In the interest of protecting children, a new iOS application called AppCertain has debuted a monitoring application aimed at parents. The app, whose goal is to alert parents about the nature of the applications their kids are downloading, involves the use of a “configuration profile” – special software Apple originally intended for enterprise use, not consumer-facing apps sold through its App Store marketplace.
But Apple reviewed the application – for longer than most, founder and CEO Spencer Whitman tells us – and subsequently approved it. For how long that will remain the case, however, is unknown.
“We think we are on a gray line with respect to Apple, but we don’t really know,” Whitman admits.
Configuration profiles, for those unfamiliar, were designed for the enterprise environment, allowing I.T. departments to manage the iPhones and iPads used by a company’s employees. They’re typically employed by Mobile Device Management solutions which use the software to configure, track and/or restrict a number of system-level settings like Wi-Fi, VPNs, app settings, permissions, and more.
But more recently, a handful of startups have started using these same profiles to work around Apple’s App Store’s restrictions in order to accomplish tasks which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Apple is aware this is happening, and seems to be handling each app submission on a one-off basis for now.
We’ve seen mobile data compression utilities like Onavo and Snappli take advantage of the technology to intercept, re-route, and compress web data in order to save users’ bandwidth, for instance. Social search engine Wajam also uses a configuration profile to inject its own search results into Safari, though this is done outside of the Apple App Store.
Onavo is still live on the Apple App Store today, though Snappli has since disappeared. (We reached out to the company for details, but have yet to hear back. It’s possible that Apple simply didn’t care for the fact that Snappli had publicly shared data showing how iOS users were dumping the then newly-launched Apple Maps application.)
But frankly, it seems odd that Apple would knowingly ever let these types of applications into its consumer-facing app store in the first place, given the security risks they could pose. If used unscrupulously, a malicious configuration profile could remote control a user’s device, manipulate user activity, and hijack their sessions, or so explained security researchers at Skycure back in March.
AppCertain isn’t a malicious developer, though, and its intentions are not to control or restrict how an Apple device is used, which would then be stepping on top of Apple’s own, built-in Parental Control features. Instead, it only monitors app downloads and reports back to parents via email that an app was downloaded, explaining what the app does, as well as what sorts of permissions it requests, and more.
The idea is to alert parents about the apps their child uses, including whether or not they have educational value. It doesn’t prevent the child from actually downloading or installing apps.
The service, staffed by a number of Carnegie Mellon University alumni, first launched to the web in February after being incubated by seed and studio fund Birchmere Labs.
Whitman explained at the time that the company wanted to help busy parents, who often have a hard time keeping up with what their children are installing and using. It’s not only a problem that affects tech novices, he had said. Even savvy parents often forget or get too busy to keep a close eye on their children’s devices. And these devices, little mini-computers that they are, are not without risks.
Parental Controls Outside Of Apple’s Control
While AppCertain is trying to go the official, Apple-approved route with its creation, another company, a small German app consultancy called Mocava, is not. Its new Parental Control application is an over-the-air install only, knowing that Apple would never approve it for App Store download.
Mocava owner Vinh Phuc Dinh says that he created the app to address a situation he found himself in all the time. “I have many nephews, and would pass on my device for them to play,” he tells us. “Unfortunately, there is no easy way to restrict access on the iPhone and save the desired preferences. So we built it ourselves.”
What he means is that though Apple offers parental control features, it’s not the right solution for those who only need controls on occasion. With his Parental Control App, you can quickly turn on restrictions without having to reconfigure them from scratch them each time you hand your phone or iPad to a child. Even if Apple’s restrictions are turned off, the tool will remember your settings.
You can restrict certain default apps from being accessed or certain content from being viewed. You can disable in-app purchases, or specify that an App Store password is always required, and more. To get started, you configure your settings on the web, then download the profile the company provides.
The mere fact that this app and AppCertain even exist speaks to one of the problems with Apple’s strict control over its OS. Unlike on Android where apps like KIDO’Z, Kytephone, Play Safe, Kid Mode and others allow parents more granular control and insight, Apple’s settings are cumbersome. If you turn on age restrictions, for example, the child can’t watch Netflix. You can disable the web browser, but not whitelist websites, and so on.
These devices are computers, and while parents may disagree on what level of involvement on their part is necessary, it’s fair to say that as with “real” computers, children – especially young children – shouldn’t be given free rein with no parental oversight. Too many parents think of iPads as toys, blindly typing in their password every time their kid begs for a new app. They, perhaps, put too much trust in Apple’s “family friendly” policies – just because apps are rated and ranked, pornography or gore-free, that doesn’t make everything appropriate for every child.
It will be interesting to see how far Apple allows these companies to push into this new territory, before it decides to crack down or otherwise change its policies.
AppCertain is available for download here on iPhone and iPad.
