Time for a progress report on Microsoft’s enterprise mobility management efforts

One of the big EMM stories of 2015 has been Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite. Now is a good time to take stock of its progress because Microsoft has just finished a big run of adding features throughout the year.

One of the big EMM stories of 2015 has been Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite. Now is a good time to take stock of its progress because Microsoft has just finished a big run of adding features throughout the year.

What has EMS been doing?

Intune has had at least some support for mobile devices for quite a while now (check out this demo and article from back in 2012), but for the first few years it wasn’t considered a real contender in the EMM space.

That started to change in March 2014 when Microsoft announced the Enterprise Mobility Suite, comprising Intune, Azure AD, and Azure RMS. Remember that this was also the beginning of the “new” Microsoft under Satya Nadella, and people were getting more excited than they had been in a long time (especially after Windows 10 was revealed in October).

In the year following the announcement of EMS, Microsoft followed up with a string of successive announcements, outlining a plan to make EMS into a major player in the EMM space.

Most of these features got delivered over the course of 2015, with updates coming on a monthly pace. (You can read about them on the Intune blog and this TechNet page.) Here are some of the highlights:

By any measure, that’s an impressive set of releases for the year—Microsoft covered a lot of ground, including just about everything that was promised.

What’s next? If Microsoft is going by their usual playbook of being a later mover, they’re probably good for right now. But there are plenty of things going on in the EMM that they could be eyeing:

  • Certainly they’ll continue to expand the Intune MAM ecosystem, as well as the catalogue of SaaS app integrations for Azure AD.
  • I’m curious about their position on mobile anti-malware and mobile app reputation. They’ve made other security acquisitions this year, but haven’t talked about these issues in particular.
  • App refactoring would be another interesting technology for EMS, especially since it would pair so well with Azure RemoteApp.

I had a chance to talk to Brad Anderson on Monday. He couldn’t reveal much about upcoming plans (though he did hint that there could be something happening with mobile anti-malware and app reputation in Q1) but we had a good chat about some of the topics he wrote about in his end of the year blog post, which you can read here. Besides the newest features in EMS, some of things that we also talked about were the growth of Office 365 and customers being more comfortable with the cloud, as well as Windows 10 and the new Configuration Manager. (I’ll be writing more about Windows 10 in January.)

So what’s the effect on the EMM market?

Microsoft has stated that they have 20,000 EMS customers now, however there’s skepticism in the community about how many of those customers have actually deployed it yet. 

At the same time, other EMM vendors are seeing their growth rates slow, but I think it’s too soon to tie this directly to the rise EMS. The overall growth rate for EMM has to slow down eventually, and so I don't think this is a bad sign. Make no mistake—EMM, identity management, and new ways of doing EUC will affect all companies eventually as more work takes place outside of traditional desktops and networks—but of course that’s a 5 or 10 year long transition.

One issue that still bothers me is that the Office mobile apps can only be fully managed with Intune, and not with other MAM offerings. I’ve written about it already, and I certainly will write about it more in 2016.

One of the things that I like the most is how EMS is doing a good job of balancing MDM and MAM since Microsoft made that announcement that Intune-managed apps don't need to be deployed on top of MDM anymore. Supporting unmanaged devices is a big reason to use MAM in the first place, and it was significant missing feature when Intune’s MAM was first announced. But now that Intune does support managed apps on unmanaged devices, I like that they’re doing a good job of acknowledging how important this is. (This is a big soapbox issue for me.)

In 2016 we’ll continue to watch closely to see what the impact of EMS is—and I think most people would agree that it will be significant.

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