AirWatch announced they're doing app wrapping, and they’re talking about app management now, too

Yesterday AirWatch announced that they're adding app wrapping capabilities to their mobile app management (MAM) offering, and that their MAM will now be available as a standalone product without mobile device management (MDM). AirWatch has always been a top name for device management, but how will this news shake up the app management world?

Yesterday AirWatch announced that they’re adding app wrapping capabilities to their mobile app management (MAM) offering, and that their MAM will now be available as a standalone product without mobile device management (MDM). AirWatch has always been a top name for device management, but how will this news shake up the app management world? Let’s find out.

Taking stock of AirWatch

There are some vendors that are much larger than AirWatch that happen to have MDM products, but at 1000 employees and 6000 customers, there’s no doubt that we can consider them one of the top enterprise mobility management companies out there. They claim that pretty much any MDM deployment over 20,000 devices is theirs and that they’re making 500 new deals a month. Objectively, they have the widest range of implementation options and supported devices. (Seriously—they go way beyond iOS and Android and support BlackBerry, Windows Phone 8, all sorts of custom versions of Android, and other platforms that barely get mentioned anymore.)

Even before now, AirWatch has had a fairly full list of app management components, including file syncing, a corporate app store, and a managed corporate browser; other custom and in-house apps can be managed by incorporating their SDK . Email is secured by encrypting attachments and only allowing corporate-managed apps to open them.

New MAM language

Even with all of these MAM features, AirWatch has always seemed like more of a device-centric vendor than an app-centric vendor—that is until yesterday’s announcement.

The only new technology in the announcement was the app wrapping itself. App wrapping allows IT to take apps from ISVs, add management features like encryption, authentication, and remote wiping, and then distribute them to corporate users. The key here is that it works with pre-existing apps (as long as you have access to the binary), while the SDK has to be incorporated at the time the app is created. I’ve written before about why I think MAM vendors should offer both app wrapping and SDKs, and so of course I think it’s great that AirWatch is doing that now.

The more interesting part of the announcement was that AirWatch is now offering app management as a freestanding product. The press release also mentioned “personal devices with standalone application management,” which is language they’ve never used before.

AirWatch within the MAM industry

Over the last six months we’ve seen the idea of dual personal mobile app management emerge. (In this scenario, corporate apps are managed and can communicate with each other, keeping the data secure and isolated; IT doesn’t have to be as concerned with personal apps on the device. You can read more about this idea here.) AirWatch has all the components to create this type app ecosystems, with all the management hooks and controls you’d expect. (They don’t happen to have an email app, though, but not all MAM products include them and you could always wrap another third-party mail client).

Recently we’ve also seen the line between MDM vendors and MAM vendors get a lot more blurry (or become non-existent) compared to what it was 6 to 12 months ago. MobileIron re-enforced their MAM products last fall; Zenprise introduced a new MAM suite, then Citrix acquired them; Symantec bought MAM and MDM vendors...the list goes on.

All this means that AirWatch’s move was to be expected. Like I mentioned above, most of these MAM features aren’t new for them, they’re just packaging them in a new way—a way that happens to be in line with the concepts of MAM that have emerged recently. Overall, what’s clear is that we can now count another major player in the dual-persona mobile app management space.


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We can count on mass confusion and death by analysis (i.e limited real world deployment) as we try to figure out the differences between a trillion offerings at their price points which varies massively as they all fight to win enterprise seats.

There is also a huge assumption here that MAM is the right way forward. I'm still not sold that it is anything more than a feature of a larger management capability in a BYOD world that is still being figured out. This is where Citrix and others are starting to tell an Enterprise Mobile Management Story. However this also assumes their story is currently correct which I also doubt. I am sure there are some emerging startups that will solve different or new parts of the problem. It's getting a better understanding on a case by case basis of what problems do you really need solving that's going to gate adoption of any of these technologies. Practical people will take it in small incremental steps and avoid the cloud like hype of BYOD.

Too many solutions, very poor understanding of the differences, rapidly evolving space, problem set's poorly defined by customers = confusion. What do confused customers do. Nothing, they analyze and do looooooong POCs. Or worse still they stick with what they know best, control the device. 2013 the year that people demonstrate how stupid they are because they believe now BYOD is no longer VDI, it's MDM, while bloggers etc. continue to talk about futures way ahead of deployment reality.

Look forward to seeing this all unfold in the real world.