Laptops to be managed more like mobiles: AirWatch CEO

VMware integration to aid AirWatch expansion into laptops, Internet of Things

AirWatch CEO John Marshall addresses Connect attendees in Sydney.

AirWatch CEO John Marshall addresses Connect attendees in Sydney.

Integration with VMware will help AirWatch expand its mobile device management (MDM) to laptops and the Internet of Things, according to AirWatch CEO John Marshall

VMware added MDM to its portfolio with the acquisition of AirWatch for US$1.54 billion in January 2014. At the AirWatch Connect conference in Sydney, Marshall said many vendors approached Airwatch about an acquisition, but VMware appeared best aligned with his company's vision.

“When VMware came, we actually thought they were a little bit different. We would have been swallowed by a lot of the services firms, and maybe not a good fit. But VMware is an incredibly strong technology company,” Marshall said.

“As we saw the space morphing, we saw all the sudden this huge push where this overall enterprise mobility theme was becoming much more relevant to laptops,” as well as the Internet of Things, he said.

Marshall predicted that over the next 12 to 24 months there will be a “huge shift” in how laptops are managed.

The VMware integration will allow AirWatch to expand its focus from smartphones and tablets to include management of laptops – including both Windows and Mac platforms – alongside the other mobile devices, said Marshall. AirWatch users will be able to push down applications and device policies – such as Windows Update and firewall settings – to the laptop.

“We feel like there’s a huge opportunity with laptops to have a phenomenal story with Mac and Windows and then being able to tie in the virtual desktop and desktop-as-a-service from VMware.”

Marshall said that laptops have changed in a post-PC world to be more like mobile devices. About two and a half years ago, Apple began aligning Mac profiles to be more like iOS profiles. Meanwhile, since Windows 8.1, Microsoft has opened PCs to greater management, he said.

In addition, Marshall said now is a good time to expand to laptops because many companies are entering their next PC refresh cycle.

“Companies that are going to be refreshing in the back half of next year are really going to be thinking not about the PCs that go on the factory floor, but ... their sales teams, their corporate executives [and] their knowledge workers.”

On the VMware relationship, Marshall said AirWatch is “not doing integration for integration’s sake.”

“We’re basically doing smart things that make a lot of sense where we can create real value. And the number one use case that we’re hearing from customers is they want deploy Macs and they want to be able to get access to those Windows applications on those Macs.”

Marshall noted that VMware has been doing a lot of work with virtualization on Google Chromebooks so that users can access Windows apps. However, he said it’s mostly the education sector looking at those devices and even there it’s early days.

On the Internet of Things, Marshall said he doesn’t want to be like some other companies who he said have approached the trend as “top-down marketing puffery, where you can’t quantify what it is.”

“Our approach has really been more of a blue-collar approach of [helping] customers that are doing things, where we can add value,” he said.

AirWatch has started to pick up customers in the healthcare space that are working with medical IoT devices, he noted.

“We’re really approaching it tactically [on a] customer and operating system level, and then figuring out as we go how to productise that into something bigger and more powerful. I feel like that’s the only way to kind of make traction because otherwise you’re just looking at a blank whiteboard saying, ‘What does this mean? What are we going to do?’”

Read more: VMware again lets users run virtualised desktops locally with Flex

“It’s still early days,” he added. “Is it well monetised? No, but we’re doing a lot of foundation work.”

AirWatch now has 1500 Australia customers and more than 14,000 customers worldwide, Marshall said. Globally, AirWatch has doubled its number of customers over the past 14 months, he said.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags mobile device management (MDM)AirWatchmobilityInternet of ThingslaptopsmobileVMware

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