AirWatch CEO John Marshall: On Gartner’s EMM Quadrant, competition, and cooperation

AirWatch CEO John Marshall: On Gartner’s EMM Quadrant, competition, and cooperation

AirWatch CEO John Marshall: On Gartner’s EMM Quadrant, competition, and cooperation

0 comments 📅08 January 2014, 02:45

AirWatch CEO John Marshall: On Gartner’s EMM Quadrant, competition, and cooperation

Earlier this week, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for enterprise mobility management (EMM) – formerly mobile device management (MDM) – hit the stands. With such a rapidly maturing market, the analysts felt they had to act to stay relevant, and there were a few casualties along the way.

For the fourth year running however, AirWatch, Good Technology and MobileIron found space in the Leaders section. There is a fundamental difference between the former and the latter two: while AirWatch was snapped up by VMware at the beginning of this year, Good and MobileIron have decided to go it alone, both filing IPOs in recent months.

John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, explains to Enterprise AppsTech that as organisations become more strategic in their mobility rollouts, a consistently high performing vendor becomes ever more valuable.

“You don’t want to bet this mission critical operation on somebody that hasn’t proven their salt, so to speak, over the last few years,” he says. “Not only have we been consistent, we’ve continued to be in that very top section – and I think that gives not only customers but prospects a lot of confidence.”

There are different methods analyst houses use in getting their results, from Gartner’s Quadrants to Horses for Sources’ winners circles. In reality though, are companies truly betting millions based on what a few analysts say?

Marshall gives the executives’ viewpoint on these documents, saying they help “sort through the clutter.”

“As an executive you get bombarded with lots of different types of technology,” he explains. “As opposed to trying to look at 100 vendors…maybe they at least help you whittle it down to 10 or 15 and then you can base the judgment on the most relevant characteristics.”

Even if a mature audience may be tempted to scoff, there are undeniably elements which will help execs in emerging markets.

“In the Middle East, Latin America, Asia Pacific, maybe where companies are just investigating this for the first time…as a first time reference it again helps understand who the players are, and a little bit about them,” Marshall argues.

“I truly believe companies need to make their own decisions, they need to do their own valuations, they need to pick the right solution for them, but this essentially just gives them a roadmap,” he adds.

The big headline from the release of the Quadrant concerned the change to EMM from MDM. The analysts recognise the trend a year or so after AirWatch did, and that suits Marshall just fine.

“I think the timing is appropriate,” he argues. “We worked very hard three years ago to make more of a platform play, with apps, content, email, and browsing.

“You could have said [Gartner] should have been here a year ago…but if it was, I think we were one of a few to have gone to a broader platform.

“It might have been a scarce chart,” he adds.

Naturally, not everyone is happy. BlackBerry president of enterprise services John Sims fired off a blog post in the report’s aftermath criticising the analyst house for solidifying the “disconnect between the market perception about BlackBerry and the reality of [their] capabilities today and in the near future.”

Regular readers of Enterprise AppsTech will be aware that the beginning of CEO John Chen’s premiership involved various rallying calls to shift the company’s struggling reputation and concentrate on its traditional strengths in the enterprise space.

“Gartner’s MQ process has been unable to keep pace with the speed of change and innovation at which BlackBerry is moving,” Sims wrote.

One of these misconceptions was that BlackBerry could only manage BlackBerry devices. The Canadian firm opened up its BB10 OS last month, with AirWatch expressing an interest in a collaboration.

“We have a lot of customers that still have BlackBerry,” Marshall argues. “I think John Chen is actually trying to take small incremental steps, to do the right thing in terms of the ecosystem.

“I think it’s a good thing for our industry, listening to our customers, and it’s not dissimilar in any way to already working, for instance, with Microsoft, where we may compete, but we also cooperate on many terms,” he adds.

A cynical mind could argue here that it’s much easier to offer an olive branch when you’re the market leader. Marshall duly acknowledges this. “We’re fortunate to be in a position of market leadership where not only is it relevant for our customers, but it’s relevant to cooperate and work together as those APIs are opened up,” he says.

BlackBerry placed in the niche players section of the 2014 Quadrant. Spare a thought then for McAfee and Kaspersky, who were bounced out of the Quadrant altogether.

The race at the top, however, is still well and truly joined, with AirWatch leading on execution and MobileIron top on completeness of vision. Yet the difference in approach as these companies mature is stark.

Ian Evans, AirWatch EMEA MD, told Enterprise AppsTech in January that going to IPO was arguably the route the execs felt was the right one. Six months on, Marshall notes this, yet adds Good and MobileIron were “painted into a corner” where there was no more VC money and no more companies interested in buying out, so the IPO was the only way to go.

Even though he notes “this is a time when a company can get out and go public,” he paints a bleak picture. “Companies, once they go IPO, traditionally have two or three quarters of revenue that they sort of smooth out and put in the bank, so to speak,” Marshall says.

“The real test is going to be in three, four, five quarters, and that’s when you start to really hit the pains.”

Marshall cites geographic clout as a key indicator. “VMware has 250 people in Japan. They have 1000 people in China,” he says. “It will be very hard in a year for somebody like Good or MobileIron to invest in that level where they can have the support, the infrastructure, the partner maturity, all those skill sets to truly be able to compete at that next level.”

Yet he admits: “If it was all small companies still, we would probably be going IPO as well.

“I think it will be very hard for an independent company, given the price points of this market, to make the investments and not have the tremendous losses so that a year from now they can be in a competitive position.”

Marshall envisages a future where major vendors dominate the space, having finally caught up with mobility.

“I think one of the real unique things that’s happened in our space is the transition and that pivot…the big guys recognising that they to a certain extent underinvested in mobility. Everybody woke up and realised how important it was,” he says.

“Standalone companies did a good job of maturing the space, but here’s the bigger challenge: the price points in this space are very competitive, and what that will mean is, especially when you have lots of big players that have a lot of platforms, over time this will absolutely just become part of an overall enterprise agreement, or a bigger PC strategy, or an overall platform approach.

“The bottom line is, as a vendor, you could either go into denial and say you’re going to be able to fight somebody like Microsoft and IBM, or you can say ‘you know what, the space is changing – what’s the right stuff for my customers and business partners?’

“You can’t fight that,” he adds.

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