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Okta Expands Into Helping Companies Manage Mobile Devices

CEO Todd McKinnon calls it a "bet-the-company move."

Okta, the fast-growing startup that helps companies keep track of employee sign-in information for hundreds of cloud services, announced today that it is expanding into a new business: Helping companies manage their employees’ mobile devices.

At an event in San Francisco today, the company announced its Okta Mobility Management service, which marks its initial move into a market worth more than $4 billion a year. It will be available for iOS and Android starting today, and support for Windows Phone and BlackBerry will come next year.

CEO Todd McKinnon said in an interview that the new service goes hand in hand with its existing identity management service. “This is a bet-the-company kind of move,” he said. “Over and over our customers have been telling us they want this. Many of them simply don’t have a product to help them manage all the devices that their employees use on the job.”

There are products out there: AirWatch, MobileIron, Citrix, Good Technology and IBM all play in the business. McKinnon says Okta will be different in that it focuses less on the devices and more on the people using them. For one thing, the service will be priced on a per-user basis, but will support an unlimited number of devices for each person. “Everyone these days has multiple devices. The joke we hear is that it was so much easier when everyone just had a Windows computer and Windows controlled everything, but that’s simply not the case anymore.”

And like Okta’s original cloud-based identity-management service — which keeps track of a user’s login information for practically every cloud service and software application that businesses use — the mobility service is cloud-only, so there’s no on-premise component. “All the other services out there are trying to build both a cloud version and an on-premise version,” McKinnon said. “That means they have to split their research and development efforts, and the product ends up being uneven.”

It’s a big move for Okta, and at least partially explains how it has been using all the money it has been raising of late. In June, Re/code reported that it had raised $75 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital at a pre-money valuation of $600 million. The round brought its total capital raised to $155 million.

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