Friday, August 27, 2010

Now you can snoop on your kids

Device Management has been a category going from hot (at the beginning of the millennium) to cold (a few years ago). Now, it is hot again. I know because we sell that product and it is flying off the shelves...

Why now?

Let me guess.

First of all, if the problem was significant when we had a lot of feature phones, with the advent of connected devices it is becoming huge. A carrier must be able to control what is coming into its network. Now more than ever, because the amount of devices is exploding (from phones, to e-book readers, to cameras, to cars and so on).

However, this would not explain the explosion. I think there is more. And it has to do with Android and its open source roots.

See, before Android, it was impossible to find a device you could actually remotely manage (e.g. wiping it out, killing it, managing the configuration, ...), unless you were the carrier. No OS would allow you to go so deep in the phone to touch basic features (no WM, no iPhone, no Palm, and so on). You would need the carrier and the device manufacturer involvement. That means: small market.

With Android, the game has changed. You can do it. Even as a developer that does not talk to the carrier or the device manufacturer. You can build an Android client and manage devices remotely. You can build a cloud service and manage a device, going around the carrier.

There is another piece of the puzzle falling into place: 4G. People think of 4G as "more bandwidth", so what's with device management? Well, the difference in 4G is that the device is always connected with an IP address. There is no case where the phone is on and the device does not have an IP. None. It is built in the protocol (we are working on WiMax with Clearwire). Therefore, you are guaranteed that you can monitor the device at any time, as long as it is on. It is not the same for 3G.

This is huge. We are starting to see consumer device management as a new category. It is relatively easy (starting with our Android DM client, for example) to put together a parental control service. I know plenty of parents who would love to be able to stop their kids data plan when it goes above the cap. Or to know where they are if the phone is on (and where they went). I know, I know, snooping on your kids is not the way to make them grow and feel independent. Still, most parents believe they need it ;-)

Being able to go around the carrier also means DM in the enterprise. When we sold our product to Computer Associates years ago, I do not think the market was ready for enterprise deployments. Now it is. It is ready for management of devices, whatever they are (phones, cars, laptops and more). Because you do not need a carrier of a manufacturer. You just do it yourself on Android.

Connected devices and open source are opening the door to a lot of new business plans. From M2M communications to device management to synchronization and more. We have waited a bit (a lot ;-) but it is here. And it is going to get bigger and bigger.