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Google Buys Into MDM

Google announced yesterday that it is acquiring cloud-based MDM supplier Divide for an undisclosed sum. Divide was reportedly founded by former Morgan Stanley IT executives Andrew Toy, Alexander Trewby and mobile security expert David Zhu. Google Ventures had been a backer along with Comcast Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Genacast Ventures, and others. The company's primary distinguishing characteristic seems to be that no one has ever heard of them.

The MDM market has been in turmoil for the past few years, with most of the major suppliers being acquired. A quick recap: SAP bought Sybase, BlackBerry bought ubitexx, Citrix bought Zenprise, Symantec bought Odyssey, IBM bought Fiberlink, and, most recently, VMWare bought AirWatch. Of the major players in the MDM space, only MobileIron and Good Technologies are still independent.

Divide appears to have a rather limited offering, supporting only Android (Rel. 2.3 and up) and iOS (Rel. 6.0 and up). The majors support those along with Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry as well as Windows and OS X. The company offers a free personal version of the product, and the enterprise version costs $5 per device per month. Both offer a secure container, FIPS 140-2 compliance with 256-bit encryption, remote lock and wipe, and device location. The enterprise version adds remote management, IT policy enforcement, app deployment, and other features.

The big question going forward is, what will Google do with Divide? While devices with Google's Android operating system outsell Apple's iOS devices four-to-one worldwide, Apple still continues to dominate in the enterprise environment. Fiberlink recently reported that the devices supported on its platform are 72% iOS and 26% Android; BlackBerry had 2%.

Google is not the only one looking to raise Android's presence in the enterprise. Samsung has introduced its own secure container capability with its KNOX offering, the 2.0 version of which is hitting the market in mid-year. KNOX still requires an MDM platform to work, and the company has partnered with AirWatch, MobileIron, Sybase and Fiberlink, among others.

We have to assume that Google will position Divide with its enterprise offerings, though its free version could be part of Google's consumer offerings as well. However, in its current state, Divide has a long way to go to catch up with what the majors are offering.

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