Mobile enterprise startups are like unicorns. Nearly every VC I talk to wants to have a bet in this space, yet there really aren’t that many new candidates each year.
Everyone knows that workers are bringing their own devices to work and want to use their personal tablets or phones instead of clunky, employer-mandated devices. Yet employers want to make sure that corporate data remains secure and trackable.
Enter Workspot, a startup backed by Kleiner Perkins, Norwest Venture Partners and Redpoint, that’s debuting today at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York.
“We’re simplifying bring-your-own-devices for the enterprise,” said co-founder Ty Wang. “The biggest problem that most companies have is that people love these devices. They’re bringing them into work, but they can’t get their work done because the apps the they need like Microsoft’s Sharepoint, are still behind corporate firewalls.”
Wang said older competitors that do mobile device management have solutions that lock the entire device down, that make them unusable in other situations.
Instead, Workspot’s solution is a consumer app that an employee can download through the regular iOS app store. It gives them streamlined access to all of their work apps, requiring just a basic log-in with password. (That’s after a one-time authentication with their work’s network security appliance.)
The company supports four of the leading VPN providers like Cisco and Juniper, which cover about 80 percent of the market and let workers log-in remotely into corporate networks. Employers can easily add in new apps for their employees to use from a control dashboard. Wang said the process takes a few minutes.
“With most of the solutions today, you’d need to set up this system, go through a whole new testing cycle and all kinds of process to add apps,” he said.
The product is actually free for end-users, and Workspot monetizes through offering employers two paid services. One is something called Insights, which gives them analytics into how their workers are using their software and the other is called Events, which gives the employer total visibility into all end-user activity for compliance and auditing.
For those two services, the company charges anywhere from $150 a month for 0 to 25 users to $4 per user per month for companies with more than 250 employees.
The company has raised $1.9 million from Kleiner, Norwest and others and has 11 employees. Their team has a wealth of experience in enterprise. The CEO Amitabh Sinha previously oversaw the integration of acquisitions at Citrix after being a general manager of Enterprise Desktops and Applications. The CTO and co-founder Puneet Chawla spent seven years at VMWare before working as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Redpoint Ventures. Wang, who is also another co-founder, was a vice president of business development for Twilio after being a senior director for platform product marketing at Oracle.
Mobile device management company Good Technology has raised $50 million, according to a Securities and Exchange (SEC) filing. A company spokesperson confirmed the fundraising but had no comment about the purpose of the raise. The SEC document says the company is seeking a total of $60 million.
Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., Good Technology is backed by Oak Investment Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Meritech Capital Partners, DFJ ePlanet Ventures, DFJ Growth Fund, Rustic Canyon Ventures, Allegis Capital, GKM and Blueprint Ventures.
In its E round, investors included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark
Advanced Equities, Crosslink Capital and Broadview Ventures.
Good Technology plays in the fast-consolidating MDM market. It provides enterprise mobility technologies across multiple platforms and security and management software. Its product offerings include Good for Enterprise, Good for Government, Good for OEM Device Manufacturers/Carriers and Good Dynamics. Good puts an emphasis on providing a platform that allows enterprise developers and ISVs to create secure mobile applications.
It has been reported that Good is pursuing an IPO. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company has hired four investment banks to explore the possibility of a public offering. The IPO is believed to be taking place later this year. Morgan Stanley, Barclays PLC, Bank of America Corp., and Citigroup Inc. were hired to help with a deal that the WSJ says is likely to be valued at over $1 billion.
The bring your own device (BYOD) movement has in many ways changed the dynamics for the way people work. Mobile use is accelerating faster than any expected, leading to some interesting issues for IT managers who have become accustomed to managing desktop personal computers and laptops. The shift has forced the CIO to adopt the tools provided by MDM vendors.
Enterprise vendors recognize this budding demand and have been making acquisitions to build out mobile work suites. For example, in January, Citrix acquired Zenprise , an MDM vendor.
Wandera, a startup that offers enterprises a cloud-based solution to reduce the costs of mobile data through compression and better management, is announcing that it has closed $7 million in funding. The Series A round comes entirely from Bessemer Venture Partners, and is in addition to a seed round Wandera quietly raised last year from angels including Klaus Hommels and Alex Zubillaga. Wandera, which is based in London and San Francisco, is led by Eldar and Roy Tuvey, the two brothers who founded and then sold SaaS security player ScanSafe to Cisco for $183 million.
The ongoing growth of smartphone usage in the enterprise sector has seen an explosion in the use of mobile apps in the enterprise. Strategy Analytics says mobile business apps globally had revenues of $25 billion in 2012 and that 200 million people will be using them in 2013, with revenues rising to $50 billion by 2017.
