I met with Mark Gentile and Tom Robinson of Odyssey Software (CEO and EVP Sales & Marketing respectively) earlier this summer to learn about their company’s big strides in extending the Athena software product’s scope of functionality to include the hottest smartphone devices shipping: iPhone, Nokia, Palm and Android. Called Athena 4.0 the new release of software captures key operating attributes of devices and delivers them into popular management consoles applications such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007.

Athena 4.0 is the first multi-platform (BB,Win,iPh,Nok,Palm,An) mobile device management product.

Earlier releases of Athena had been optimized for Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded systems. I can’t speak for the WE market, but the Windows Mobile market for enterprise is shrinking and shrinking fast. So, it was certainly a timely action to expand the scope of the solution to address the needs of enterprises to manage networks of the hot devices.

A typical deployment might involve thousands of mobile devices and a readily available Microsoft Configuration Manager server. Athena software is deployed on the Windows and BlackBerry mobile devices (usually over the air) and as extensions to the CM server. Mobile administrators leverage the Athena client software to populate the Management Point with hardware and software inventory of the devices, to distribute files, settings and applications with the Distribution Point and to engage remote tools and control features with the Administrator Console. The three services – management, distribution and administration – exploit Athena software extensions that provide very detailed and powerful control to the mobile administrator.

On Windows Mobile devices, information about a device’s processor, display, memory, power state, identification, network attributes, applications, running processes and last update for example are readily available for extraction and manipulation by the mobile administrator without having to have the mobile device in hand. Even graphs of network performance – packets sent and received – are available, which given the propensity of mobile operators to charge per MByte creates an opportunity to manage data consumption with greater awareness than without Athena. Mobile administrators also have access to a remote control feature where they can control the keystrokes of the remote device and teach the remote user the key strokes they need to perform some interaction.

This extensive capability is more limited, but also powerful for the iPhone, Android, Nokia or Palm devices. Through Athena extensions to the Microsoft ActiveSync services on the Microsoft Exchange 2007 or 2010 server, mobile administrators can enable remote wiping, creation, deployment and enforcement of security policies on these devices as well as capture device asset information.

With this release, Athena is the first to offer a multi-platform mobile device management (MDM) product for enterprises. Athena enables uniform enterprise-wide mobile security and operational health of a range of devices, so the mobile administrator can protect the company’s mobile assets through a common interface without having to rely on device-specific applications.

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