Era of the PC has Ended, According to Gartner

— November 06, 2012

Over the next five years, 65% of enterprises will adopt a mobile device management (MDM) solution for their corporate liable users, according to Gartner, Inc. With the increased functionality of smartphones, and the increasing popularity of tablets, much of the network traffic and corporate data that was once the primary domain of enterprise PCs is now being shifted to mobile devices.

Gartner analysts discussed the growing importance of mobile device management at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. "The era of the PC has ended. Employees are becoming more mobile and looking for ways to still be connected wherever work needs to be done," said Phil Redman, research vice president at Gartner. "The convenience and productivity gains that mobile devices bring are too tempting for most companies and their employees. Securing corporate data on mobile devices is a big challenge, but one that companies must embrace. Enterprises are struggling with how to support and secure this dynamic workforce."

Multiple OSes in Majority of Companies

Gartner predicts that through 2017, 90% of enterprises will have two or more mobile operating systems to support. In the past year, many companies have moved to Apple's iOS as their main mobile device platform, with others to follow over the next 12 to 18 months. As enterprises continue to offer multiplatform support, and new platforms — such as Windows 8 — continue to emerge, MDM needs will continue to grow.

As one of the fastest-growing enterprise devices in the past 18 months, tablets are a further driving force for enterprises adopting MDM. Most companies and users are supporting the tablet for limited usage, typically for email and personal information management (PIM) functions. However, users are pushing for more enterprise applications to be supported on the tablet, usually through either enterprise or application provider development. As more of these native apps become available, and as remote access technology improves, more enterprise content will be stored on these devices. Users are already synchronizing corporate content into public clouds for later retrieval on the devices.

"The rapid influx of users bringing their own consumer mobile devices that demand access to corporate resources presents challenges to organizations," said Redman. "However, by implementing a structured support system with varied support levels, IT organizations can shield business information and enforce policies about data movement between the device and the corporate network, while enabling users to adopt the device they deem most appropriate. Organizations will find it hard to achieve an efficient mobile support system if all platforms are not managed the same way under enterprise requirements. Like PCs, mobile devices are forms of client access devices, and the policies for them should be similar in strength but optimized for mobile usage, to those governing PCs."

Gartner believes that mobile device proliferation is inevitable and the only way that IT staff can maintain control is by separating mobile computing devices into three distinct device classes: trusted standard devices provided by the company, tolerated devices and non-supported devices. In this scenario, users are given a predefined list of supported technologies in each class, along with a budget for the projected amount that each selection consumes. Users can optimize the technologies according to their requirements, without exceeding the budget. Expense limits and spending caps by individuals bypass the need to rely on subjective interpretations of "reasonable use."

"This is just the start for MDM. More data is being put on mobile devices, and enterprises are fast developing their own applications to support their mobile users. As mobile devices continue to displace traditional PCs, enterprises will look to their existing MDM systems to support more devices and enterprise applications and data," said Redman. "MDM vendors are moving beyond security, to support enterprise and third-party applications, data and content. In the next two years, we will continue to see MDM platforms broaden out and become more enterprise mobile system management platforms, not just for devices alone."

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