That has led to the rise of a number of companies that want to help businesses better control the many costs associated with that. A lot of those solutions have focused on security on handsets (mobile device management) and policy control around certain apps (mobile application management). The recent, $200 million funding for AirWatch is a testament to how big that market is.
What Wandera offers is something different that it calls “mobile data optimization,” or MDO for short. This is an SaaS service, which is charged per user per month. Its software sits between a device and the wider Internet to apply compression techniques to reduce the amount of bandwidth for a particular application, giving enterprises access to the process, and information as well. Wandera claims that businesses can save an average of $100 a month on individual’s bill as a result.
The Wandera service, with its classic SaaS per-user, per-month charging format, can be used by smaller businesses of 10-25 users, through to the very largest companies. Some of the bigger names, and bigger enterprises, using the service today include IKEA, Shell and GE.
CEO Eldar Tuvey points out that Wandera is banking on the fact that currently 43% of an enterprise user’s mobile bill is related to data, with the projection is that this will continue to grow to 100% as more services move to mobile data networks — evidenced by the rise of voice apps like Skype and messaging services like WhatsApp taking users off legacy mobile voice and messaging services. Tuvey notes that mobile data use in the enterprise in particular has grown by 133% in the last year.
“The data element is the biggest part of your bill and arguably the most important part, so we think MDO the missing piece,” Tuvey points out to TechCrunch. “Wandera is unique in that it’s the first aimed at companies to deliver savings on that data through compression techniques.”
While companies like BlackBerry have actually offered products like this themselves, Wandera is also banking on the growing fragmentation in the market, and the gradual migration away from BlackBerry in the enterprise, to get more people using its service. “BlackBerry still has this feature for compressing data, but as the corporate world moves to different platforms and you begin to factor in tablets and 4G this will become a bigger issue,” he says.
The same technology, Tuvey points out, can also be used by enterprise data administrators to also look closer at which apps are getting used and (and which are not), to help shape app policies and data purchasing for the business in the future. “Up to now data has been effectively a black box for businesses. We’re giving them some itemization into that data with analysis and reporting,” he says.
The enterprise-as-target-customer is key here: there are a lot of data optimization companies out there already but much of that effort has focused on carrier networks and helping them better manage their wider data networks.
Tuvey notes that Wandera is talking to carriers, too, but for a different reason: they will likely resell Wandera’s service as part of their larger bid to offer enterprises more services to better manage their mobile workforces. Tuvey is not saying yet who its carrier partners might be but points out that among them are two tier-one carriers, with one in the UK and the other in the U.S.
For now, the plan is for Wandera to stay focused only on enterprises rather than expand to consumers. For that, they have a second venture, Snappli.
Salt Lake City-based MokiMobility announced a $2 million seed funding round, just a little over a year after the cloud-based mobile device management was officially founded. MokiMobility has since shifted focus from a broad-based MDM approach to one tailored specifically towards single-purpose devices, like the iPads you’ll often see installed as ordering kiosks in restaurants, or used as point-of-sale terminals at stores, which is why their partnership with SF-based Revel is also big news.
MokiMobility’s new investment round is led by Epic Ventures, and includes Allegis Capital partner Spencer Tall and Fusion-IO’s Tyler Smith. MokiMobility CEO Tom Karren explained in an interview that there’s a growing demand for MDM that specifically addresses the kinds of deployments of tablets like the iPad, as well as Android hardware, which are being used in customer-facing applications in stores and businesses. It’s a different problem to tackle vs. provisioning devices for a sales team or enterprise staff, he says, and one that deserves a dedicated approach.
“There’s a huge disruption going on right now, we call it the second wave of mobile adoption,” Smith said. “Obviously with the first wave, everyone wanted to get their hands on mobile devices and take them to work. Now what we’re seeing is that companies are trying to put these devices to work for commercial purposes. They’re putting them in as kiosks, as retail enablement, as point-of-sale and self-checkout.”
That has resulted in a lot of growth opportunity for MokiMobility, particularly now as more businesses are getting into those kinds of deployments. Smith said that recently, they’ve seen an uptick in interest in this kind of product from businesses, and that makes sense given the trajectory so far of their new partner Revel Systems.
Revel, which creates iPad POS deployments aimed at restaurants and retail stores, will now be integrating MokiMobility’s MokiManage platform into its product, which has the advantage of building in an MDM solution for multiple device deployments, and also of making Revel’s offerings even more PCI compliant, since MokiMobility’s security standards are current with guidelines just released in February. This helps Revel and its customers get ahead of the game in terms of PCI compliance, since what is originally released as a guideline often becomes a mandatory standard down the road.
Hitching its wagon to the Revel Systems rising star is a great move on the part of MokiMobility, and both of these companies are definitely ones to watch as more businesses adopt self-checkout and move to iPads and Android tablets for in-store sales assistance.