Microsoft Windows Mobile Virtual Roundtable: Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008

Editor’s note – June 5, 2008 – This written transcript has been edited slightly from the recorded version of this roundtable discussion for quality and readability purposes. Additionally, time codes are included to identify specific quotes and discussion items.

PressPass: Welcome to Microsoft PressPass. My name is Rich Levin. At CTIA Wireless 2008, Microsoft announced the availability of System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, sometimes affectionately referred to by customers as “MDM 2008,” along with plans for a Microsoft Mobile Services Plan to be available from mobile operators.

The company says that when paired with Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1, System Center Mobile Device Manager software and services is “the best solution for mid-sized and large businesses to manage and protect Windows mobile phones.” But really, what does that mean?

Today we’ve brought together three individuals who represent important constituencies in the Windows mobile space. Each constituency represents partners in the Windows Mobile ecosystem who are responding to the opportunity that the availability of Mobile Device Manager represents. But each comes at this from a different perspective. Obviously, the most important constituencies are the end users and the businesses they serve.

But how does Mobile Device Manager empower Microsoft partners to deliver the capabilities that mid-sized and enterprise organizations, their employees, and their people are asking for? And what are the issues that are facing enterprise organizations, mid-sized organizations, [and] people in the field when it comes to mobile computing?

That’s what we want to talk about today. And that’s why we’ve invited Steven Hughes, who is a Windows Mobile MVP; that’s a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. He’s also the chief news and review editor for, and he’s written several detailed reviews and articles on various facets of mobile technology as well.

Also with us today is Bryan Smoltz. He’s the senior director of product marketing with AT&T, which is one of the first companies that worked with Microsoft to support early trial programs of Mobile Device Manager 2008. Obviously AT&T comes at this from the perspective of an operator network supporting Mobile Device Manager.

And so to round things out, we’ve also asked Mort Rosenthal to join us. Mort is the CEO and founder of Enterprise Mobile. Enterprise Mobile was founded about a year and a half ago, with the goal of providing services around Windows Mobile for the enterprise and mid-sized organizations.

So with that, we’ll get our virtual roundtable underway. I’ll have each of the panelists introduce themselves more fully, and then we’ll get into the Q&A and explore how Microsoft Mobile Device Manager 2008 promises to change the experience end-to-end in the mobile wireless space. Let’s get underway. Steve, why don’t you introduce yourself first?

Hughes: Okay. My name is Steven Hughes. I’m a clinical engineer for the VA Medical Center. I take care of medical equipment and networking issues that are involved with hospital health care. I’m also a Microsoft MVP in Windows Mobile Devices.

PressPass: Thank you, Steve. Bryan, you’re up.

Bryan: Absolutely. My name is Bryan Smoltz. I work for AT&T Mobility, and I’m the senior director of product marketing, with responsibility for the business applications that we put on our mobile devices. I have 15 years experience in the applications software and wireless market overall, mostly in the disciplines of marketing and product management.

PressPass: Thank you, Bryan. And, Mort, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Mort: Okay. My name is Mort Rosenthal. I’m the CEO and founder of Enterprise Mobile. Enterprise Mobile is a company founded about a year and a half ago to provide services to enterprises around mobility, in particular Windows Mobile. We provide services for the entire lifecycle, from planning to implementation, deployment, and support and management of the installed base.

Is There a Mobile Satisfaction Gap?

PressPass: Do you feel there is, in your discussions with enterprise customers, and for want of a better term, a “satisfaction gap” between what they are getting from mobile devices—and I don’t want to put the focus on the devices, as if it’s a problem with devices—but let’s say “mobile;” that is, the way they use them, or what they hope they can use or get out of them, and what they really want to get? Steve Hughes?

Hughes: That depends [laugh]. That depends on who you’re talking to, what question you’re asking about, and what aspect of it that they’re satisfied with. I think they are satisfied to a certain extent, but they always want to do more. That’s always what everyone wants to do. They want to do more with the devices.

That’s what these updates and security things have come up from: the community in the real enterprise saying, “Hey, we want these tools. We want to be able to manage these devices. We don’t want any rogue devices.”

But now, with all the new security policies in place for [things] like HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley … these are real things they have to deal with, and they’re held accountable for the security situations.


PressPass: Mort Rosenthal, you’re nodding your head.

