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Windows Server and System Center: Mobile device management HQ?

Will IT shops soon be using System Center and Windows Server to control and update enterprise applications on employee smartphones and tablets? One analyst thinks that could be the case in the near future.

In a discussion of Microsoft’s enterprise software roadmap for 2012 and beyond last week, Rob Helm, research vice president for analyst firm Directions on Microsoft, suggested that mobile device management would be a particular area of growth in the coming years. This should come as no surprise given the proliferation of “Bring Your Own Device” initiatives within the enterprise that have employees using all manner of mobile devices based on various operating systems.

We can already see some evidence of this growth; System Center Configuration Manager 2012, currently in RC version, builds on Microsoft’s previous device management offerings (including SCCM 2007, and the discontinued Mobile Device Manager). SCCM 2012 supports Android-, iOS-, Windows Phone- and Symbian-based devices (all of which connect to the Exchange ActiveSync protocol) and has a “user-centric” application delivery model that leverages virtual desktop technology to allow for access to the same application on multiple devices, whether or not they have native support.

Helm predicted that this is just the beginning, with System Center eventually being able to update applications directly on devices. Windows Server will also play a role in security. “I think Windows Server in the near future – between now and 2014 – will gain the ability to control encryption of data on mobile devices,” said Helm. This could potentially be done via something like Active Directory Rights Management Services.

Though these updates may ease integration of mobile devices in the enterprise, companies will need to consider how such initiatives affect their bottom line. Companies supporting BYOD may actually be in violation of current Microsoft licensing policies, and in any case may incur substantial per-device fees that make enabling mobile access a costly proposition. “You will have to look more closely at what rights you get for remote access to Microsoft products from mobile devices,” said Helm, advising that per-user licensing (for example, through Office 365) may be the cheapest option for many organizations.

Do you use System Center Configuration Manager for mobile device management? What would you like to see improve? Let us know in the comments, or via Twitter @WindowsTT.

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