Why can’t you login to your smartphone? You can password protect them (either set by the user or required by an enterprise administrator), but why can’t you log into them?
I got started in the mobile apps world many years ago. RIM hired me to be a mobile apps evangelist for AT&T’s customers. I worked with mobile apps at BoxTone and in my current role at AT&T I work with mobile application platforms that allow organizations to build one application that runs natively on multiple mobile device platforms. Over the years, the whole mobile apps story got easier and easier – organizations were getting over their concerns about mobile apps and actually starting to do something interesting with them.
Unfortunately now that Enterprises have to deal with the iPhone and Android platforms, many organizations have essentially put the kibosh on applications initiatives while they figure out the whole mobile device management (MDM) thing.
I’ve been in meetings and conference sessions lately that deal with device management and it’s clearly something that organizations are struggling with. BlackBerry shops have it easy since the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) takes care of so many of the things IT and Security departments require, but with today’s proliferation of device types, the BES isn’t enough. With this week’s announcement of RIM’s acquisition of Ubitexx, it’s possible that RIM can solve this problem – who knows.
What’s interesting though is how the ultimate solution to most organization’s mobile device management problems is clearly known, but it’s impossible for third party software developers (such as the market’s MDM providers) to implement. The ultimate solution has to be a core part of the device operating system, not an add-on that has to work around existing API’s and device limitations. What smartphone manufacturers have to do is provide the means for the smartphone users to have the ability to define distinct logins for multiple users on the device.
For the enterprise, an enterprise aware smartphone would have the means to allow the user to have a personal login (with access to all of your personal data and accounts) and another separate corporate login with access to work-specific information (data, applications and accounts). As the user logs into either account, he or she is exposed to only the data that’s associated with the account. This makes perfect sense – give me complete separation between my work and personal activities and most of the enterprise’s concerns go away.
The phone would have to support managing multiple phone numbers, but that technology exists already today. The user would have their personal phone number associated with one account and a work mobile number or a work mobile and office numbers associated with the enterprise login. When the phone rings, the device would have to be able to switch on the fly to the personality associated with the phone number that’s ringing or at least be able to access the caller ID information (from the address book) stored with the account associated with the phone number so it can be displayed to the user.
Common applications (such as email, calendar, contacts and more) can be shared across multiple logins, but individual custom apps could be installed in a private memory area. There would be no common data shared between logins though except perhaps log files.
The same feature can be used to make tablets more useful as well. It makes no sense for consumers why tablet manufacturers don’t allow devices to have multiple accounts. Any family with an Android tablet should be able to define multiple accounts and easily switch between them. That way, I can setup my preferences and account information (mail, facebook, linkedin and more) and when my wife or one of my children logs into the device they see their individual settings instead of mine. Why isn’t that possible?
Clearly it’s a direct decision made by device manufacturers – these tablets are so popular and sexy, but limiting this capability forces people to buy more tablets. I have one, my wife would have one and each child would need one too. Implementing multiple logins, while completely possible, would result in reduced sales for the device manufacturers. That’s ultimately what’s keeping manufacturers from implementing this in my opinion.
What would have to change in order to support this feature I’m describing? Well, devices would need more memory; I’m guessing twice as much. There wouldn’t need to be changes in the processing power and battery for the device, it’s still doing the same amount of work. I imagine when you login to a second account, the applications being executed under the first login would need to be suspended or terminated. Everything else stays the same, right?
Carriers benefit since the device will be provisioned with multiple mobile numbers, so there’s increased revenue for the carriers.
Let’s start lobbying the device manufacturers for this capability. It makes so much more sense than what we have today. I’d love to be able to share an iPad with my wife and family.