Rosenthal: I would say they are satisfied with what they’re getting, but they’re not satisfied with what they might get. In other words, their ambitions for mobility are far greater than the capacity of, in many instances, their current environment, which is why you see so much momentum towards Windows Mobile.

It’s not like there are a lot of frustrated RIM (Research in Motion) users—although certainly over the past few months there’s a lot of frustrated RIM users when the [RIM] NOC (Network Operations Center) goes down—but for the most part, it’s more that we have customers who recognize that, in order to create value for the mobile worker, they need to put more information in their hands, and have more ability to interact with them in a rich way; a way that’s far beyond e-mail.

And whether that’s sales information; or it’s financial information that can’t really be communicated in an e-mail, but needs a more richer environment; whatever the application is, there’s some need for greater value.

Has mobile grown organically or systematically?

PressPass: It reminds me of the early days of personal computing where the PC appeared on the horizon. IT wasn’t really set up to deal with it. It was something completely different from what they were accustomed to and what they had developed best practices around; again, similar to mobile today. It’s completely different from what they’re accustomed to dealing with. Has mobile largely grown organically in organizations, sort of the way the PC originally did—through the back door? Bryan, can you speak to that?

Smoltz: Has it grown organically? In a lot of cases, it’s definitely grown top-down, right? Various senior people in these organizations want this stuff. They want to enable their sales forces. And I believe it was the user demand, and not necessarily an IT decision, to say, “Hey, we’re going to go put mobile devices in people’s hands, and deliver them their e-mail and whatever else.”

So that’s certainly the case. But I would say that some of the things you’ve described are really a reflection of what has been a reasonably complex ecosystem of different operating systems on these devices, different potential middleware options for what you put inside your business, and different sizes of businesses with different security policies and the like.

And I think there is a great desire to bring increased order to the policies and the procedures around mobility. But I would say that there are opportunities for customers to do that in the market today, in a market where Mobile Device Manager is an option.

What are mobile technology’s pain points?

PressPass: Mort, you talked about the pain when the NOC goes down in these BlackBerry environments. What are the pain points IT organizations are suffering with when it comes to mobile deployments and mobile management?

Rosenthal: I would say that certainly the NOC going down is a big deal. I was lucky enough to call on many financial services companies the day after the big outage, probably a month ago. It was kind of interesting. All of the people I was calling had fairly frustrated calls with their CEOs saying, “Why are we dependent on this when it’s not stable?” So I would say that’s a big issue.

What’s interesting and what’s exciting with Microsoft is even though they’ve been at this for a while, it’s only recently that I think they’ve had the kind of momentum in enterprises—and certainly the stability and richness of the operating system, and the stability of the hardware are contributing factors.

Another key point is System Center Mobile Device Manager, which has just been introduced. It’s a big, big deal for enterprises, because not only does it attach security to a mobile device in a way that is very enterprise ready—so that all of a sudden you can have a secure environment and mobility solution—but it very fluidly connects to an existing infrastructure.

So for companies who have an existing Active Directory infrastructure, which is essentially the world, this extends group policy to a mobile device. All of the policies that would be attached to a desktop or laptop get extended to mobility, plus additional functions are added, because it is a mobile device.

It’s quite a fluid solution, and it’s one that we have been quite involved with. We’ve deployed many, many instances of mobile device manager with a great deal of success. So that’s been a big deal for Microsoft and it’s a big deal for the marketplace. I would say maybe you can envision it similarly with an enabler of an enterprise-ready solution from Microsoft.

[ 00:10:59 ]

How well does mobile device manager leverage existing IT (Information Technology) assets?

PressPass: If I had to find a single compelling reason to seriously consider Mobile Device Manager, what I hear you saying is that this is going to leverage your existing Microsoft infrastructure, existing Microsoft skill set, existing security policies and protocols, existing identity authentication, as well as existing application development skills. Is that fair to say? Steven Hughes?

Hughes: Yes, exactly. Basically you’re leveraging the same Microsoft infrastructure. It’s already there. And Windows Mobile Smart Phones, by deploying System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 to solve many of the problems associated with mobility—which is the lack of connectivity sometimes, or what if a device does get lost or stolen?

What is the state of mobile security today?

PressPass: So we agree that Mobile Device Manager leverages and extends the existing IT infrastructure to the field, but how can you leverage what didn’t exist before? For example, you mentioned security. Security in the field is a very different equation than it is in the IT organization, in satellite offices, on the desktop, on the laptop. There are a number of variables that exist in the realm of mobile device security that simply do not exist on the desktop or on the laptop.

