Sybase unveils app portal for mobile device control

Sybase has released the latest version, v6.6, of its Afaria product with a new capability for IT administrators to control and distribute applications wirelessly to iPhones without the hassle of users synchronizing through desktops, as well as providing support for Google’s Android devices.

IT administrators can put apps on a portal and manage user lists for access to particular apps, explained Milja Gillespie, Afaria marketing manager at Sybase.

“When you’re talking about a large-scale enterprise deployment of 4,000 users, having to manage each individual user and going and getting an app through iTunes on the desktop was really not feasible,” said Gillespie.

Although Sybase’s Afaria already did support the iPhone, version 6.6’s support for iOS4 gives, according to Gillespie, deeper control not previously accessible with this particular device. But the availability of the mobile device management protocol has opened APIs from third-parties like Sybase allowing deeper management of smart phones.

Besides the portal, also new in version 6.6 is IT administrators have more visibility into policy confirmation across iPhones. “In the past, you would just send and pray,” said Gillespie of the previous verification process.

Also new is the ability for IT administrators to query individual iPhones for asset information and “find out more detailed things about what is on the device, what applications are installed,” said Gillespie.

While these new capabilities are meant to be “invisible” from the end user point of view, Gillespie said it addresses an IT department concern that access to e-mail and other systems is expediently and completely cut when employees leave the company. “That’s probably the biggest thing that companies care about right now,” she said.

James Quin, lead research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said that while Afaria is a “pretty decent” platform, mobile device management still remains an immature market because there really isn’t much demand for it.

What Quin calls a “theoretical need” right now might change as enterprises increasingly see employees bringing their personal smart phones to the workplace. “By virtue of the fact that these devices are no longer owned by the enterprise, realistically speaking, they are less secure devices,” said Quin.

And there has been exactly that shift in the past 12 to 18 months, driven by the iPhone as a sexy business device and a rapid growth in the amount of corporate data accessed through mobile devices, said Quin.

Moreover, as vendors introduce their tablets to the market—Research in Motion Ltd.’s PlayBook as well as others—it will get even easier to use mobile apps on the road, further pushing that demand for mobile device management software, said Quin.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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