As CITEworld noted at the beginning of the holiday shopping season, a surge in mobile device sales during the season is likely to translate to a growing range of devices and platforms that IT professionals need to secure, manage, and integrate into BYOD programs. One of the newest challenges may come in the form of Amazon's Kindle Fire HD.
While Amazon still refuses to release sales data for Kindle devices, the company has said that the Kindle Fire HD was its biggest seller this season. The company backed up that claim with a range of data that showed Cyber Monday was a record-setter for Kindle sales overall. Christmas Day saw a record of 23 million downloads of Amazon's digital content, including movies, TV shows, e-books, and apps.
The Kindle Fire HD is technically an Android tablet, but for practical purposes it's better to think of it as almost a completely different platform. It doesn't sport the traditional Android interface, setup process, or access to the Google Play store. That means that integrating it into enterprise systems will be different than integrating Android devices.
The good news is that Amazon has layered some enterprise capabilities into the latest generation of its tablet and seems determined to make life somewhat easier for IT departments that must support it.
The company has actually been very shrewd in the enterprise management and integration capabilities that the Kindle Fire HD (and the Kindle Fire 2) offer. In fact, you can argue that Amazon beats Apple in its approach to some enterprise challenges, most notably app and content distribution. The company has also built its own Kindle-specific mobile management system called Whispercast that any company or school can use for free. For companies that want to go with a more streamlined mobile management process, several mobile management vendors include support for Amazon's tablets.
For IT departments that already have an established relationship with one or more mobile management vendors, adding Kindle management may be relatively easy. Amazon notes that several companies offer mobile management agents in its Android App Store, the only app market that Kindle devices are allowed to access. Simply searching with the term MDM delivers a handful of mobile management players including AirWatch, MaaS360, and Zenprise.
For departments working with existing solutions that offer no Kindle Fire support, the free Whispercast solution provides core mobile management functionality. The system is particularly well-designed for distributing digital content from Amazon, such as apps and e-books. Whispercast can also be used to push other content like Office documents to devices.
One obvious reason that Amazon designed Whispercast to make purchasing and distributing content effortless is that doing so meets the needs of schools and colleges moving to electronic textbooks. Although Apple and Google provide similar purchase and distribution systems via the iOS App Store and Google Play, Whispercast has a much more streamlined and holistic approach. That simplicity combined with a range of inexpensive tablets and e-book readers could give Apple a serious run for its money in the education sector. It's also worth noting that Whispercast treats the Kindle reader app on iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Macs, and PCs as a device to which it can send e-books and documents.
While Whispercast is great for deploying apps and content, it offers a somewhat limited range of management and security features.
- Unlock/device passcode requirements
- Wi-Fi configuration and proxy settings
- The option to prevent changes to network configuration
- The ability to block access to the Kindle Store, Web browser, Facebook, and Twitter
- The option to prevent a device factory reset, which would remove it from management
That's not exactly a long list of management capabilities, but it does cover many of the basics and it certainly is a good starting point for IT departments that need a solution as quickly as possible. The ability to build on this foundation with more robust mobile management solutions offers a roadmap for handling Kindle Fire devices. At the least, it opens the door for IT to partner with Kindle Fire users to develop effective and secure solutions over time.