So, what is the state of mobile security today—and by mobile, I mean hand-held devices, Windows Mobile devices, BlackBerry devices. What is the state of mobile security today and how does, or doesn’t, Mobile Device Manager change the equation, or advance the capabilities for users and the enterprise? Bryan, would you tackle that?

Smoltz: I think security from a mobile perspective means a lot of different things. It may mean the security risk to my organization by opening up mobile access to my users. It might mean that I’ve got data traveling out to mobile devices, and I need that data traveling in a secure mechanism. And then I have the mobile devices floating around with information on them that may or may not be encrypted, devices that may or may not be protected by a password, and devices that are susceptible to being lost by the nature of their size and use.

All of those things fit into security, and often start to blur with elements of the area called “device management.” I believe that Mobile Device Manager makes some very strong strides to help companies with this, whether it’s through Active Directory integration, which allows IT to set group policies around what people should and should not be able to do when they’re on these mobile devices; whether it’s a secure VPN that ensures while users are connected to the corporate infrastructure, that the connection is over an encrypted pipe—Mobile Device Manager takes steps in a number of areas of the overall experience to improve it. I believe there really have been some great strides on the security front in the Mobile Device Manager offering.

PressPass: Mort, I’d like your take on this question as well. What’s your view of the state of mobile security, and how Mobile Device Manager does or does not improve security? You were telling me earlier about how some vendors and enterprise organizations would argue they do have secure mobile deployments and secure mobile environments when, in fact, by your measure and by the measure of Mobile Device Manager, these deployments are, in fact, not secure; that the definition of security has changed, the bar has been raised, and Mobile Device Manager is reaching for that new higher bar. Can you speak to that for us?

[ 00:15:24 ]

Rosenthal: I think the state of mobile security has been not so great. RIM has, some would argue, a secure environment. But it’s an odd secure environment. It might meet the standards for e-mail, but it may not meet the standards beyond that. Mobile Device Manager is a big, big deal because it goes beyond the BlackBerry standards and extends security even further for investment banks, the financial community, the health care community, all of which are highly regulated, with absolutely policies for the security of information. Mobile Device Manager surpasses those standards.

I would say one of the real constraints to putting proprietary information in someone’s pocket has been the security around that, and Mobile Device Manager is a big factor—from encryption; to being able to turn functionality on and off; to being able to establish policies from a central perspective, and have them enforced on a mobile device in someone’s pocket; to the ability to wipe it; the ability to enable certain hardware and not other hardware, as well as just allowing access with a secure VPN so you can get access to real data at any instance.

All of that stuff has been necessary for mobility applications to have real traction in a large organization, and Mobile Device Manager is a very, very good first step for Microsoft.

How Does Mobile Device Manager’s Fundamental Architecture Differ, and What Are the Benefits to IT?

PressPass: What about a very, very good next step for the enterprise? Tell me if I do not understand this correctly, but let’s look at RIM as a principal competitor here. We’re talking about a fundamental difference in the architectural approach.

RIM is a centralized environment where you are dependent on their network operation center, the NOC. If it goes down, your business is down. In the Microsoft approach, you control the architecture, so that is hosted on your premises as part of your IT infrastructure.

It seems to me that’s a fundamental difference, and a fundamental decision that IT leaders and business decision makers need to make: whether or not you want to be dependent upon the service provider which has a single point of failure, versus taking control of your own IT destiny. I’m not trying to make a case either way. I want to know what your take is.

Rosenthal: Absolutely. No question. Mobile Device Manager is a big deal. When you talk to a big organization, and they are relieved that Mobile Device Manager exists.

One of the things that’s interesting about Mobile Device Manager is, to a large degree, it was designed by customers who said, “This is what I need in order for Windows Mobile to be successful in my environment.” That was essentially the product definition.

So it’s not a surprise that Mobile Device Manager meets the customers’ needs, because customers designed it. Customers normally don’t design things, but in this instance it was quite explicit, and I think the product benefited as a result.

Are Mobile Line-Of-Business Apps at the “Tipping Point”?

