SAN DIEGO--If you still can't use your own iPhone or Android smartphone for work, things may be changing.
At least, that's the intention of a lot of companies who gathered here this week for the CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference. One of the bigger themes of this year's show was getting businesses to jump on the "bring your own device" bandwagon.
There are a lot of benefits to such a trend. Employees can use the device they pick out, as opposed to a company-issued device that may not be as sexy (read: an old BlackBerry). Companies, meanwhile, no longer have to foot the bill for phones.
But there are a number of risks too. Corporate IT departments--particularly in industries that value the safety of their data--have been reluctant to move in this direction because it could leave valuable corporate spreadsheets, presentations, or other documents in devices that could get lost or stolen. Many are also unaware of how to straddle the line between personal and business use.
The wireless industry acknowledges that IT departments aren't entirely comfortable with the idea. As a result, the show featured a number of announcements designed to make the separation of work and personal life easier for companies and their employees.
"Bringing your own device is an issue for some, but it's also an opportunity for us," said Ki S. Kim, vice president of global enterprise solutions business for LG Electronics' mobile unit.
Many businesses are taking the leap. A survey conducted by research firm 451 Group found 71.2 percent of businesses asked were allowing personal devices to be used for work.
"The use of employee liable smartphones in the enterprise has become so pervasive, that it is driving the rapid adoption of management and security products that allow IT managers to control a device regardless of who owns it," said Chris Hazelton, an analyst at research firm 451 Group.
After much testing, Motorola unit 3LM on Monday officially launched its security and management software for Android phones, which encrypts the content of the phone, allows IT departments to track the device and its work applications, and remotely wipes the phone if it gets lost or stolen. It can also create a secure connection back to the company, also known as a virtual private network.
In conjunction with the news, 3LM announced that Boxtone, which manages mobile devices for business, would be selling its security software as part of its package of services.
Separately, AT&T announced its Toggle feature, which allows a smartphone to have two separate personalities--one featuring corporate data and e-mails, and the other carrying personal contacts.
The service is only available for Android, but AT&T said it would work to expand its availability to other mobile operating systems.
"This provides a 'silo' for consumer apps and services that IT does not need to touch, allowing IT to avoid the privacy and liability concerns that come with managing employee-liable devices," Hazelton said.
Polycom CEO Andy Miller used his keynote address yesterday to show off its recently announced mobile video conferencing application, which can run on the Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Samsung Electronics, meanwhile, launched a new program called Samsung Approved for Enterprise, or SAFE, which would offer more company-friendly services such as encryption, virtual private networks, device management, and a partner with mobile enterprise software provider Sybase.
Gavin Kim, vice president of consumer and enterprise services for Samsung's U.S. mobile unit, said the company would invest in the SAFE brand and that it would appear on the packaging for devices as a seal of approval for corporate use.
LG, meanwhile, used its time at CTIA to show off a number of partners it is working with to add more enterprise-friendly features to its own line of smartphones.
"Original equipment manufacturers have a critical role to play in this," Kim said in an interview.
The notion of split-personality devices is still an awkward one, particularly for individuals used to having it all on one device. Kim said it's up to the handset manufacturers to make the transition a smooth one.
Kim said he was talking to government agencies about the idea of restricting certain applications and data by time and location, so a phone loses its full security access if it leaves the government building or if it gets too late. LG has spent the last year and a half readying a team to tackle this area. It's one of many companies seeking to make a splash in enterprise.
"We saw this trend early, and read it as an opportunity," Kim said.