Network managers can shut off camera, Wi-Fi on mobiles

Nokia Corp. said the latest revision of its Intellisync Mobile Suite software will give IT managers the power to shut off the camera or Wi-Fi connectivity of a mobile device from a remote location.

The ability to control hardware elements, such as a camera, is designed to give administrators and businesses more control over mobile devices, since cameras and even Wi-Fi access can pose security threats, Nokia officials said. Some companies ban cameras in certain areas of their offices and campuses.

The new capability is part of Service Pack 2 of Nokia Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0. It applies to Windows Mobile devices. Support for Symbian devices is due in a future release. The last upgrade to the product was announced in February, Nokia said.

Lior Nir, direct of product marketing for enterprise solutions at Nokia, said customers have a strong interest in device management functions that mirror capabilities elsewhere in IT systems.

Simplicity of device management is key, he explained, saying, “It has to be brain-dead simple.”

In addition to control over the camera and WLAN functions, IT managers can enable or disable Bluetooth and infrared connectivity and memory cards, he said. The user gets a pop-up screen notice that the hardware was disabled, and the setting cannot be overridden by the user.

The remote hardware controls are designed to help Nokia gain a larger share of the business mobility software market beyond mobile e-mail, Nir said.

In terms of competition for such functionality, Gartner Inc. analyst Phillip Redman noted that it’s possible to remotely control Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry — including its hardware elements — when working with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Nokia said its offering works with a variety of devices that run Windows Mobile, and it eventually will work with Symbian devices.

Other new functions in the software include the ability to troubleshoot devices remotely.

Moreover, theft and loss protection functionality has been enhanced for three Nokia devices, and a feature called Photo Sync has been added for S60 Third Edition Nokia N-series and Windows Mobile devices.

With Photo Sync, an end user can use a camera phone to collect photos and quickly make them available for viewing on the Internet. The Photo Sync capability can be used for business-related purposes, such as illustrating the status of a work in progress, but IT administrators can limit the number of photos to be collected if they want to.

The service pack supports 100 devices from various manufacturers as well as the Nokia E-series line of products.

However, Nokia did not specify which devices from other companies it supports.

Pricing for the new features and the mobile suite was not announced.

Nir said there is a huge opportunity for Nokia’s device management software to gain popularity, since the number of mobile devices is expected to grow to 4 billion globally by 2010.

Today, there are about 12 million mobile e-mail users, with eight million subscribers to RIM’s e-mail service and about 1.6 million Nokia users, Nir said. Another 3.6 million use Nokia Intellisync e-mail, which was developed separately before becoming a part of Nokia.

Competitors of Nokia Intellisync include products from Sybase Inc. and MFormation Technologies Inc., as well as Novell Inc.’s Zenworks suite, Redman said.

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