PressPass: You’re bringing up giving customers what they want. There are two other trends that I see, and I wonder how adoption of Mobile Device Manager plays into them. One is the trend of IT organizations moving from e-mail and PIMs to line-of-business (LOB) applications in the field. Is this a legitimate trend, or is this something that service providers and Microsoft would like to see become a trend, because it would be good business for them?

Is this being driven by something that customers saying, “We want to put line-of-business applications in the field, we want to move beyond e-mail, we want to move beyond a PIM?” And in conjunction with that, what about the choice of devices they’re going to be able to do LOB apps on?

It seems to me that, in some business models (i.e., RIM), there’s a limited number of devices you can use. In the organic model, where people are buying whatever they want and connecting it to the enterprise, you have choice, but you don’t have control over the management of those devices and the security.

So how does Mobile Device Manager bring capability to the enterprise, in terms of moving line-of-business applications out to hand-held mobile devices and, in concert with that, how does Mobile Device Manager bring order to the management chaos? It seems to me these two things go hand-in-hand. Steve Hughes, what do you think?

[ 00:20:59 ]

Hughes: I think they do. We are almost getting to that converged ability, where we move everything to a mobile device. There are still some places where you need to have a larger screen. But I think more people are depending on mobile devices for how they work.

I know sales people today are using their phone almost as their primary device. Maybe they’ll bring a laptop with them because they need to do a large PowerPoint presentation, but they can now do that on a phone as well.

IT organizations can actually run their server applications, if they want to use a remote desktop session. They can monitor their servers in real time, and control them if they need to. They can run VoIP applications right from the phone. They can run applications to access data directly. They can have customized applications.

Say they want to pull up their latest revenue settings, or the sales force wanted to go out and see how much inventory they have of an item. What you want to do is customize applications so the workflow for the end user is a lot easier. They can press one button on the screen, and pull up the information they need then and there.

PressPass: Okay, but having those capabilities in the platform doesn’t necessarily mean those are the capabilities the enterprise wants. So do we know this is where they want to go? Are we at a mobile device tipping point, where the line-of-business app is going to be what’s driving mobile deployments more than e-mail drives it today?

Hughes: It’s a real tool. More people carry their phones with them than they do their laptops. I know I do.

PressPass: Anyone else want to tackle this one? Have we reached the tipping point? Has the desire to move line-of-business apps to the field, onto hand-held mobile phones, become the principal driver in the enterprise for mobile today, surpassing the basic need to have e-mail in the field? Mort Rosenthal?

Rosenthal: I would say it’s line of business. It’s an application that goes beyond e-mail. We are working with a variety of very large BlackBerry shops—tens of thousands of users who are perfectly happy with a RIM e-mail solution—but who understand they need to move off of that.

They view those applications as not strategic, and are working and developing line-of-business applications to require a whole lot of functionality on the device, as well as connecting back in a fluid way to an application headquarters.

Even the largest PIM/RIM shops are moving or really beyond looking at this. They know they’re going to get there, and they’re trying to transition. Of course, like any technology shift, it’s not without its difficulties.

Strategic Mobile Deployments: In-House or Outsource?

PressPass: Clearly we’re entering a brave new world of mobile deployment, mobile device management, and mobile security. If we’re going beyond e-mail, if we’re putting line-of-business applications in the field on these hand-held portable devices, we then require a skill set that, I would venture to say, most IT organizations—large or small—don’t have in-house. Given the fact that Mobile Device Manager 2008, for one, is a new product, with new capabilities being brought to bear, that by definition tells you this a brave new world.

What is the opportunity for the IT organization to partner or outsource with organizations such as Enterprise Mobile, AT&T, or other services providers that may be looking at this as a great new market? How is that model going to work? How is that model working now? What can IT organizations look for in a service provider? What can they expect the experience to be? I’ll open that up to anybody. Go ahead, Bryan … from AT&T.

Smoltz: The first part of that is how are we going to put that together in a way that makes it easier for the customer to get everything they need to begin that process? At CTIA in April, Microsoft announced in conjunction with AT&T the intent to work towards a Microsoft Mobile Services Plan. The idea is that there’s a package from AT&T that includes a number of the elements of access, network optimization, licensing components, and potentially support components that together provide a single price point for a lot of the different pieces that an enterprise may have needed to pull together themselves.

