First Look at AirWatch Express

Today VMware is introducing and making available AirWatch Express. AirWatch Express is an easier, friendlier, more affordable version of the full AirWatch product.

As a vExpert, I was invited to an advanced webinar preview of the service. This included the standard here’s-our-new-service presentation, followed by a demo and Q&A.

Features

AirWatch Express touts a zero-touch configuration. This includes integration with the big-three app stores, Apple, Google and Microsoft. They also have pre-configured Wi-Fi and e-mail profiles. For security, we’ve got various passcode options, such as PIN, biometric, passcode, etc. There are some data loss prevention options (DLP) like device encryption, and copy and paste control.  Last, but not least, are the usual find, lock and wipe functionality for lost and stolen devices. So far these are all features expected in a modern MDM solution. AirWatch Express seems to be trying to differentiate themselves not in the features, but in how you’ll configure them. More on that in a bit.

The solution is a cloud service, meaning you’ll manage your devices through a web-based interface. You’ll also have access to “global 12×5 support”, though they don’t specify whose 12×5 they’ll be following. Presumably it’ll be tied to your company’s HQ time zone. Something to consider if you have global travelers. Or you have an expectation of active vendor support at 3 a.m. You know, when someone’s trying to get their important report finished before the big meeting in the morning.

As expected, you’ll be able to upgrade from AirWatch Express to full-blown AirWatch. That’s if you need more features and support.

Pricing

Pricing world-wide is $2.50 per device per month (billed annually). So each device can be covered monthly for, forgive the cliché, less than the cost of a cup of coffee. This looks like a universal pricing policy, with no hint of other discounts. At $2.50/device/month, this seems more than fair.

For customers this looks quite appealing. One has to wonder if VMware’s betting on volume to make sure that there’s some sort of margin for the service to run on. Only time will tell.

Experience

As I mentioned earlier, the crux of AirWatch Express is in the user experience. Upon first login to the AirWatch Express console, a wizard-style interface comes up. The admin then runs through the configuration process. It looks like you’ll still need someone with a bit of technical experience to get the service up and running. The user interface is streamlined to help avoid hunting for settings, so it should be quick.

Out of this user experience come Blueprints. Blueprints are profiles that let you combine configuration into different use cases. Say by business unit or user role. During the demo the wizard-driven creation process ran, and in a few minutes we had a new Blueprint that:

  • Deployed an application to specific device types via the respective app stores,
  • Configured Microsoft Exchange-based corporate email,
  • Configured corporate wi-fi settings,
  • Setup security policies including passcodes/passwords and device features, and
  • Targeted specific users, both individually and via groups.

Blueprints struck me as the most powerful and useful feature of AirWatch Express. Interestingly you’ll only find Blueprints in the AirWatch Express offering and not (yet?) in full-blown AirWatch.

Wrap

Sure, the underlying features of AirWatch Express aren’t much different from other MDM offerings. Yet, ease-of-use and the relative device-agnostic approach make AirWatch Express an interesting option. Blueprints, both the profile-based approach and wizard-style interface, should make it easier to get your MDM solution up and running. The pricing is also nothing to sneeze at. As a cloud-based service we’re likely to see regular updates to the features and interface of AirWatch Express. Though we’ll likely still see some feature reserved for the big brother AirWatch service.

If the feature set and fixed support meet your MDM needs give AirWatch Express a whirl. Don’t forget that you can manage OS X and Windows 10 as mobile devices. It’s live on their website and you can take a 30-day free test drive.

Dee Abson

Dee Abson is a technical architect from Alberta, Canada. He's been working in the field of technology for over 20 years and specializes in server and virtualization infrastructure. Working with VMware products since ESX 2, he holds several VMware certifications. He was awarded VMware vExpert for 2014-2019. You can find him on Twitter.

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