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HP launches mobile management app, notebook PCs coming

HP is showing off its mobile story with upcoming notebook PCs and a cloud-based mobile management app that supports iOS, Android and Windows platforms.

Despite IT's need for a simplified mobile management app, the latest offering from HP Inc. has work to do before the enterprise commits. 

HP Inc. is also expected to refresh its EliteBook and 2-in-1 notebook lineup in January, according to sources close to the company. Other reported enhancements include a chipset upgrade using Intel's Core M 14 nanometer mobile processor and a variety of configurations that will hit low to high-end price points, sources said.

Mobile devices based on Core M, formerly code-named Broadwell, will have longer battery life yet be in a smaller, thinner form factor. Companies such as Lenovo are already incorporating Core M into their new products.

The lack of a cohesive mobile story has been one of HP's greatest weaknesses but the split between HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise should help it make up some lost ground, industry analysts said.

HP Inc.'s mobile management app, HP Touchpoint Manager, launched this week. The HP Touchpoint Manager provides IT admins in small to medium-sized businesses an easy-to-use Web-based tool designed to manage mobile devices and provide organizations with the security it needs to protect corporate data.

While industry observers think HP's target to hit small and midsize markets along with its existing customer base is a strong ploy, the product competes with the likes of Dell, VMware AirWatch, MobileIron, IBM and others.

"When a market starts to commoditize, a lot of people can play and it becomes a feature as opposed to a product," said Patrick Moorhead, founder and president for Moor Insights & Strategy, based in Austin, Texas, which beta tested Touchpoint Manager. "This is a great opportunity [for HP] to leverage their base of customers. Software and service margins compared to hardware margins are really good. For HP to make it a good business, they only need to price [the service] slightly above the hardware margins."

Touchpoint Manager is designed to run with a variety of client devices including Google Android, Apple iOS and Microsoft Windows. It includes features such as security and firewall protection, remote lock and data wipe capabilities, local password reset and others.

"It's a glorified yet simplified [mobile device management] that has been added to a PC management solution so you can support three platforms," said Brian Katz, director of mobile innovation for a large pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey. It is a good start but HP has a lot more work to do in mobile, he said.

Where is HP's containerization?

The platform represents the first of what HP promises to be more add-ons. However, one piece not included in the first version is the ability to containerize personal and corporate data, which for many business users is an important feature.

HP is trying to simplify the process for organizations with small IT shops who want a mobile management app, said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst, TECHnalysis Research LLC, based in Foster City, Calif. Although he said the service was well thought out, the lack of "containerization is a big deal. That's not something you can just kind of slouch off."

The issue concerns some end users, especially if they lose their mobile device and their business has the authority to wipe out the corporate and personal data to protect company files. HP will get there but neither Microsoft nor Google have containerization right now, either, Moorhead said. The End User Licensing Agreement for wiping and removing data must be spelled out large and bold, he said.

Despite the lack of containerization, analysts said it would not hinder HP's mobile management play. Many mobile devices are connected to cloud-based storage systems such as Apple iCloud, Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox or others and these can serve as backup for personal data.

"This is a first-generation product that meets a particular need and then evolves [over] multiple generations," said Tim Bajarin, president, Creative Strategies Inc., based in San Jose, Calif. "It would be wrong for HP to actually overpromise and underdeliver. I believe that is what's at stake here."

Touchpoint Manager pricing, availability

Touchpoint Manager will be installed on 69 device types by the end of December and available through HP channel partners and on the Web. The service is expected to be preinstalled on the forthcoming EliteBooks.

HP will enhance the service with more capabilities in the future. It will also add more services, like warranty extensions and HP care packs. Containerization is on the product roadmap, a company spokesperson said.

Pricing for HP Touchpoint Manager starts at $2 per user per month, which includes basic fleet management capabilities. Enhanced features such as those providing IT admins the ability to conduct a remote wipe on lost or stolen devices cost $10 per user per month.

HP is now offering a six-month free promotion for basic service and a 50% discount of $5 per user per month for the fully featured version. Both subscriptions support up to five devices per user.

For HP Touchpoint to work in any business, end users who want to use their BYOD device for work have to voluntarily agree to have an agent placed on their device to enroll in the program. It's an issue that smaller businesses struggle with, especially if employees want to use their own personal Android or iOS device for work.

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Do you think HP can compete in the mobile management space?
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I think it's got a good shot given its existing customer base and the promise of more features coming down the pike. If the initial release of Touchpoint is all there is, then it won't hold on to those customers for long, but I think there are enough organizations who have not yet integrated with a mobile management system and would at least consider HP. 
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