Mobile App Management standards will just get in the way of progress

MAM and MIM are promising technologies for securing and enabling an on-the-go workforce. The more you look at them, however, the more you see potential problems that could prevent widespread adoption.

MAM and MIM are promising technologies for securing and enabling an on-the-go workforce. The more you look at them, however, the more you see potential problems that could prevent widespread adoption.

Jack Madden has done a good job outlining these problems in recent posts about mobile application management (MAM) and mobile information management (MIM). I agree with his basic premise, that to prevent these problems, we need MAM to tie into the apps people want to use. (And in the case of MIM, we need our protected data to be accessible by the right apps.) But I disagree that formal standards are the way to make this happen.

Standards get messy. Just because some vendors get together and slap the word "standard" on a particular initiative, it doesn't guarantee adoption. Sometimes you even end up with competing vendor-driven standards, which defeats the whole purpose of having standards in the first place.

It's better to have user-driven standards, which is how things work in a lot of industries. Take the cloud storage and file-sharing market. There are no formal standards for getting your app to tie into Dropbox or Box. But tons of apps tie into those services, and you almost never hear people complaining about interoperability or fragmentation in this market these days. Why? Because Dropbox and Box ARE the standards. Everyone uses those services, and that motivates app developers to make deals with them.

We have problems in MAM and MIM because these technologies are so new. There's not enough critical mass behind any one or two MAM or MIM vendors that would force app developers to work with them. And honestly, there aren't many enterprise apps that have that critical mass either, that would be must-have apps for MAM vendors to wrap. Most mobile workers just use their devices to check email.

As more robust enterprise mobile apps become available, we'll start to see MAM vendors jostle for position, making land grabs to wrap the most popular ones. Eventually, a small handful of vendors will boast strong rosters of wrapped apps. The rest will fall by the wayside. And choosing the right MAM vendor will become an easier choice for businesses -- without those pesky standards getting in the way.

This post is an expanded and cleaned-up version of the notes I used to argue against Jack's standards proposal on Episode 21 of our Consumerization Nation podcast.

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