Microsoft Makes Mobile Progress


Maribel Lopez, Contributor

March 31, 2015

It’s been roughly a year since Nadella spoke to a group of press in San Francisco about the move to a mobile first and cloud first world. It was at this event that Nadella launched the long awaited Office for iPad and the Enterprise Mobile Suite offering. At this time, many enterprises were skeptical of Microsoft’s mobile announcements. If we recall, there was once a time when Microsoft owned enterprise mobility with CE but let the franchise all but die. (Yes, admittedly there are still CE apps in use today, but only because companies haven’t found a suitable alternative.) Hence a year later, what has been accomplished? Last week, I spoke with Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise Client & Mobility at  Microsoft, to gauge Microsoft’s progress to date. Microsoft:

  • – Announced the general availability of the basic MDM with Office 365. Last October Microsoft announced that a subset of the company’s mobile device management (MDM) Intune capabilities would be available for free with Office 365. Today, those Microsoft announced those features are now available. Companies can use MDM to manage access to Office 365 data across a diverse range of phones and tablets, including iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. As cloud services become more widely adopted by businesses, this will put a dent in the traditional MDM business of enterprise mobile management (EMM) vendors, such as Airwatch by VMware and MobileIron. Given Microsoft’s later entry into the market, it makes sense that they would follow this path. MDM functions are rapidly being embedded into the mobile operating system. As operating system vendors offer more and more MDM features, MDM has become commoditized. But unlike other EMM vendors, Microsoft’s EMM offering is designed to enhance Microsoft’s other services, such as the Office 365 suite and identity management.  Anderson also highlighted that email is secured out of the box with MDM. Microsoft noted that IT admins can set up security policies on devices to ensure that O365 corporate e-mail and data can be accessed only on phones and tablets that are managed and compliant. Of course, this is positioned as a direct hit to companies such as Good Technologies and the offering from Symantec’s NitroDesk. The idea is to eliminate the need for secure inbox services.
  • – Kept MAM as a key component of EMS to entice upgrades. While MDM is free, the mobile application management (MAM) functionality requires Enterprise Management Suite (EMS). Microsoft’s EMS has three key elements that include identity and access management delivered by Azure Active Directory Premium, MDM and MAM delivered by Windows Intune and Data protection delivered by Azure AD Rights Management Services. Intune can manage Office mobile applications on iOS and Android. Microsoft states that it’s updating Intune on a regular monthly cadence, allowing new features to be available faster.
  • – Highlighted it strategy for identity in a mobile cloud world. Companies will hear a great deal about identity and access management this year from every security and EMM vendor. Microsoft is no exception. The company already had a strong position in the identity management camp with Active Directory (AD). Almost every organization I’ve encountered uses AD for some part of authenticating its users to content. Microsoft’s updated approach extends this to the cloud delivering identity services via Azure Active Directory Premium and data protection through a combination of Intune and Azure Rights Management Services. This provides single sign on access (SSO) to 2,600 cloud based apps such as, Concur, and Workday with Azure Active Directory (AAD) and to on-premises applications via the Azure, AD Application Proxy.

Microsoft believes it’s competitively positioned in terms of functionality and price. Mr. Anderson noted that companies are paying approximately $30 to $33 per month to get a combination of mobile cloud services, such as secure email, SSO, MDM, MAM and Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS). Microsoft claims it can provide the full stack of functionality at a 65-70% lower cost than its competition. It’s a big claim. Of course each of the categories listed above have vendors that specialize in offering rich features within their product set. These features certainly differentiate it from similar specialists within any given category. However, larger companies, such as Microsoft, are offering a wider range of products. These products roll up into suites that deliver a more comprehensive offerings from a single vendor. While no company wants to purchase everything from a single vendor, IT definitely wants to streamline the number of vendors it manages.

I’ve spoken with my enterprise customers about the Microsoft mobile offerings. Many are already using other vendors MDM or MAM solutions, but most are still open to evaluating Microsoft’s offerings as a way to consolidate the number of tools they use to manage their devices and applications. Identity is also being reevaluated as more companies mix cloud and on-premises software services. Overall, companies want  Microsoft to consolidate its solutions. Many companies are using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and would like to PC and mobile management to consolidate, especially as we move to the 2 in 1 category of products.

Microsoft is delivering integration across its products and will consolidate where it makes sense. In a technet blog Anderson described this in the following way: “Delivering policy from the cloud does not mean all of your administration has to be from the cloud – we think about Intune as the edge to your SCCM deployment. Intune provides a global, highly available solution for your mobile devices, which is connected back to your on-prem SCCM deployment. All your administration and reporting can then be done from the SCCM console.” He reiterated this view when I we discussed consolidation.

The MDM market was yesterday’s mobile battleground. Today it’s mobile application, content and identity management. This is good news for Microsoft, which has a strong foothold in the identity management space and has one of the most popular sets of applications with email and the Office suite.

Microsoft may be late in certain markets and may lack some of the features of specialized companies,but the value proposition of  mobile keeps changing every twelve months.  Mobile companies are coming and going so rapidly, that enterprises were particularly concerned with investing in the space. They stalled deployments for as long as they could. Apparently, it was just long enough for Microsoft to have a portfolio of services. Timing is everything.

The market expected Microsoft to lose the mobile game because its mobile operating system wasn’t being widely adopted, but the company has proven that the mobile market is greater than just the mobile operating system. While it still continues to fight the OS battle, Microsoft is waging war on all fronts, including management, security, identity, content management and apps. Microsoft still faces an uphill battle, but the range and integration of Microsoft’s products is starting to break through enterprise skepticism. The company is moving much faster than it had in the past and I’m sure its customers’ welcome the change. What’s Microsoft missing? Leave your comments here or send me a note on Twitter @MaribelLopez

This article was written by Maribel Lopez from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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