The enterprise comes of age at Mobile World Congress 2015

Picture credit: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

As personal and enterprise computing converges at a faster rate and as the forces of mobility, cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things reshape innovation in the business market, enterprise mobility has unintentionally become a major topic at Mobile World Congress.

This year enterprise mobility firmly sat alongside other topics such as devices, wearables, mobile payments, the Internet of things and 5G technology as one of the major themes. The string of enterprise announcements at the event has also escalated and hold some important implications for the market's direction and for the show's organisers, the GSMA.

After the frenzy of this year's show, I've collected my thoughts on the major themes and announcements in the area of enterprise mobility. For deeper analysis of enterprise mobility, please see here for a list of reports produced in the days after the event.

Google gets serious about enterprise mobility

Google announced its arrival into the enterprise mobility market in the week preceding Mobile World Congress with the launch of Android for Work. But the string of announcements from its partners at the show in support of the release raised its profile further, making Android for Work the most dominant enterprise mobility topic of discussion at the show.

Conspicuously absent from these announcements were Good Technology, Microsoft and crucially, Samsung, whose Knox software appeared to come into question with the release of Android for Work. However, all three companies made important announcements of their own at the show.

Samsung attracts huge crowd for enterprise strategy

Samsung's focus on the enterprise market was a major theme at the show. In fact, the large emphasis placed on enterprise security at the launch of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge was perhaps the biggest public display of intent toward the enterprise by Samsung in its history.

Samsung hosted a dedicated enterprise strategy event to an astounding 1,300 attendees — a phenomenal level of interest for an enterprise session at MWC

In addition, Samsung hosted a dedicated enterprise strategy event to an astounding 1,300 attendees — a phenomenal level of interest for an enterprise session at Mobile World Congress. Dr Injong Rhee, SVP of the Knox Business Group, detailed the company's enterprise strategy, including the credentials of Knox at the hardware security layer and its compatibility with Android for Work. Dr Rhee was joined on stage by Amit Singh, President Google for Work, who, apart from admitting he had not yet seen a Galaxy S6, did well to reinforce the Samsung-Google programme and dispel any speculation that the two have competing agendas in mobile enterprise security. This was a necessary first step for even further alignment between these partners in the enterprise market.

Samsung also promoted a partnership with Oracle for application development, showcased the deepening product and service integration between Samsung and BlackBerry, and announced plans to integrate Office 365 into Knox in the near future.

The question of Microsoft

Not far behind Google and Samsung was Microsoft as a dominant topic of discussion, particularly the widening role it may play in enterprise mobility across the different divisions of its business. Microsoft gave significant updates about its enterprise mobility constituencies, including Lumia smartphones, its Enterprise Mobility Suite software and the Internet of Things.

Two notable highlights included growth in sales of its Lumia devices to enterprises, which accelerated rapidly in 2014 and early 2015, the announcement that its Enterprise Mobility Suite will be made available to smaller business. Microsoft's heavy push into enterprise mobility management has been taking shape only over the past year and despite questions about its neutrality in mobile management, the company is already making a name for itself. Microsoft is fairly new to mobile management with a young set of products and lower market awareness than its rivals. But Enterprise Mobility Suite has the public support of CEO Satya Nadella and there are plans to embed it into Office 365, which could influence the market further in its favour.

The transformation of enterprise mobility management

This market continues to gather pace as cloud computing, biometrics, PC management and convergence with the Internet of things continue to shape directional changes in the market. Several major announcements gained my attention. These included the release of AirWatch 8 release just ahead of Mobile World Congress; news from Good Technology that it will support multitouch ID, multifactor authentication and wearables; and BlackBerry's announcement of BES12 as a cloud-based service.

Building maturity in enterprise mobile apps

The importance of enterprise mobile applications continues to be the number-one focus for customers in enterprise mobility, and many firms still struggle with the design, building, security, deployment and management of apps. At Mobile World Congress, App Planet in Hall 8.1 saw a buzz of activity in the enterprise space this year with several suppliers demonstrating enterprise application capabilities.

Enterprise uses of the Internet of Things grew in stature as the broader IoT emerges as a cornerstone of the event

IBM announced and showcased three off-the-shelf enterprise applications derived from its Apple partnership that focused on retail, wealth management and airlines. It is important for IBM to show momentum in this well-publicised partnership, despite the rigorous controls Apple places on public relations, so the release of the three apps is particularly significant.

Another noteworthy announcement was the launch of the App Configuration for Enterprise (ACE) initiative by AirWatch together with initial partners Box, Cisco Systems, Workday and Xamarin. ACE is an attempt to build standards for app configuration, app tunnel and single sign-on for Android for Work and iOS 7 or above devices deployed with enterprise mobility management software. AirWatch hopes that securing apps through the initiative's standards will ease app deployments for customers and encourage other players to join the initiative, including competing providers.

Accelerating winds behind the Internet of Things in enterprises

Enterprise uses of the Internet of Things are also growing in stature at Mobile World Congress as the broader Internet of Things emerges as a cornerstone of the event. Highlights included a range of indoor location solutions for enterprises on display, Japanese developer platform IQP, insights into Microsoft's emerging strategy for the enterprise Internet of Things, and Jasper Technologies announced partnerships with SAP and Salesforce.

I was particularly encouraged by demonstrations given by Japanese developer IQP, which showcased its Web-based app development tool. This aims to make app development for the Internet of Things more accessible and easier. Although it is still in start-up mode, IQP has impressive backing and clients, with Fujitsu, SoftBank and Toyota already using the service.

Jasper Technologies will integrate its M2M solution into SAP's HANA big data platform and Salesforce will integrate machine data into its CRM solutions. As customers use the Internet of Things and big data insights to transform themselves from product to service companies, these types of partnerships will be highly valuable.

An opportunity for the GSMA

From my experience of attending Mobile World Congress since the late 1990s and moderating the only GSMA general session on the enterprise for the past four years, I'm left with a sense that the 2015 show represented a significant change from previous years. As trends in mobility management, apps and the Internet of Things reshape enterprise computing, and the likes of BlackBerry, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Samsung and VMware continue to use the show to jockey for influence, the stage is set for enterprise mobility to take an even larger role next year.

The stage is set for enterprise mobility to take an even larger role at MWC next year

Additionally, there has been a notable increase in enterprise technology decision-makers at the show over the past few years. The rise of such attendees is due in part to the growth of the show overall, which pushed over 93,000 visitors this year, as well as the greater activity by players such as VMware and, this year, IBM at the event. But more importantly, it is also an illustration that as enterprise mobility and the enterprise Internet of Things grow in stature, Mobile World Congress is emerging an important showcase for technology innovation on a global scale for CIOs. As one CIO attendee said to me at the event: "If mobile innovation is core to how [we] align IT strategy to business competitive advantage, where else do we go to find this scale of innovation?"

The mindset presents an interesting opportunity for the GSMA to steer the event's focus onto enterprises and shape its agenda, content and audience. Let's see what next year brings.

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