MobileIron is getting into IoT, and it’s a good fit for them

We also examine the relationship between IoT and EUC.

Today MobileIron is announcing that they’re getting into management and security for the Internet of Things. (Press release.) They’re doing it in a formal and definitive way, by creating a new IoT division, and by featuring the news today at their analyst event.

This is not an unexpected move, as there are many similarities between EMM and IoT, and plenty of EMM vendors have expanded into IoT. In addition, this move was anticipated last year when Barry Mainz took over as MobileIron president and CEO. Previously, Barry was the president of Wind River, an Intel subsidiary with various IoT-related products. At the time, I wrote:

“Since Barry came from an IoT company, some people have been wondering if we’d hear more about it from MobileIron. (Other EMM vendors have been all over IoT, but so far MobileIron has been pretty quiet about it.) Barry said “Absolutely, we have an opportunity here,” and he mentioned the automotive industry as an area with a lot of potential for ROI. Of course this is just a preliminary mention of IoT at MobileIron and not a product announcement, so let’s just say we won’t be surprised if we happen to hear more about it later this year.”

I was a few months off, but now we’re at this point.

More details

MobileIron has hired a new VP to lead the IoT division, Santhosh Nair. Like Barry, Santhosh also came from Wind River, where he was VP and GM of the IoT unit.

MobileIron said they have studied the market and worked with potential customers over the last year, and defined use cases in healthcare, energy, manufacturing, and automotive industries. They also note that there are many target customers within their existing install base. They’ll be doing trials and PoCs in the first half of this year, and plan to have a revenue-ready product in the second half.

How do we think about IoT and EUC?

First off, there’s always been a strong affinity between MDM and IoT—the infrastructure and techniques that it takes to secure and manage mobile devices are similar to what it takes for IoT.

At the same time, we’ve often pondered the bigger-picture relationship between IoT and end user computing. In EUC, we think about getting applications and data to corporate users—the important part being users, which means dealing with BYOD, shadow IT, and fast-evolving work styles. In this context, many IoT use cases amount to things like automatically kicking off your meeting when you walk into a conference room, or acting as tools to help with the “integration of everything.” In other words, IoT is good to have, but it doesn’t move the needle on how we think about horizontal EUC use cases.

But that’s just one angle on IoT. On the other hand, clearly there are many industry verticals that are currently (or will be soon) using millions of “things” that can connect to the Internet, and security and management for these things will be a huge business.

So back to the original question—how do we think about the relationship between IoT and EUC?

For EMM and EUC vendors that are doing IoT (and most of them in our space are doing so in one way or another, including AirWatch, Citrix, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and others), I think the key issue is to not force IoT onto EUC. Let the IT pros that deal with users work with all the EUC-oriented products, and let the IT pros at companies that have lots of “things” (of which there will be many) deal with the IoT products.

(The example that I’m thinking of is when Citrix acquired Octoblu. They’ve made a good case for it now, but it took them a while—at the beginning there was a fair amount of poorly-timed hype that left people scratching their heads.)

By creating a division for IoT, with its own new leader, and by concentrating on products with industry vertical use cases in mind, MobileIron is going about this in a smart way. They’ve always had a cerebral approach to EMM, and that will be perfect for IoT.

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