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Interviews With Mobile Computing Vendors
- Mobile Automation -

MobileInfo.com Interviews Doug Neal, CEO of Mobile Automation (Interview Conducted in November, 2002) 

Note: The answers are in the words of the interviewer and convey the intent and not necessarily the exact wording of respondent’s answer.

Question #1
Please give us a brief overview of Mobile Automation – its history, product strategy and your progress during the past three years.  To what extent has the current economic climate slowed your progress?


Mobile Automation was started in 1999. I was the founder of the company. I came from Norton where I had felt that systems management needs of mobile devices were not being looked after.  I had an IT management perspective where we wanted to solve the problems faced by an IT manager. So we designed a software system that would be deployed in both an enterprise environment or as a service by a network data center.

We wanted to address the requirements of mobile devices from a small workgroup to a large enterprise with thousands of mobile devices. We started with PC laptops but now support a majority of handheld devices.

We started with basic management functions – asset management and software distribution. Now we have five modules in the suite, including security and have recently concluded an agreement with Starfish to utilize its TrueSync synchronization software.

We have made significant progress during the past two years and now have over 70 customers with 250,000 seats managed by our software. Current economic climate has affected our operation but our business continues to move forward.

Question #2. 
Tell us about your MA 2000 product – in terms of its functionality depth and breadth.  Is it a management tool or an application development tool? 


Our product - Mobile Lifecycle Management platform is essentially a suite that has five modules:

1.       Mobile Discovery Manager – allows us to discover configuration characteristics of mobile assets automatically

2.       Mobile Systems Manager – systems monitoring functionality

3.       Mobile Migration Manager – software version upgrades

4.       Mobile Security Manager – allows central site systems personnel to audit and enforce compliance to security policies. 

5.       Mobile Support Manager – provides help desk type of support services

MA 2000Mobile Automation's Secure Management Platform is essentially a management platform that supports mobile application lifecycle deployment.

Question #3.
Explain life cycle management as your product platform theme? How do you do it differently? Can you also elaborate on discovery feature?


Our product suite theme “lifecycle” signifies functionality from early stages of mobile deployment to on going systems management. This suite includes asset discovery, security policy management, software updates and centralized support services. The discovery feature allows network support staff to automatically discover hardware and software configuration settings, device type, memory, software version level, etc.. Security function can be used to delete software after specified number of unsuccessful logon attempts.

Question #4.
What sets Mobile Automation apart in the market – what are your key differentiators?  Who are your major competitors?


We can say that the following three differentiators set us apart:

  • Breadth of our suite

  • Scalability - thousands of devices

  • Ease of Use – one customer installed our software for 6000 devices in three days, without formal training.

Question #5. 
Can you give us an idea of your growth – number of employees, number of paying customers and number of seats/units your software manages?


As of now, we have around 45 employees, 70 customers and 250,000 seats managed by our software. We have doubled our revenue base every year for the past three years.

Question #6.
Are you breaking even? Are you well-funded? Will you be able to survive if market takes another one year to turn around?


We are sufficiently funded and our growth is currently being funded from our revenue stream.  We have doubled our revenue year after year for the past three years.

Question #7.
What is the connection between synchronization and asset management? Why have most vendors in this space integrated these two functions? Does synchronization not belong to the database vendor’s functional space?


Synchronization is a related functionality that is often required for software distribution to ensure that client application software in mobile devices is at the same version level as at the central host site. We have announced a partnership with Starfish to use its TrueSync synchronization software within our suite.

Question #8.
If IDC research and Gartner state TCO of a mobile device is $2500 per year, why are we unable to sell millions of seats? 


TCO consists of several cost components. Management portion constitutes around 10% generally. Therefore, we impact a relatively smaller portion. We do not find it difficult to justify investment in systems management but allocating and finding capital dollars in present economic climate is challenging for IT managers. In fact, if you consider, it is the risk of losing important corporate information that is at risk. Cost of losing data is very high.

Question #9.
How big is this market? Who are the four major players?  How many user seats do you claim to have? What is Mobile Automation’s market share?

IDC has estimated that the mobile systems management market is around $200 million, growing at a rate of $47% to $750 million in 2006.

We face competitors like XcelleNet, Synchrologic, Novadigm and Altiris. We do not compete directly with IBM’s Tivoli, HP’s Openview or CA’s Unicentre. Our software generally works well along with these enterprise management packages in a complimentary fashion. In fact, a division of HP has standardized on our software. Aether is also one of our resellers. We do provide more granularity and functionality in terms of mobile devices as compared to enterprise systems from IBM, HP and CA.

Question #10.
Wireless & mobile computing market has gone though a difficult time. It has had several false starts. What is your sense of the market picking up now?


Market is no doubt difficult at this time. Sales cycle is much longer. Customers realize that they have to solve the problem sooner or later. The real challenge for them is when to budget for mobile projects and systems management. We are seeing increased activity in the vertical industry sector. 

Question #11.
Finally our industry has more startups than established companies. There is an inherent danger in picking the right startup for a lasting and reliable relationship. What advice can you give to our subscribers and your customers while selecting their suppliers of core technologies?


While vendor viability is an issue in a technology acquisition decision, the customers should evaluate which solution can give them the best functionality and quickest return on investment. They can realize ROI with our software within 2 to 3 months. Even more established vendors (as an example Peregrine) can run into financial difficulty.

MobileInfo Advisory and Comments: Mobile Automation’s MA 2000 Lifecycle Management suite appears to be well-designed mobile management platform. It has comprehensive functionality covering mobile deployment lifecycle from initial asset discovery stage through software distribution to ongoing helpdesk support function in operational phase. Its discovery function is quite useful to collect accurate configuration information from remote devices in an automatic fashion. Among the vendors in this space, Mobile Automation’s package is unique because it provides security feature also that allows administrators to monitor compliance to security policies of the enterprise.

Mobile Automation has been able to market its suite to over 70 Fortune 2000 customers and double its revenue base every year since 1999. With 250,000 seats managed by its software, it translates into 3000 seats per customer. This is a creditable achievement.

We suggest enterprise IT professionals should evaluate MA’s Lifecycle Management Suite in the context of their mobile systems management requirements.

Note: All comments in this interview are the property of MobileInfo.Com website. They may not be reproduced without written permission from us.

Related Resources:
> MobileInfo.Com's Interview Index 
> Mobile Automation home page 


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