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.

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

I'll bite...

As Gabe and I agree'd in the chat room, the call for standards for MAM draws flashbacks of those that tried to standardize in the world of Windows App Virt. - Thinstall vs. SoftGrid vs. Altiris SVS (InstallFree, TriCerat,Citrix AppStreaming, etc).  In the end, the only thing close to a 'standard' remained the upstream MSI format from which point all app virt solutions branched into their own formats.

Here we go again... In mobile apps - there are the camps of Apple and Google.  The only MAM standards that can exist on iOS will be downstream of the API set Apple chooses to provide. I'd argue there is already a standard when it comes to iOS.   In the wild-west world of Android, there is an opportunity for vendors to align, yet much more opportunity for them to differentiate. Will Samsung publish SAFE as an open standard? A 'standard' won't likely come from Google since they (Motorola)  just sold off the enterprise controls company they bought (name escapes me - "AS# ?).

Pure-play MAM continues to be a race to be first yet we are already seeing some use Apple to define the 'lowest common denominator' for app management policies.  I expect to see continued consolidation in this space move MAM from a standalone product/feature to a more logical extension of identity and information/content management that helps extend policy beyond the user, towards the apps, data and context (ex: location) when managing the device is out of reach.

[Views expressed are my own]


Sure, if Apple or Google defined a MAM API, that would become the standard on their platform. It may even leak to, or at least motivate other platform as well. Given that neither Apple nor Google will apparently do it, and all existing players (except perhaps Samsung) don't have sufficient influence, what's the alternative if MAM is to succeed?

Considering the app virt example:

1. How successful is app virt? When was the last time you bought an app that was pre-virtualized by the vendor?

2. You can virtualize most apps on Windows yourself. That's not the case for app wrapping on mobile



I completely agree natural industry progression needs to shape this environment with the various MAM players leveraging their strengths to set the de facto standards.  However progress across the MAM and MIM landscapes is important for enterprises to make the most of strategic BYOD deployment.  Aruba Networks has an event on April 10 that focuses on this topic.  


While I agree with the premise that the most popular MAM vendors will attract a strong ecosystem of app developers, I don't think your argument captures the "chicken-and-egg" problem MAM vendors face when it comes to 3rd-party apps.

DropBox and Box were first-movers that built great products that independently provided significant value to drive adoption by millions of users -- they did not need an ecosystem in place to drive this initial adoption. Once they gained this large share, technology partnerships and their app ecosystem came naturally as there was a strong draw for app developers to support DropBox and Box and this ecosystem has since provided their differentiation in an increasingly competitive market. What is the equivalent scenario for MAM vendors?

If we're talking about 3rd-party apps, I would argue that for a MAM vendor to secure enough market share to naturally attract a 3rd-party ecosystem, it needs to first have a large enterprise customer base. However, if the value of a MAM (when it comes to 3rd-party apps) is the strength of its app ecosystem, how will it attract enterprise customers? DropBox was able to provide enough independent value to drive critical mass that attracted an ecosystem -- how will MAM vendors do it?

MAM vendors can attract the necessary critical mass if enterprises are initially interested more in securing and managing internally-developed apps than 3rd-party apps. If the focus is on internally-built apps, then MAM vendors will compete on their technology approaches and capabilities and leaders will eventually emerge that will attract an ecosystem of 3rd-party app developers.

However, if there are lots of 3rd-party apps out there that enterprises wish to incorporate into their container or MAM solution, then I would argue that perhaps some standard for 3rd-party app containerization/app wrapping would lower the barriers/costs for 3rd-party app devs as they would be able to build a single enterprise-friendly version of their apps, as opposed to building and maintaining one version for each MAM vendor (or the top X vendors that amount to 80% share).

So, will enterprises invest in MAM solutions in large numbers to secure and manage their internally-built apps, or will they delay investment until the 3rd-party app ecosystem is large enough to provide them value? If enterprises adopt MAM to secure internally-built apps, how long is it going to take for a few leaders (the DropBox equivalents) to emerge in the MAM space that have the critical mass to attract a strong, naturally emerging 3rd-party app ecosystem?