Oct 10 AT 2:21 PM Anthony Domanico 22 Comments

AT&T’s new Toggle service freaks me out

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AT&T has announced Toggle, an application that allows smartphone and tablet owners to quickly switch between business and personal modes with a simple tap of the finger on Android 2.2+ devices. Personal and Work modes are defined as follows:

  • Personal Mode: Allows users to use their phones as they normally would, including the ability to send text messages, watch TV shows and movies, and play games. These personal activities would remain segregated from business activities as defined by your employer.
  • Work mode: Users can access corporate email, calendars and contacts as they would on a standard company-issued device. Assumption: We assume that in work mode, you won’t have access to text messaging, video services and games. (Though you could access these things by switching the toggle to personal mode).

Unless I’m missing the boat here, Android 2.2+ devices all have access to the handy Email application, which allows them to sync contacts, email and calendar from enterprise email accounts already. Additionally, you can access these things without restricting access to other applications and services.

This leads me to believe that AT&T’s new Toggle service isn’t geared toward AT&T’s customers, but towards the enterprise community. Indeed, AT&T’s press release (which you can read below) seems geared towards IT departments, which AT&T argues faces increased hardships as more and more of their workers elect to use their personal smartphones for work-related things.

What worries me is that AT&T Toggle will give employers the option to mandate “Work Mode” during normal working hours, thus disallowing employees to use their devices as they see fit. Since our phones already have the capability to access enterprise data, it’s hard for me to discern what else AT&T is hoping to provide with this new service. (AT&T’s press release is sparse on the details).

AT&T Toggle gives your company’s IT department the ability to do the following:

  • Manage which employees have access to which company resources
  • Add, update and delete business applications on employees’ personal devices
  • Wipe all corporate information stored in work mode if an employee leaves the company or loses their device

This definitely gives IT departments the ability to do their job in a more efficient manner and makes it easier for them to ensure that their valuable data stay safe from improper access.

But at what cost?

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, if my workplace insists on having control over what I can and can’t have or access on my device, I will demand that they provide me with a strictly-work device. Or I will continue to not access work resources from my personal device.

The thought of the IT department at my workplace being able to essentially remotely control or wipe my device (even if it’s only business-related applications and data) feels a bit too big-brother-y for me. Though, I already don’t have my work email account synced to my phone due to the minor inconvenient requirement of having to enter a passcode every time I unlock my device.

What do you guys think? Am I overreacting? Or do you agree that you should be able to access whatever you want on the devices and service that you pay for with your hard earned money?

Show Press Release

Switch between work and play with a few quick taps on your smartphone or tablet. Carry one device, loaded with your favorite games and apps as well as your business email, contacts and calendars. And imagine your company not minding one bit.

All this is coming from AT&T*.

AT&T Toggle separates and safeguards business data on employees’ mobile devices, creating a distinct work mode apart from the typical personal mode in a single smartphone or tablet. AT&T is the firstU.S.carrier to announce this type of application, with availability expected before the end of 2011.

  • Personal mode: When not working, send text messages to friends, watch TV shows and movies, and play games on your mobile device as you otherwise would. Personal activities remain segregated.
  • Work mode: If it’s time to buckle down and focus on business, employees can enter their work environment. In this mode, users can access corporate email, applications, calendars and more, just as they would on a company-provided device.

“Our research shows that approximately 50 million employees in the U.S.alone could benefit from business mobile applications,” said John Stankey, President and CEO, AT&T Business Solutions. “Mobile applications delivered in a cloud computing environment can transform business operations. AT&T is focused on integrating advanced technologies — like cloud and mobility — to create valuable solutions for our customers.” 

Many Connected Devices, Few IT Resources

According to a July 2011 Forrester Research, Inc. report, nearly 60 percent of companies allow employees to use personal devices for work and provide IT support for some or all of these devices.

The “bring your own device” trend can benefit businesses in a number of ways, saving on costs associated with company-owned equipment and satisfying employees’ desire for flexibility. At the same time, IT personnel often struggle to maintain control over dozens of different smartphones and tablets, stretching their time and budgets to the limit.

With the number of mobile applications projected to reach 1.3 million by the end of this year — as opposed to only 75,000 applications for personal computers — managing employee-owned devices is not getting any easier.2

“When it comes to connected devices, one size doesn’t fit all,” said Chris Hill, Vice President, Advanced Mobility Solutions, AT&T Business Solutions. “People want to use their own smartphones and tablets for work, but that practice can create major headaches for businesses’ IT departments. AT&T Toggle helps resolve the issue in a simple, affordable manner.”

AT&T Toggle offers a convenient web portal that allows IT administrators to:

  • Manage which employees have access to which company resources.
  • Add, update and delete business applications on employees’ personal devices.
  • Wipe all corporate information stored in work mode if an employee leaves the company or loses his or her device.

Designed to strip away complexity for both businesses and their employees, AT&T Toggle can be used on devices running Android 2.2 and higher, and with any service provider.

AT&T customers have already indicated interest in this type of solution. For one organization that provides company-owned devices to more than 1,000 employees, the CIO is exploring a new policy, which would allow employees to use personal smartphones and tablets to connect to the corporate network. With AT&T Toggle, the IT department could manage work-related functions remotely, controlling mobile and security preferences based on employee location and responsibilities. The CIO can protect business data — his number one priority — while simultaneously saving on the costs of issuing separate devices to employees.

Innovation in Action

AT&T Toggle is the latest addition to AT&T’s portfolio of mobility products and services for businesses, which includes mobile device management solutions. AT&T’s Advanced Mobility Solutions group aims to flexibly deliver content, applications and solutions — like AT&T Toggle — to any device, at any time.

The AT&T Toggle program was cultivated through three innovation initiatives currently underway at AT&T: The Innovation Pipeline (TIP), AT&T’s Fast Pitch program, and The AT&T FoundryTM. Together, these initiatives helped speed an idea to market in just months by dedicating resources to the project and enhancing collaboration between AT&T and third party developers.

This is just the beginning. Starting in 2012, AT&T plans to introduce a series of additional services and features designed to free employees from the constraints of company-owned devices and turn personal handsets into tools for business productivity.

“AT&T’s approach to seeking out best-of-breed solutions, certifying key applications in major vertical or horizontal segments, and providing wraparound services such as implementation, integration, and support creates a service portfolio that is highly adaptive across enterprise segments,” wrote IDC analysts in an August 2011 report.3

Today, more than 18,000 AT&T business customers have adopted mobile applications — up nearly 400 percent since the end of the first quarter of 2011.

To learn more about how AT&T can transform personal phones into business-ready devices, contact your AT&T account representative.

1 Forrester Research, Inc., Forrsights: Mobility DominatesEnterprise Telecom Trends In 2011, July 22, 2011.

2 IDC, Managing Consumerization of IT: CIO Recommendations for Effective Bring Your Own Device Strategies, May 16, 2011, Doc. #LM51T.

3 IDC, Strategies and Opportunities Driving MobileEnterprise Application Development Life-Cycle Services, Doc # 229772, August 2011.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

Source: AT&T

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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