VMware is re-releasing Boxer, the latest in an industry-wide wave of enterprise email app innovation

VMware combines their third-party email, calendar, and contacts with modern mobile app management features.

Today VMware is re-releasing Boxer, the email app they acquired last fall, in new enterprise version that takes all of the productivity features that originally made it popular and combines them with all the mobile app management features you would expect.

On the productivity side, Boxer has email, calendar, and contacts integrated into one app; an easy way to share calendar availability; predictive folders to make it easier to move an email; and customizable notifications and swipe gestures. Enterprise features now include encryption at rest and in transit; device compliance rules; DLP controls; and the ability to configure it with MDM, or deploy it on unmanaged devices.

This current release is iOS-only, but remember this isn’t VMware’s only email app—there’s also AirWatch Inbox.

This is just the latest in a wave of innovation in third-party enterprise email clients, and one result is that the convention wisdom on third-party versus built-in mobile email clients no longer applies.

The broader industry

Take a look at what else has happened over the last year:

Microsoft bought Accompli, and re-released it as Outlook. Just the fact that a mobile app called “Outlook” exists is a big deal, but Microsoft has taken that and run with it.

Nacho Cove’s Nacho Mail is another newer productivity and enterprise-centric email client. It was created by Chris Perret, Jeff Enderwick, and Steve Scalpone, the team behind Nukona, one of the first mobile app management and app wrapping vendors.

Good Technology has replaced their older Good for Enterprise email client and platform with Good Work, based on the much more modern Good Dynamics platform.

Citrix WorxMail has been around for several years, but they have also gone beyond just a basic email client to add convenient productivity features.

What’s different today?

I feel like there hasn’t been this much buzz about third-party mobile email apps for a few years. Here are my observations:

First off, there’s obviously plenty of need for third-party apps. Most companies need to have an option for unmanaged devices, and some of them need to have more control over DLP and other security features than is provided by MDM and built-in email apps.

All these third-party apps are still going to be limited to some degree—they just don’t have access to the quite the same level of integration and optimization as the built-in apps. However, one of the major issues—downloading content in the background—has been resolved since iOS 7 added Background App Refresh.

There are all sorts of other ways that third-party enterprise email apps are getting a leg up:

  • Integrations with other enterprise apps that are part of the same MAM ecosystem.
  • Integration with enterprise file sync and share.
  • Brilliant productivity improvements, like app integrations, algorithms and machine learning to manage the inbox, and countless customization options.
  • TouchID support so users don’t have to enter a password.

The Gmail mobile apps provide an example of all of this in the consumer world—with all of the filtering and integration with Chrome and Google Maps, there’s no way I’m going back to IMAP and the iOS mail app.

Resetting the conventional wisdom

A few years ago, the conventional wisdom was that some users would dislike third-party email apps. (Or they would actively hate and them and try to get around them.)

But that was back in the days before Background App Refresh, before EMM companies started building and acquiring much better apps, and when a lot of people might have only used older and slower first-generation apps like Good for Enterprise.

But today with all of the improvements and integrations, third-party enterprise email apps do a much better job of passing the straight face test, and users should be much happier with them—or even actively want to use them.

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