Blurred lines: How desktop and mobile device management is evolving

Blurred lines: How desktop and mobile device management is evolving Marco Nielsen is vice president, managed mobility services, at Stratix Corp.

A seismic shift in personal computing has taken place over the last 10-15 years. Where dedicated desktop and laptop computers were once most prominent, now we often carry handheld devices as primaries for both personal and business use. The management capabilities of the devices have also evolved rapidly and may even dictate how we manage all IT assets in the future.

History of mobility management

In the beginning stages, the enterprise was concerned with device-focused management – changing operating systems, security settings and more with email as a primary method of communication.

Soon after, most mobile operating systems were designed to be managed with profiles and/or policies changing their operation as required. IT management evolved into stand-alone mobile device management (MDM) solutions, which added a useful IT console and application management. All the solutions moved to the cloud to take full advantage of the connectivity gains that also evolved. As the mobile operating systems and business usage increased, the management model shifted again into enterprise mobility management (EMM), with the addition of dedicated content, authentication and security management.

Modern desktop management

In recent years, the traditional legacy desktop operating systems have made major upgrades. Looking at how IT was easily managing thousands of mobile devices, management concepts have migrated from mobile operating systems to the desktop. For example, both Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Apple macOS X can be managed, similar to mobile policies, from a cloud management solution.

The rise of UEM

Together with the progress made with the desktop operating systems, and the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in the marketplace, Enterprise mobility management (EMM) added support for multiple operating systems and use cases. Several analysts and vendors have named this new paradigm unified endpoint management (UEM).

UEM solutions can provide similar management tools and support, not just to mobile operating systems, but to desktops, laptops, tablets, IoT devices – and to almost any device endpoint known today. Mobile operating systems as well as Windows, macOS and Linux can now all be supported. This blurs the line of how various hardware is treated and how enterprises view devices from a management perspective.

Ongoing hardware changes

The majority of legacy devices sold over the last ten years has shifted from desktops to laptops. With the rise of enterprise-grade tablets running mobile operating systems, laptops have also been forced to evolve. This has taken shape by way of new tablet form factors as well as 2-in-1 models, where a laptop screen can pivot and turn into a tablet. Recently, Microsoft has also pushed its own Windows-based tablet, Surface, utilizing Windows and touchscreen-friendly features to showcase new software

capabilities, such as pen accessories and touchscreen-friendly Office and Windows operations. Other OEMs have also followed suit and created similar tablet/laptop hybrid form factors.

Samsung has taken a different approach and created a platform called “DeX”, which runs on the Android operating system on several different Samsung models, including phones and tablets. When the device is connected to a screen, keyboard and mouse, it can present itself with a familiar desktop-like screen interface. From here, terminal service clients such as Citrix and VMware can be utilized, and the user can access the same remote desktop experience as a Windows device. Android applications utilizing specific DeX APIs can also give a similar desktop experience to users. Given necessary connectivity, the DeX platform has the potential to infuse the laptop/tablet user experience into the same smartphone device you might already be carrying.

The future of OS

Google recently made public further developments for its Fuchsia operating system. It’s still in its early stages, but it promises a merging of its Wear OS, Chrome and Android platforms into a single operating system that could be used on multiple hardware form factors. Apple continues to add more iOS features to its macOS operating systems, the latest being the ability to run full-blown iOS applications on the macOS. Apple already has watchOS and tvOS for its other hardware platforms, and now also added iPadOS in a surprising turn to better cater to specific tablet functionality. All are based upon Unix like derivatives, just as the three Google platforms are.

In general, the operating systems leading the marketplace are becoming more and more focused on being run on multiple hardware form factors. This will allow for greater flexibility of applications to be available on any device we utilize, where we want to utilize it. The traditionally segmented operating system, usually siloed to support specific types of hardware (or screen size), may eventually disappear as memory and CPU power also cease to be a differentiator.

Where do we go from here?

As the devices we carry around with us increase in functionality, power and memory – not to forget connectivity (high-speed 5G for example) – new choices will need to be made by business IT decisionmakers. Personal and business usage will continue to blur. Similarly, age-old decisions around BYOD – such as whether to leverage personal devices for company use and separate business data on the devices – may continue to come into play.

If there is a consolidation of operating systems long term, the management platforms may see a shift to cater to use-case management more so than operating system differences. It will become increasingly important to keep tabs on all of these developments and have a trusted source to guide you through integrating them successfully into your business. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.


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