And so a lot of it is bringing to the doorstep something that’s easy to buy, and then the experience that the software delivers to make it very easy from an operational perspective to do what you talked about: integrate mobility into the fabric of your infrastructure, and deploy it. But also, as you need help—and things are going to go wrong along the way as with any large technology project or roll out—that you have the fall-back of one voice from AT&T and Microsoft to help you resolve that problem.

This as opposed to two different organizations with whom you have two different relationships, with two different viewpoints on your mobile deployment and what you’ve done. I think that Microsoft and AT&T have the opportunity to put a single face on for the customer, such that they feel confident they can step toward deployment, and know they’ve got the backing of these two companies to help make them successful.

PressPass: Mort Rosenthal, I’m sure you want to get in on this question, too. What’s the experience like for the IT organization who is going to partner with Enterprise Mobile? Is it the same as AT&T’s approach? Is it different? I imagine there’s going to be different strokes for different folks, and that’s going to be the benefit of having a competitive marketplace for service providers who want to provide services around Mobile Device Manager.

Rosenthal: We have a variety of professional services that are bringing best practices to mobile deployment, whether it be creating the infrastructure of managed mobility, all the way through to designing applications for mobility, and working with ISVs and the like. And then we have an array of managed services that, essentially, take the worry out of mobility by doing everything from deployment through support to depot.

Mobility is a lot more complicated than other technology deployments. You have a relatively orderly environment in the laptop and desktop world, with compatibility and clear ownership for various layers of the overall solution, whether it be hardware platforms, network platforms, the OS, or applications.

In the mobility space it’s different. There are many different players, from the carriers to OEMs to ISVs and the like. And none are accustomed to the requirements of an enterprise for device management, security, and having all the considerations required for deployment.

We work with an enterprise—an IT organization, a business owner, or a business unit owner who is actually the owner of the application—to make sure the deployment goes smoothly, and to make sure the user experience is a good one, with no down time. We make sure the support and ongoing management is not mired in the mobility ecosystem which, as we all know as mobile users, it ain’t easy to get things done in a mobile environment. So we just make it easier by managing everything.

What Mobile Device Choices Do Businesses Have Today?

PressPass: Bryan, when we were talking before the red light went on, you were talking about “choice.” You made the point that on the RIM platform, for Blackberries, there’s a limited number of devices. The Apple iPhone, which AT&T also markets, has one device. On the Windows Mobile 6.1 front, you boiled it down to one word: choice.

When you look at Windows Mobile, it’s the classic Microsoft model. It’s a licensed operating system. Any vendor can play. Any device manufacturer can play. There are myriad devices out there. And you indicated the Windows Mobile model is what’s making devices interesting today. Can you speak to that? What do you mean by “making devices interesting?”

Smoltz: There are a few things, not the least of which are devices like the Samsung BlackJack II and the Pantech Duo from AT&T. These devices have gone from their predecessors, which were sometimes eyesores on the shelf of a retail outlet, to fashion statements. They’re sleek. They’re cool. They have all the things you’d expect from a typical voice handset. But they also have the other capabilities we’ve talked about.

We’re traversing different segments of the marketplace. We’re not just serving the typical mobile pro, who needs their e-mail and to synchronize their personal information. We’re getting into different user communities, from social communicators who may be using our device to get to Facebook, MySpace, and other sites, to executives who are carrying them around with a strong business focus. The Windows Mobile devices, their power, and their price points lend themselves to much wider audience coverage.

What’s the bottom line for it?

PressPass: On that note, I think that about wraps it up. I think we’ve hit all the key questions and issues in the mobile space as they relate to the introduction of Mobile Device Manager 2008, Windows Mobile 6.1, the partner ecosystem, and the needs of the enterprise end users that are driving all of this. Steve Hughes, I’ll give you the opportunity for the last word before we jet out of here.

Hughes: When it comes to mobile clients, IT administrators want to be able to exert the same control they have over their desktop computers to their mobile devices. Hopefully this solution will provide them with those tools to do that.

PressPass: That’s about all the time we have today. I want to thank my guests, Steven Hughes, a Windows Mobile MVP and chief news and reviews editor for; and Bryan Smoltz, the senior director of product marketing for AT&T; and lastly, Mort Rosenthal, the CEO and founder of Enterprise Mobile, who you can find at I want to thank our panelists for spending so much time with us today, and sharing their thoughts and insights. And I want to thank you for tuning in and listening to this PressPass Podcast. Thank you so much, and have a great day. I’m Rich Levin.

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