In the enterprise mobility space, many people talk about mobile app management, containerization, data separation, dual-persona, and the fact that today we need to accommodate the different needs of the corporate and personal apps and data that live side by side on many mobile devices.
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The problem is that all of these terms refer to a general concept, and not a specific technology. This can result in confusion and worse.
When we actually look at MAM technologies, we see that they fall into two broad categories.
One of the categories involves app-wrapping, SDKs, special enterprise-oriented apps, and basically anything that's happing within apps themselves. I refer to this as app-based mobile app management. Examples include app wrapping tools, MAM SDKs, and apps made by EMM vendors and their ISV partners, as well as the Android for Work App for Android 4.0–4.4 devices.
The other category involves devices that have mobile app management features built directly into the device and operating system itself. I refer to this as device-based mobile app management. Examples include recent versions of iOS, Samsung Knox 2.0 and later, Android for Work on Android 5.0 devices, BlackBerry Balance, certain mobile device virtualization platforms that we used to talk about more often, and Windows 10.
Why do we need to be specific? Because the different types of MAM have important advantages and disadvantages:
- Advantages of app-based MAM: It can be independent of the state of the device; there's no need to manage the device (significant because at times we can't or don't want to manage devices); and it can include any advanced features the creators care to build in.
- Disadvantages of app-based MAM: It requires pre-planning, either to build an SDK or other MAM functionality into an app from the beginning, or to make an arrangement with the developer to modify an existing app.
- Advantages of device-based MAM: It can manage any app (not just special or modified apps) removing the need for advanced planning; and it's becoming a part of more devices and OSes as time goes by.
- Disadvantages of device-based MAM: It's limited to whatever features happen to come with the OS; not all devices support it yet; if the device gets compromised, the app can be, too; and it requires the device to be managed.
Yes, many people do make the distinction between the different categories of MAM is made, but all too often it's done with euphemisms that can be unclear to readers that aren't totally in the know about EMM technologies.
I understand that some people or vendors will favor one approach over the other—that's just the way things work. But for right now it's clear that both have a significant role to play in enterprise mobility. In the future the balance may tip in one way or another, but thanks to the inherent qualities of both types of MAM, neither will completely disappear any time soon.
Therefore, things would be a lot easier if when we all talk about MAM, we specify which type we're talking about.
(End note: There is indeed a third middle-of-the-road category of MAM, which can manage any app on any device, but for the time being these technologies are still emerging, the full extent of their impact is yet unknown, and they have their own advantages and disadvantages to take into account, too. Examples include app wrapping apps from public app stores, using management agents that can control the device in ways that ordinary MDM can't, and virtual mobile infrastructure.)