Friday vendor notes: Soti MobiControl EMM has deep roots with rugged devices

We finally caught up with Soti to learn about MobiControl

Soti is one of the well-known EMM vendors in the space that we haven’t spent much time covering at, so last week at RSA I sat down with them to get acquainted. I spoke with Roula Vrsic, VP of marketing, and Graham Watts, senior product manager, and today I’m sharing some notes from that conversation.

The basics

Soti has been around for over 20 years now, based in Ontario, Canada (so now you know that BlackBerry isn’t the only significant Canadian EMM vendor). They’re privately owned and independent (and now you also know that there are still more than just one or two independent EMM vendors left).

Their background is in managing ruggued devices—they went deep into industry verticals that used devices for line-of-business use cases. Rugged and specialized devices are still a big part of their business, which means that today they’re also working on IoT and things like these smart glasses.

Of course when iOS and Android came alone they got into more general EMM and BYOD use cases (though somewhat after other EMM vendors). As the current epoch of enterprise mobility expands, their business is expanding accordingly and today they have around 15000 customers total.

Soti is particularly strong with Android. For years they’ve had relationships with OEMs, with OEMs implementing Soti’s management APIs to give them extended capabilities (more on this later), and they had day one support for Android for Work.

Soti also supports all the iOS MDM APIs, as well as the Apple Device Enrollment Program. For managed apps on unmanaged devices, they partner with Mocana. They also have a few of their own content management apps. Soti is supporting Windows 10 MDM as well, and they told me they already have a major customer that’s working on rolling out Windows 10 devices to replace iPads.

Soti MobiControl is available on-premises or as a service from the cloud; and their most recent platform update, MobiControl 13.0, includes an open API to integrate it with other products.

Insight on rugged devices

One of the things we talked about was the changing face of rugged and embedded devices in the iOS and Android era. There are several noticeable trends:

  • Some specialized devices are getting replaced with apps that can run on generic smartphones or tablets.
  • There’s also the general mobility effect that we’ve been seeing in the extended enterprise, where phones and tablets are replacing paper-based processes, creating a huge new market for enterprise mobility.
  • Of course for many use cases companies still need special ruggedized hardware or accessories like barcode scanners or card readers—so this market is business as usual.
  • Many new ruggedized devices, kiosks, etc, are moving to Android. OEMs have been customizing Android for years, but all the new controls in Android 6.0 mean there are even more options for management.

The general effect of all of these is that the lines are blurring between embedded OSes and Android, and between ruggedized devices and smartphones and tablets. This all works out for Soti, since they’re experienced on all sides.

Soti Pocket Controller

One of Soti’s signature products is Pocket Controller, which can be used to do full remote control for Android, several variants of Windows Mobile and CE, and pre-BB10 BlackBerrys. Soti does this by integrating their own components directly with OEMs (they have about 70 or 80 OEM partners); besides remote control they can do other things like device monitoring and silent app installation. For iOS, Soti can remote control apps that use their SDK.

As you can imagine, full remote control has all sorts of use cases in conjunction with other helpdesk and management software for managing embedded devices, digital signage, training, remote support, and the like. You can try it out yourself—here’s the Android app and accompanying desktop app.

Final note

Soti may not be as well known as others for general EMM use cases, but obviously their experience and capabilities with rugged and embedded devices are very deep. Even as iOS and Android gain more built-in capabilities intended to simplify kiosk, embedded, and extended enterprise use cases, Soti's particular experience will continue to be a key advantage for them.

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