Summary:

The IT department has less control in the post-PC era, and they’re not happy about it. But a new application from AT&T (NYSE: T) could give…

Business Mobile Usage
photo: Getty Images / Oli Scarff

The IT department has less control in the post-PC era, and they’re not happy about it. But a new application from AT&T (NYSE: T) could give them reason to smile at the notion that vital business data and applications could be protected behind a separate sector of a smartphone or tablet.

AT&T is calling it “Toggle,” and the idea is to “switch between work and play with a few quick taps,” according to an AT&T press release. The app will work on Android devices running version 2.2 or later only and AT&T hopes to release it by the end of the year.

Mobile devices in the modern workplace are generally purchased and maintained by the individual worker, although Research in Motion’s BlackBerry still remains a notable exception for many companies. This creates a bunch of problems for those tasked with protecting corporate information: security concerns, tech support demands for devices that IT did not choose, and huge obstacles around fragmentation should a company want to develop its own mobile application for internal use.

Something like Toggle sounds like a great idea, but depending on the implementation could also cause quite a few problems. One of the beauties of modern mobile computing is how fast you can switch between the calendar app to look up an appointment, launch the mapping application to figure out where it is, consult the browser to see if there is a coffee shop along the way, and check your e-mail while waiting for a latte. If you have to “toggle” between the work mode and personal mode every time you want to do something that simple, users might get easily frustrated.

Services like remote-wiping of data from a lost device are already standard on iOS and BlackBerry devices, which Toggle of course does not support. This could be useful for companies that have a lot of Android users, but won’t solve the broader problem of how to manage mobile devices across an organization with lots of different mobile operating systems in play. I’ll be looking into that more this week at CTIA Enterprise and Apps.

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