Mobile management companies team up to boost developers, and themselves

The new App Config Community aims to help developers configure their apps for enterprise management

Four major independent vendors in the enterprise mobility management space are teaming up to make their products more appealing to customers by encouraging developers to use system-level mobile device management capabilities rather than proprietary tools. 

IBM, VMware, MobileIron and JAMF Software announced Tuesday that they have teamed up to create the App Config Community — a consortium of enterprise mobility management (EMM) companies all interested in making it easier for enterprises to configure applications using mobile device management software.

The four companies are all competitors, but they’re working together in an attempt to get developers to standardize behind using operating system-level tools to integrate with their management software. In this case, they’re starting by encouraging developers to use the remote application configuration features built into iOS. 

Ojas Rege, MobileIron's vice president of strategy, said in an interview that the goal was to help developers, who their companies see as key to the adoption of enterprise mobility management software. 

“The developer being successful is good for all of us, because the more applications that get deployed in the enterprise, the more business process moves to this new generation of mobile devices and tablets, the better for all of our businesses,” Rege said in an interview.

The community includes not only the four competing EMM vendors but also a group of over 60 application developers that have agreed to take part with the aim to make their programs more interoperable with a wide variety of mobility management providers.

As part of the community, the participating companies will also be encouraged to use a new XML schema released Tuesday to try and standardize the options applications make available through iOS’s managed app configuration tools. Apps that use the schema will be able to know that configuring their app should work the same way across the four EMM providers that are a part of the new consortium.

It’s a re-branding of the App Configuration for Enterprise (ACE) consortium that VMware launched last year through its AirWatch brand. VMware intended for it to be a more broadly open community, but Mimi Spier, a senior director of marketing and strategy at the firm, said that the company’s fellow EMM vendors felt like the ACE brand was too tied in with AirWatch. The new App Config Community is a fresh start that should be more welcoming to a broader variety of players. 

“The other EMMs felt like because we were the only EMM at ACE, even though it was supposed to be a neutral organization, the brand was very much connected to the Airwatch [and] VMware brand,” Spier said. "So we really wanted to come out with something that felt neutral, that felt like we all were coming together, and doing this in that way."

That said, there are still some advantages to the App Config Community’s ACE pedigree. Airwatch’s program had massive buy in from developers, including key players like Salesforce and Box, which are all now participants in the App Config Community. 

Even though the companies see operating system-based security as the clear path forward, don’t expect them to get rid of their proprietary software development kits any time soon. Rege said that while the systems baked into iOS offer a good starting point, developers will need to use vendor-specific SDKs to reach certain edge cases. 

What remains to be seen is if this rebranding and show of support will also draw in companies other than the four that already signed up to be a part of the new community. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson said in a post to his blog that App Config isn’t enough to provide a full-featured enterprise mobility management solution, in a not-too-subtle dig at the community before it launched. 

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Blair Hanley Frank

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