Many of the stories here at Mobile World Congress are of devices getting cleverer, cheaper and more attractive, but two companies, at least are looking at the bigger picture: how to manage the content and the sophisticated communication capabilities of multiple devices.
After all, few of us use a smartphone only for business; we use them to manage our everyday lives and to keep up with those of our friends and associates. And most of us are choosing that device for ourselves rather than expecting the company we work for to provide it.
As John Herrema, chief marketing officer of Good Technology, explains: "We dont expect to have to keep an iPhone in our left pocket for work use and a BlackBerry in our right pocket for business use" We want a single smartphone that allows us to do it all."
Increasingly, IT managers are faced with an array of devices and expected to enable corporate email and the integrity of the information flow in and out of the organisation across disparate devices and mobile operating systems. With Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry, Palm, Android and iPhone platforms to contend with, thats a tall order.
This morning RIM, maker of the BlackBerry, announced its take on how small businesses can accomplish this. For BlackBerry users that's BES Express or BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express - a "bring your own device" scenario in which any BlackBerry smartphone can be managed without necessarily requiring the overheads of a dedicated server. Devices likely to contain sensitive business data can have protocols and permissions appropriate to them, while handsets that simply provision access to the shared office calendar and standard email inboxes can be set up accordingly.
RIM's particular excitement about BlackBerry Server Express is that it's offering the service for free. Customers can download and install BES Express on their Microsoft Exchange or Small Business Server, set up the number of client licences they require and take advantage of its simplified management policies and profiles. It can be used with any BlackBerry handset that runs BlackBerry OS 5.0 or better and is suitable for businesses with staff of up to 75 or 100 employees.
Although it doesn't offer the high availability and failover assurances or the behind firewall browsing options of RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server product, BES Express is a neat way for RIM to offer broad support for its portfolio of smartphone handsets without the pricey overheads of a managed service.
Given the profileration of solid email and messaging platforms that RIM now has to contend with, it's a smart move. Overheads are kept low but important office security concerns are dealt with. As RIM's spokesman explained, it allows them to "give BlackBerry to as many people as possible".