control over your iPad and iPhone
by Alan Zisman (c) 2010
published in Business in Vancouver December 21-27, 2010 issue #1104
The High-Tech Office story of 2010 is the explosive impact of Apple’s
iPad – not the first tablet computer, but the first to see significant
sales. (The story of 2011, I suspect, will be whether non-Apple tablets
become significant players.)
In November, New York’s Gartner Inc. technology research company
lowered projections for worldwide PC sales in both 2010 and 2011,
noting that the company expects tablets will “displace around 10% of PC
units by 2014.”
While primarily marketed as consumer devices, tablets and other mobile
devices are increasingly showing up in small and large organizations.
Devices sold for consumers have snuck into businesses before, but these
iOS devices – iPads and iPhones – are often brought in by upper
managers who then want them supported by IT staff.
The result: a recent survey of 1,200 North American IT professionals by
mobile services vendor BoxTone Inc. reported that 28% planned immediate
iOS deployment, with 73% expecting to do so within the next year – the
most of any device, according to a different study by the Aberdeen
Up until recently, however, IT departments lacked the tools to manage
business use of iPads and iPhones. Imagine trying to add an app to a
thousand devices, one at a time, using Apple’s iTunes music player!
Apple’s recent iOS4 upgrade added a mobile device management service,
allowing third parties to develop software to secure and manage large
numbers of iOS devices. One of the first to become available is from
Vancouver-based Absolute Software.
Absolute, perhaps best known for its Computrace and Lo-Jack products
tracking lost laptops, bought LANrev management software in 2009 from
Germany’s Pole Position Software, rebranding it as Absolute Manage.
Initially offering asset management for Windows and Macintosh PCs, the
company recently added Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management for
iOS4, available both as a stand-alone product and as part of the
company’s Absolute Manage suite.
Absolute CEO John Livingston told me that the company recognizes that
entrepreneurs are using a growing range of devices and that IT
departments are realizing they’re here to stay. Absolute’s mission, he
said, is to ensure that businesses can manage these new mobile devices
and that they’re used securely.
Livingston added that Absolute’s iOS management software offers
companies multiple capabilities.
Emergency services response features include the ability to remotely
wipe data or to lock or change the password on a lost or stolen device.
Missing devices can be located and recovered.
IT staff can configure multiple iPhones and iPads, remotely installing
software and operating system upgrades, inventory and track devices,
and even disable the cameras. Companies can send email and password
policies and configure virtual public networking, making it possible to
use the iDevices to securely access business networks.
All these features work remotely over 3G and Wi-Fi connections – no
need to plug devices, one at a time, into a computer with iTunes.
Being able to deploy apps is a big plus – this allows organizations to
create customized software and distribute it internally without needing
to make it available publicly on Apple’s iTunes App Store. In effect,
organizations can use it to manage their internal app stores.
Absolute vice-president Peter Frankl touts the software’s asset
inventory manager. It lets IT staff gather more than 60 fields of
information about the company’s iPhones and iPads: phone numbers,
serial numbers, installed apps and even whether individual devices have
been jail-broken. As well, customized messages can be sent out – either
to individual or multiple devices.
According to Livingston, Absolute is planning similar management
support for the increasingly popular Android platform (used on mobile
phones and tablets from Samsung, Motorola and others) early in