AT&T works on expanding Toggle BYOD service to PCs, Macs

The service sets up separate work and personal environments on mobile devices

AT&T plans to extend its dual-personality software for mobile devices, called Toggle, to provide a walled-off and encrypted work environment within PCs and Macs as well as mobile devices.

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That new capability is still under development for an unspecified date on AT&T's road map. But, along with other enhancements announced on Wednesday with Version 2.0 of Toggle, it could make the service into a broader platform for remote work. Toggle 1.0 was announced last October for Android devices. Now it is set to ship for Apple iOS in the next few weeks and for BlackBerry and Windows Phone by the end of the year.

Toggle combines a service for enterprises with an app for downloading to consumers' own phones, tablets and other clients. The app divides a mobile device into a personal mode for the usual consumer apps and a secure, encrypted "work mode" just for apps and content approved by an enterprise. Employees can switch to the work mode while on the job and go back when the day is done. It's designed to help companies implement BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies while protecting themselves.

The new version transforms Toggle from a system built around pushing corporate resources out to employees' devices to one that lets users go to a customized site and download approved apps and content. AT&T even went to a different mobile-device-management software partner, OpenPeak, to develop the new version. Its Toggle 1.0 technology, which the carrier developed with Enterproid, is still available and supported.

AT&T will be moving toward a resale relationship with Enterproid, which offers the Toggle 1.0 technology under the name Divide, said Chris Hill, AT&T's vice president of advanced mobility solutions. AT&T is the exclusive carrier provider of the OpenPeak technology underlying Toggle 2.0.

While the addition of iOS support is a major step in the mobile arena, porting Toggle to PCs and Macs could bring it into another large pool of workers at home and on the road. Those users could access their work applications securely on a personal machine without using any mobile network because the software works on any Internet connection type.

AT&T also plans to add a feature in the fourth quarter that might simplify how the business use of mobile is paid for: It will allow users to put one device on two different plans, one for personal use and one for business. Enterprises will be able to assign all activity carried out by the "work persona" of the device onto a corporate rate plan, Hill said.

"As we move away from the unlimited plans, employees are not going to want to come into the enterprise and .... do corporate work on their own dime," Hill said.

The feature could effectively allow enterprises to recreate the traditional employer-paid mobile account without having to buy and manage devices or worry about personal versus business use.

AT&T can only actually do that account-splitting for its own subscribers, but it's working on ways to let other carriers do the same thing for Toggle users. Toggle's dual device personalities already work on devices from any carrier. To make split plans possible, AT&T is studying how it might share usage data for the corporate portion of a phone with other service providers, Hill said. It already delivers that information to its enterprise customers. Other carriers could use the same data to put together a bill for their subscribers.

Toggle can be useful beyond the classic corporate office environment, Hill said. For example, grade schools could build special profiles for each grade level, with different materials and assignments, and have the right profile pop up on a shared tablet when a student from that grade logged into it. For workers in the field who share a company vehicle, each could customize a device to his or her own preferences and needs and get those by logging in, Hill said.

"Where we're headed is ... profiles being driven out of the cloud," Hill said.

Toggle could save a lot of work and worry for enterprise IT departments, where concern about data security continues to grow, said Tolaga Research analyst Phil Marshall. And the idea of personalization could extend to many other areas, such as using multiple personas with different social-networking services, he said. "We're just hitting the tip of the iceberg on what can be done," Marshall said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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