When VMware spent $1.54 billion to acquire Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) startup AirWatch last year, it raised plenty of eyebrows.

Some saw it as an act of desperation: VMware didn’t have a strong mobile play at a time when personal computers were becoming less and less of an endpoint.

Others saw it as brilliant: AirWatch understood something that many of its competitors did not — namely that “your smart phone or tablet is your computer” and that companies would need to go beyond safeguarding email and file sharing to protecting application data in transit as well.

As with any acquisition, there was also the question of integration. Would Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware wreck everything that worked about Atlanta, Ga.-based AirWatch?

That doesn’t seem to have happened, especially in the wake of today's release of AirWatch8.

Safe! Compliant! Easy!

AirWatch 8 is the biggest product update AirWatch has made since the acquisition. It’s loaded with more than 100 new enhancements that should both please end users and let IT do its job in keeping the enterprise safe and compliant, without a hassle. It also offers a unified experience across devices, biometric features, AppleCare integration and (because it's a wearable) Internet of Things (IoT) management capabilities. (The latter is under wraps. We don’t know what it is, but we’ll learn more about it during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.)

AirWatch 8 makes it easy for IT to provide or provision devices using a few points and clicks or through leveraging a simple SDK.

“All that an employee will need to do is unbox a device and they’re ready to go,” said Noah Wasmer, vice president, End-User Computing and Product Strategy at VMware. And for companies that have Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs, it’s question of downloading an app and a few clicks. “Everything is taken care of,” added Wassmer.

And that means that users whose companies use AirWatch’s EMM solution should find it easy to securely access and/or work with content such as that which can be found in SharePoint, file shares and cloud services such as Box, as well as view company videos used for purposes such as training via the content delivery network (CDN) by video hosting provider Wistia.

It also has utility smarts so that videos are downloaded when Wi-Fi is available versus using up mobile minutes.

And since mobile devices are typically used for quickly accessing information, AirWatch 8 includes integrations with tools like Apple Touch ID via AirWatch SDK and EyeVerify for eye scan password replacement. These are less of a hassle to use on mobile and IoT than imitating desktop tools would be.

“We focus on the user experience,” said Wasmer.

Other Capabilities

When AirWatch’s Secure Content Locker for file sharing is being used, the company claims it's easy to do things like annotate and highlight with the touch of a finger since that what you’d be doing most of the time. The company boasts that AirWatch 8 also makes IT look like a hero because it can look at lifecycles in processes and see when and why users gets stuck.

The update also makes good of VMware’s  Socialcast, an Enterprise collaboration solution that we never hear much about. The integration between AirWatch and Socialcast uncovers how people collaborate in the hope the right content can be surfaced more readily.

Other interesting new capabilities include integration with Veracode’s cloud-based platform for automatic application reputation management and scanning to reduce enterprise risk from malicious mobile applications. This allows IT to receive scheduled analysis, create blacklisted application groups and automatically run compliance rules on devices.

AirWatch 8 also provides integration with Jasper, a global IoT platform that enables companies of all sizes to launch, manage and monetize IoT services on a global scale, as well as peripheral enhancements to Datamax-O’Neil and Zebra printer management.

And finally, for the non-iPad users of the world, many of these features are available on Chromebooks as well. Ditto for Windows apps.

What’s it all mean? With $200 million in booked business and more than 15,000 users in 2014, AirWatch by VMware seems destined to rock mobile enterprise. Given that these and many more product enhancements were built in the last 12 months, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by Kelly Hunter.