AppSense releases MobileNow, their enterprise mobility suite. Here's what you need to know:

AppSense just released the first version of their new enterprise mobility management product, MobileNow.

AppSense just released the first version of their new enterprise mobility management product, MobileNow. You’ll remember that AppSense first started started getting into mobile when they announced DataNow (at the time known as Project Orca) on our podcast in March 2012. They then acquired app wrapping startup RapSphere in May, and MobileNow was taking shape by BriForum. I recently caught up with Ajay Arora, AppSense CTO for mobile and co-founder of RapSphere, to see what the final product looks like.

About the MDM/MAM part

MobileNow combines mobile app management and device management into a single web-based SaaS product. The present release is just for iOS, with Android support expected 45 to 60 days from now. MDM-wise, everything is exactly as you would expect, which is no surprise considering that all the vendors are working with the exact same iOS configuration profiles.

For app management, AppSense provides the client app for their file syncing product (DataNow), while other apps are incorporated via app wrapping. (App wrapping is the process of taking an app that’s already been compiled and adding all the hooks and management features to make it work with a MAM solution. To see it in action, watch this video we recorded at Citrix Synergy last year.) The available MAM features include not only all the typical authentication, encryption, app-level remote wipe, file sharing, and jailbreak testing policies, but also lots of options for app usage reporting and analysis. 

MobileNow’s approach to email security is to intercept and encrypt attachments before they get to the device so that only corporate-managed apps can open them. This means that users get to stick with the built-in native email client, which is in turn protected by whatever device-level security policies are in place with MDM or Exchange ActiveSync. For situations where you also need to isolate contacts, calendars, and the messages themselves from other app, or if you don’t want any device-level policies in place, you can use a third-party sandboxed email app.

MobileNow app distribution

MobileNow handles app distribution a little bit differently from other app wrapping vendors. If an app is custom-built by an ISV for use in your company, or if you build an app in house, then you can sign it with your iOS Developer Enterprise Program certificate and distribute it internally. That’s pretty much how all app wrapping products handle custom apps. Where MobileNow is different is how it treats wrapped versions of public apps. One of the biggest questions around mobile app wrapping is how to wrap apps that come from public app stores, since it’s impossible to get between the users' devices and the app store. There are two standard answers to this question:

1. For a publicly available app in question, you ask the ISV to create a modified version that’s compatible with your MAM solution of choice. They create that special version (using either a MAM SDK or app wrapping) and upload it to the Apple App Store. It’s signed and distributed by Apple and available to anybody, but you can use the Apple Volume Purchase Program or the B2B program to buy copies for your users.

2. You ask the ISV to send you the app binary, and then your company wraps it, signs it with your enterprise certificate, and then you distribute the app internally.

Some MAM vendors accommodate both of these scenarios while others lean towards one or another; MobileNow is essentially leaning towards the first one. Why is this? Interpretations around Apple’s rules vary and the EMM industry is far from reaching consensus, and you can thank Apple for that fun situation! AppSense is sticking to the safe side on this, so if you want them to help you partner with an ISV and wrap an app that’s already publically available, it’ll get uploaded back to the Apple App Store. The user probably won’t really notice either way since a private app store can easily link to both.

MobileNow is launching with a healthy amount of partners, which means that there are a decent number of apps already out there in the app store that can already be managed. (For example, there are four different compatible email clients, should you choose that route, and even file syncing alternatives to DataNow.)

Final details

Pricing is $3.50 USD per device per month or $5.00 USD per user (which is great since the idea that licensing costs could deter users from adding extra personal devices goes against everything that consumerization is about). MobileNow is also available as a free, fully-functional 30-day trial. (I’ll be signing up and digging in, so I’ll report back on how that goes.)

AppSense seems to successfully be pivoting into the new mobile world. For them this is more than just another product—it’s a whole new business and their first SaaS.

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This is all good progress from AppSense, I think it's great that they are becoming more diverse. A very smart and innovative strategy that they should get credit for. Clearly a company that has put themselves on the map in the last year with good tech ideas. Keep going but loose the partner F'ing.

The question on my mind, that I tweeted about a few days ago that everybody seems to not want to talk about is, what happens to AppSense as they clearly are on a collision course with Citrix? We've all seen this play out with Microsoft and Citrix, but Citrix helped sell RDS revenue. AppSense doesn't really help Citrix. It just highlights something they don't do and raises the cost of a VDI/XenApp solution, (note not arguing capability value). I've spoken to sales guys at Citrix speak of it as noise they'd rather see it go away and now with XenMobile coming along and Sharefile, there is direct overlap and that will become an issue.

While it's great that this puts a rod up Citrix's backside to do much more than MDM quickly, it will create a very interesting dynamic and it remains to be seen how AppSense fairs in the battle for Mobile when most of what they do depends on working on top of Citrix tech.

Hopefully the answer will have more substance than a bunch of FFace marketing statements. Okay, I'll lower my expectation, any answer? Crickets.. The only comment I saw was from Chris Fleck at Citrix, where he tweeted: "wondering why @appsense wants to compete when Citrix has this.."

Will be interesting to see how things evolve, but I'll say again it's good to see AppSense doing cool stuff in the last year. Good luck for 2013.