MDM market consolidation: Coming to a vendor near you?

Mobile device management is about to undergo major market consolidation. IT pros worry about the effect on their relationships with MDM vendors.

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The BYOD trend has led to an explosion of mobile device management software start-ups, which in turn has led to speculation that MDM is about to see a rise in market consolidation.

Symantec Corp. acquired Nukona, Inc., a mobile application control vendor, and Odyssey Software, Inc., a mobile device management (MDM) vendor, earlier this month. The two companies’ technologies will be used to enhance Symantec’s mobile market strategy.

Last fall, Numera Software, Inc., a Houston, Texas-based PC lifecycle management provider, acquired Fromdistance, an MDM software provider. It was the first major MDM market acquisition, signifying the market consolidation that may be to come.

Though companies in the position to acquire others, including Symantec, assure customers that the acquisitions won’t affect the market negatively, IT pros look at market consolidation with cautious eyes.

“Guys like me worry that the software or service will no longer exist individually and/or will be rolled into a different software,” said Andre Preoteasa, director of IT at Castle Brands, Inc., a New York City-based alcohol distribution company. 

Acquisitions are particularly problematic when a well-liked product is bought by a company that IT pros don’t like, he added.

Whether customers like it or not, more market consolidation is sure to happen in the next few years. According to Shayne Higdon, a senior vice president at Quest Software, Inc., market consolidation will be because large companies need a well-rounded product base to compete, and acquiring small MDM vendors fills gaps.

Quest considered acquiring Nukona but decided against it, with Nukona’s lack of a significant customer base playing a part in the decision, Higdon said. Quest ultimately decided to build its own MDM product in-house.    

It became clear to Symantec about a year ago that customers would need MDM software and that big companies would acquire small MDM vendors or those vendors would “fade into the distance,” said Brian Duckerling, Symantec’s senior manager of product marketing.

There are a number of small, innovative MDM vendors that are ripe for acquisition today, including AirWatch, Fiberlink, SOTI, BoxTone, MobileIron and Zenprise, according to a blog post by Ovum’s Richard Absalom.

The problem that comes when bigger companies buy their way into budding technology markets is that they can ultimately hinder innovation and customer service, said Dave Sobel, director of partner community at Level Platforms, a management software vendor based in Ottawa, Ontario.

More on MDM vendors

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“Whatever road leads to innovation is the best one,” Sobel said. “Smaller companies are nimbler, and I think they innovate easier. At the same time you would never criticize Microsoft for buying SQL Server, for example. That’s worked out great for everyone.”

When a larger software company buys a smaller one, what matters is the product’s importance to the organization, Preoteasa said.

In any case, IT pros should thoroughly research the MDM vendors they use and always have an alternative option, experts said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @slyoyster on Twitter,

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