Google on Thursday began offering administrators of its paid productivity applications the ability to manage iPhones, Nokia E series and Windows Mobile devices remotely, a feature that may appeal both to business users and consumers.
Google charges $50 per year for Google Apps Premier Edition accounts, which are designed for corporate needs. Google Apps Premier includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video, and Google Groups, and comes with 25GB of e-mail storage per employee. The service is interoperable with BlackBerry and Microsoft Outlook and includes business controls like password strength checks, forced SSL connections, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee SLA.
To that, Google has just added mobile device management. This includes the ability to: remotely wipe all data from supported mobile devices that get lost or stolen; to set devices to lock after a specified period of time; to require passwords on devices; and to require strong passwords.
These features are available under the Mobile tab of the Service Settings menu in the Google Apps control panel, to users of Google Apps Premier Edition and Google Apps Education Edition.
Remote phone management in Google Apps is made possible by Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology.
While remote phone management will certainly appeal to businesses, consumers may want in on the action too. For iPhone users in particular, the ability to wipe one's phone remotely has been officially available only from Apple, through a $99 MobileMe subscription.
MobileMe's Find My iPhone service lets subscribers locate their iPhone on a Google Map and MobileMe's Remote Wipe service lets them erase iPhone data remotely. Though Apple's solution is undeniably more elegant, particularly for those with Apple computers, it offers less storage (20GB) than a Google Apps Premier account at twice the price.
MobileMe's other offerings -- Mail, Contact, and Calendar syncing, an online gallery for publishing photos, and a Me.com e-mail account -- don't really change the value proposition.
Apple notes that "Me.com gives you a full suite of ad-free Web applications," but paying Google customers can disable Gmail ads if they choose.
Given that iPhone insurance can be around $50 per year, self-insuring and securing one's iPhone data through a $50 Google Apps Premiere account doesn't seem like such a bad deal.