Now that VMworld and AirWatch Connect are done, here are my final thoughts

With VMworld and AirWatch Connect just a few weeks apart, it feels like that's all we've been talking about. So now that both of these events have passed, I'm going to put a bow on our coverage with just a few more final thoughts.

With VMworld and AirWatch Connect just a few weeks apart, it feels like that’s all we’ve been talking about. So now that both of these events have passed, I’m going to put a bow on our coverage with just a few more final thoughts.

VMware, AirWatch, and the long-term future of EUC

We’ve been talking for a while about how the future of end user computing will involve a lot of EMM-like tools as well as identity and access management. VMware has many of these components in the Workspace Suite, and they’re saying all the right things about them. The ‘any app to any device’ concept is closer to reality than ever before.

This makes me reflect—sometimes I hear people say that mobility is overblown or that EMM is overreaching or overvalued. I don’t care. You can define the space however you want, but the bottom line is that end user computing is about way more than just Windows and a monolithic corporate network.

Windows 10 and Project A²

Using EMM to manage Windows 10 is a big part of VMware and AirWatch’s strategy, and AppVolumes and Project A² gives them a critical advantage. Project A² allows you to use AppVolumes to manage classic Windows apps on EMM-managed Windows 10 devices. Other vendors are talking about managing Windows 10 with EMM too, but they can’t touch locally-installed classic Windows apps, since the MDM APIs in Windows 10 only deal with the new-style Universal Windows apps. 

(Gabe is working on a series of posts about Windows desktop app management vendors, I’ll have to ask him if any of those can work on top of EMM-managed Windows 10. If so, the other EMM vendors should be looking at them for partnerships.)

Of course we know that changing Windows management styles is a long term shift that will take years. Yes, there are customers that are interested in EMM for Windows 10 right now, but on the other hand many people are very skeptical. The idea of limited MDM APIs and user enrolling personal devices just isn’t attractive to them. (Though in the keynote, AirWatch also talked about the Microsoft Health Attestation Service, which could help with the latter issue.)

The near-term future of enterprise mobility

One of the things that was mentioned at both shows is that most (85%) of their customers are still in a fairly basic “individual productivity” stage of mobility. We heard a lot from VMware and AirWatch executives about how the real significant changes will come when companies reinvent business processes around mobility. It seems like there’s a big gulf between those two stages, and really it also comes down to company cultures.

However, in the meantime the biggest effects from mobility are coming not in corporate offices but in vertical industries and the extended enterprise. Someone at AirWatch (I forget who) told me they like to think of “blue collar” use cases to really show where mobility can be valuable today. At Connect, there were tracks devoted to different industries. Apple is putting a lot of effort into these use cases, too. (Think of the Device Enrollment Program, the new ability to assigned Volume Purchase Program app licenses to devices instead of Apple IDs, and their partnership with Cisco.)

Internet of Things

One of the most interesting parts of AirWatch Connect was a keynote conversation with Coca-Cola, which is using AirWatch to manage about 30,000 of their Freestyle internet-connected fountain machines. At a time when IoT is such a buzzword, it’s good to see a concrete (and in-production) example.

Security

AirWatch announced a program called the Mobile Security Alliance, which gives third-party mobile security vendors a common way to integrate with the AirWatch platform. However, today there’s no common consensus about these products (it’s not like putting AV on Windows) and they all come from different angles. I asked AirWatch executives about this, and they agreed that we’re still in the very early stages, but they wanted to provide an interface so that customers easily build policies based on these products if they wanted. As for common practices, we’ll just have to keep following this space.

ACE and mobile app management

At Connect, AirWatch announced several new partners in the Application Configuration for Enterprise (ACE) program, an effort that encourages the use of device-based mobile app management frameworks.

I’ve written before that even though ACE has many benefits (seriously, I’m a big fan of it) my concern is that AirWatch and VMware haven’t been giving much attention to app-based mobile app management techniques like app wrapping and SDKs. (The reality today is that both types of MAM have their tradeoffs, so we need both for different use cases.)

I talked about this with Noah Wasmer and Blake Brannon, and they said that work on AirWatch’s wrapping and SDK technology is definitely ongoing, but also that ACE is being emphasised right now.

With the weight of all the partners unified in ACE (there are now 44 of them) Noah said that it could be a way to address areas where device-based MAM frameworks need improvement. Ultimately, they do see device-based frameworks as the best solution for MAM.

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