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MobileIron gives enterprise IT more control over employee smartphones

Smartphones continue to proliferate in large, “enterprise”-size companies, but those phones aren’t well-integrated into enterprise IT, says Bob Tinker, chief executive of a startup called MobileIron. He thinks MobileIron (which boasts several impressive venture backers) is going to change that.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company is launching its Virtual SmartPhone Platform today, which purportedly creates a virtualized version of every employee’s smartphone that runs on the company’s data center. On the employee side, the phone works as normal. On the IT side, there’s more information and control over how each smartphone is used.

There are several benefits to this approach, Tinker says. For one thing, IT sees who employees are calling and how much it costs, and in real-time, rather than waiting for a bill at the end of the month.  The platform also allows the company to collect more data about how the phones (and especially the carrier) are performing — again, in real-time. Lastly, it allows a company to create a clear division between personal applications/data and work-related applications/data. So if an employee uses their personal phone for work, they can install work-related tools, then only those tools will be deleted when they leave. (I’d imagine that if employees are using their own phones, rather than company phones, some of these features may lead to grumbling about privacy.)

In concept, this sounds similar to what Intel is trying to do with a research project called its Clone Cloud, but Tinker notes that MobileIron actually has a product on the market, as well as customers such as Windsor Foods and law firm Fenwick and West. (He also uses the oft-repeated startup argument that big-company competition “validates” the startup’s approach.)

MobileIron has raised $8.8 million in from well-known venture firms Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, and Storm Ventures.

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