Five enterprise mobility providers to watch in 2015
The enterprise mobility market went mainstream in 2014. Looking over the year, important deals were done as attention centred on the likes of AirWatch, which was bought by VMware in January; Google, which bought Divide (formerly Enterproid) in May; MobileIron, which went public in June, raising $100 million; Apple and IBM, which announced a partnership in July (covered here); and Red Hat, which bought FeedHenry in September.
The attention paid to these enterprise mobility players in 2014 raises the question: which are the firms to watch over the next 12 months? Here are my top five picks for 2015.
Not a household name and its fans would hesitate to classify bigtincan as yet another provider of a platform for containerised enterprise file sync and sharing and mobile content management, but the firm stands out for me for a couple of main reasons.
Firstly, analytics are at the heart of what it terms its "mobile content enablement" solution; they allow admins to contextually track, push, curate and measure content consumption in the enterprise in a meaningful way, both for online and offline access and on PCs and all mobile platforms, including BlackBerry. This helps when measuring financial returns, of course, but also for continuous insight into a customized user experience.
Cybersecurity is going to be a hot topic and no player currently owns mobile security like BlackBerry can
Secondly, bigtincan's solution is built on integrated forms-based workflow applications, which means it offers a much richer enterprise computing experience than many file sync products, with content tied to workflow, collaboration and business processes. Its maker claims it can satisfy up to 80 percent of users' productivity needs, with advanced users spending three or more hours a day in the app.
As personal computing becomes a continuum that spreads across an average of at least four screens, bigtincan will be well-placed if the app, or a small collection of apps, becomes the main user interface for enterprise computing. With more than 10,000 AT&T sales reps globally visiting customers with the bigtincan app loaded on their devices, I see the firm becoming more of a household name in 2015. Symantec, Cisco Systems or even Microsoft would do well to align themselves more closely with the company.
New leadership at BlackBerry did a tremendous job in refocusing the business and launching new products that gave it something positive to talk to enterprises about in 2014. However, many business customers have either left Blackberry or are in a holding pattern, so in many ways the future of the company will be determined in 2015.
BlackBerry is at a critical juncture as it seeks to reinvent itself and build an identity as a provider of cross-platform mobile security services. This is a necessary and prolonged journey but the indicators of success or failure will arrive in 2015. With its EZ Pass offer ending, how it grows and makes money from BES12, sells its value-added services and enters the nascent enterprise Internet of things market will be determined this year. The good news is that cybersecurity is going to be a hot topic and no player currently owns mobile security like BlackBerry can.
Chelsea Apps Factory
Outsourcing the development of apps has been escalating over the past few years as businesses get to grips with creating customer-facing and internal mobile applications. Chelsea Apps Factory, based in West London, has been quietly handling critical mobile apps for several global brands over the past few years. Its revenue and number of employees have doubled every year since launch in 2010.
Hiring talent to develop mobile software is getting harder and more expensive. Additionally, enterprises are finding they lack the skills, time and budget to shift internal software teams to agile development processes and implement the needed changes to the business and the IT department so that mobile apps can be developed on a larger scale.
The concept of fully-outsourced agile development teams is an intriguing one that is catching on with enterprises and well worth watching in 2015
Chelsea Apps Factory has expanded its services into what it calls "innovation labs" — fully outsourced units that build, test, run, manage, monitor, track, optimize and support the entire internal and external mobile app environments of its customers. Several global firms using these innovation labs have over 100 applications managed by the firm, providing them with a way to build and run apps that is faster and lower-risk than doing it themselves.
As customers like Ladbrokes and KPMG pursue longer-term contracts with the company, the concept of fully-outsourced agile development teams is an intriguing one that is catching on with enterprises and well worth watching in 2015.
Microsoft attracted a lot of attention in 2014 as it brought its productivity services to OS X, iOS and Android, and raised a few eyebrows about the future of Windows in the process. This year will be a critical one for Windows with a renewed focus on Surface tablets, growing demand for Windows Phone in the corporate-purchased mobile segment (especially in the mid-market and in Europe) and perhaps most importantly, the launch of Windows 10. We also expect to see Microsoft increasingly active in the enterprise Internet of things space over the next 12 months.
Perhaps most interestingly, however, 2015 will show us how successful Microsoft will be as a player in enterprise mobile app development, through the use of its .NET and Visual Studio and the allied Xamarin tools, and in mobile security and management, through Intune and its Enterprise Mobility Suite. In my view, the enterprise mobility capabilities are there but the company's organisational silos remain. It'll be fascinating watching how Microsoft fares and it wouldn't surprise me if we see an acquisition by the end of the year as well.
A latecomer to enterprise mobility, Oracle came to notice in late 2013 when it quietly bought Bitzer Mobile, providers of a secure container for e-mail, browsing and apps. By July 2014, the acquisition of TOA Technologies, a mobile field service firm, coupled with large-scale marketing of its mobile products, had put Oracle firmly on the enterprise mobility map.
Microsoft’s enterprise mobility capabilities are there but the company's organisational silos remain
The firm's strategy is rightly centred on its Fusion Middleware capabilities and concentrates heavily on mobile app deployment and back-end systems integration, which will be a huge challenge for enterprises over the next few years. Oracle's mobility portfolio spans capabilities including packaged mobile enterprise apps, mobile app development tools, management of application programming interfaces, mobile app security and management, and cloud services. The past two years were all about the build, launch and communication of these assets, so 2015 will be all how they perform commercially.
Several providers from traditional business markets such as enterprise resource planning, virtual desktops and end-point security are investing in mobility platforms and architectures, and as in all these cases, there will be questions about whether Oracle's customers will prefer more-neutral, specialist middleware and mobile security solutions, and whether non-Oracle customers will take its mobility story seriously. When you add in the large-scale changes at the top of this tech giant in 2014 as well, 2015 should reveal some fascinating answers to these questions.
Those are my top five enterprise mobility providers to watch in 2015. Of course, the big names of 2014 will still dominate this year, but these additional players and certainly the categories they represent will provide some unique twists in the market over the next 12 months.
One final note. Keeping this list to five was tough. Honourable mentions should go to Crittercism, Dropbox, Good Technology, Intel Security (formerly McAfee) and Samsung.
It should be a fascinating year ahead and I look forward to discussing your picks with you!