Mobile Device Management Spotlight: Absolute Software

AbsoluteSoftware talks about MDM trends and their solution to managing iPhones, iPads and Android devices

Welcome to the third installment of the MDM spotlight series.

There is little doubt that smart mobile devices are a boon for individual productivity, but corporate IT groups are scrambling to accommodate them on their networks.  Accordingly, there has been an explosion of interest in Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.  This spotlight focuses on AbsoluteSoftware who is best known for their LOJACK for laptops software.  AbsoluteSoftware is not included in the Gartner MDM MQ.

I interviewed Tim Williams, Director of Product Management, about his companies MDM solution, mobile security market trends and what the future holds.  Here are some of the highlights from the interview; I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing Tim's answers.

Q: Can you provide a brief overview of AbsoluteSoftware for our readers?

Absolute software is in a new exciting market, lots of new companies popping up.

We've been around since 1993 and do LOJACK for laptops plus endpoint security.

Absolute Manage MDM is the same product as our client management for Mac and Windows laptops.  It is a full patch management tool.  Gartner put us in the visionary quadrant for client management.  Our goal is that client management tools will not change, just adapt to new devices like mobile devices.

Q: What are the top few reasons why a business would need or want an MDM solution?

Customers want to take control of BYOD devices. Needed to integrate them into their environment.  Customers are saying they need to take control and build a policy around their mobile devices.  We find that security leads the conversation in MDM.

Q: How has the MDM market changed in the last 12 months?

BYoD is growing quickly.  But biggest change is a year ago they were asking us what to do, now over the last year realization that it starts with their policy and standards.  The second step is the devices.  If a device does not allow policy it is not on checklist of allowed devices. 

Customers are realizing their mobile device policies have to come first.  

Q: How will it change in the next 24 months?

MDM seems to be blurring the lines between different types of endpoints.  Less and less are treating mobile devices in isolation but instead just as a part of their endpoints.  Every release of OSX is looking more like iOS, same on Windows 8 side. 

Q: What are the drivers for mass adoption of Smart mobile devices?

All about user experience and increased productivity.  Also, the younger generations tend to blur the lines between work and personal life, including their personal devices. 

Q:  What are some differentiators of the Absolute MDM offering?

The ability to adapt to a customers existing environment is a big one.  We can implement in weeks instead of months and we do both clients and mobile.  Our Absolute Safe product also differentiates us.  It provides protection of documents and secure distribution of documents (PDF, office, etc.).

Docs are deployed by groups and allow central control for delete per file or group of files in the Safe on the mobile device.  Safe can also allow documents to be available by time, schedule or time-bombed. Safe uses the mobile OS encryption and can perform Auto-remediation for jailbroken devices.

Absolute MDM includes Device GeoTracking and GeoFencing plus sending messages to a user device from admin console.  Lastly, you can build policy on AD attributes.  We let you build dynamic provisioning profiles that automatically substitutes per user AD attributes in the profiles for email, etc.

Q: MDM is offered as both a cloud and on-premise solution.  Which do you see dominating in the future?

Absolute does not have cloud today, but being considered.  We are agnostic on which approach is better.  The decision is very specific to a company's requirements. 

Q:  There is paranoia around mobile device security shortcomings being high risk to the business.  Is this paranoia justified?

A great saying, "Just because your paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get you." Companies have the same risk on laptops but mobile gets more attention.  People didn't think about PC's as much because laptops are frequently attached to the network and controlled.  Mobile devices are more or less all over the place.  Lets put in place a tool that is intelligent and pro-active that can protect company resources.

Rooting of Google Android/iOS devices is probably the largest risk. We allow you to setup an automated policy.  Will only be provisioned if not jailbroken and no blacklisted apps have been installed on the mobile device.  You will basically immediately loose all automated policy on a breach of policy. 

Q: What features would you most like to see Apple and Google release in their OS?

We'd like to see more control over apps.  Apps are tied to a Apple user ID.  No way to enforce app distribution or control.  OS upgrading control would be nice as well.

Q:  What is your take on the viability of VDI and virtualization on mobile devices?

Do not see non-native OS VDI going anywhere.  Mostly used as a bridging solution today.

A hypervisor does not remove the need to manage the VM for corporate.  Still needs centralized management.

Q:  How realistic/robust is selective wipe of a mobile device today?

Hard to do today but Absolute Safe helps with this issue.  Only available on iOS today, soon on android.

Thanks to AbsoluteSoftware for the interview and sharing your MDM insights with me.

Helpful Links:

Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management

 CompuTrace Product

The opinions and information presented here are my PERSONAL views and not those of my employer. I am in no way an official spokesperson for my employer.

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