addition to smartphones and tablets, the approach to managing those devices is in for some big changes.

In its 2013 "Mobile Security Predictions" report, Forrester says that "on-demand mobile virtualization will overtake mobile-device management" as a core technology that IT professionals will turn to as a way "to segregate business content and data from the personal environment" in mobile devices.

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Forrester analyst Chenxi Wang in the report calls MDM (mobile-device management) a "heavy-handed approach -- more and more IT professionals have told us that they don't want to manage employee-owned devices.... For these reasons, technologies such as mobile VDI, containers, app wrapping, and device virtualization have emerged to deliver personal-to-corporate segregation." However, at the same time Wang concedes that today "many of these technologies diminish the user experience, which remains the single biggest barrier to adoption."

Seamless "mobile virtualization" which depends on policy-based control over corporate apps, and consequently the content and data, started appearing in earnest in the marketplace last year and will become more mainstream this year, Forester predicts.

VMware's device virtualization technology and options from vendors Enterproid and MobileSpaces are cited as examples of vendor-specific technologies, though these might still be considered to be in the early stages, according to the report. But Wang in her report sees mobile virtualization as an approach that potentially "can change how enterprises approach mobility."

Innovations in mobile virtualization are likely to "gradually pull budget away from device management," according to the report. The consultancy predicts MDM products won't go away but could expand to include mobile virtualization. The report suggests MDM vendors will fare best in the near term with small to midsize businesses and small enterprises, and need to partner with mobile operators to reach these customers. But in the long run, MDM vendors "risk losing relevance" if their platforms don't evolve, the report warns.

Hot for HTML5

Separately, Forrester also predicts in the report the rise of HTML5 in lieu of native app development (such as Apple iOS or Google Android) in the enterprise. Developers of mobile apps in the enterprise "will flock to HTML5" as the application-development mode of choice over native apps for the main reason that it will be simpler and cheaper, Forrester says. Forrester adds that native apps will continue to get the spotlight in the consumer market, though.

"With more HTML5 in the mix, enterprise applications will gradually move to be more cloud-based," Forrester predicts. In terms of provisioning of core security capabilities, Forrester predicts the rise of mobile-cloud service providers for whom security and privacy "will become a differentiator."

The privacy implications of mobile devices are accelerating in a dark way. Forrester says the "creepy factor" for end users of mobile devices is growing as it's become possible to collect massive amounts of data via consumer apps that can share it with third parties for advertising and data-mining services.

"If we're not careful, the number of devices and sensors around us could soon bring about user activity monitoring 24x7 -- something akin to an Orwellian world," the report warns. "The privacy regulatory landscape is not expected to change drastically in 2013, and the increased business pressure to collect mobile data, coupled with the lack of industry standards and regulatory controls, suggests the risk of abuse is high." Forrester says the full implications of what's been unleashed simply aren't yet fully grasped.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email:

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This story, "Forrester Research calls mobile device management 'heavy-handed approach'" was originally published by Network World.

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