Google I/O recap: Why Google is serious about enterprise mobility

The Google I/O 2014 developer conference didn’t need flashy skydiving stunts to get the attention of enterprise customers. The latest Android announcements were enough to show that Google is taking enterprise mobility seriously, starting with the Android Work initiative.

Android Work will deliver enterprise-focused security and management features when the new Android L OS is released this fall. And there’s plenty of good news for both Android users and IT admins, including the much-anticipated separation of data and apps for business and personal use.

In Android L, business data and apps can be containerized to prevent corporate data leaks without intruding on personal apps and data. Best of all, these security features remain under the hood so the user experience is always seamless. For example, a salesperson could check notifications about sales leads as well as Facebook updates without having to jump through extra security hoops to do so.

With more than one billion Android devices shipping each year, and tablet shipments accounting for 62% of global market share (up from 46% last year), the popularity of Android is putting serious pressure on enterprises that have been slow to adopt. The announcement of Android Work should help alleviate some of the security concerns that have posed a barrier to adoption for these companies. Additionally, some Android Work capabilities will be available for Android 4.0 and higher via an app on Google Play.

Here are just a few of the capabilities Android Work will offer to simplify mobile enterprise security and management:

1) Complete separation of personal and work data and apps: With the release of Android L, the ability to keep personal and business data separate is now core to the OS and can be managed by an Enterprise Mobility Management provider. For users, however, the device experience remains the same, with a unified view of all the apps and data they use every day. So while work email and personal email may exist in separate data containers, the user can access both accounts all in one place.

2) Badged work apps: As an additional feature to help keep business and personal apps separate, Android Work apps will be badged to remind users when they are in work mode.

3) Support for BYOD and corporate-owned devices: On employee-owned devices, IT can create a secure work profile to separate business and personal apps and data. For company-owned devices, IT can be configured as the device owner, a profile that allows full control over the device, data, and apps.

4) New APIs: The release of Android L will include a whole new set of APIs designed to unify policy, app, and device management across all Android Work devices. This is a definite advantage for Enterprise Mobility Management vendors, who previously developed and maintained a patchwork of APIs from different handset manufacturers with varying capabilities. The new APIs are good news for app developers too. Android Work will provide all the security and containerization for the app without any additional work required from the developer. So developers can simply focus on meeting enterprise needs.

Granular control of business apps: Android Work also includes APIs to enable per-app policy configuration, which can be set by an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) provider. EMM providers can also offer secure authentication to enterprise servers, control access to enterprise apps, and set policies to restrict what the user can do within the work profile.

5) App distribution and purchasing via Google Play: Google also announced a new method of distributing apps. Key to this will be a bulk purchase option, which will greatly simplify large-scale app deployment across the enterprise. IT admins will also be able to automatically update corporate apps, which will make version control a breeze.

6) Certified Android Work program: Google isn’t leaving any stone unturned. The company also outlined its go-to-market strategy with a certified Android Work program for all major OEMs. The program will coincide with the Android L release this fall.

7) Samsung KNOX: Google announced that Android Work will leverage Samsung’s KNOX technology, such as a separate container to manage and secure business data, which will be integrated into the next version of Android. While Samsung has marketed and tested KNOX in enterprises for the past few years, its integration with Android Work should help accelerate Android enterprise adoption.

Android Work definitely comes as welcome news for enterprises trying to secure and manage today’s incredibly complex multi-OS environments. But note: You’ll only be able to take advantage of these capabilities through an EMM vendor like MobileIron.

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30 Jun 2014, 2:39 p.m.

All I want to see is the Nexus series pushed forward and an Android update. iOS is massively closing the gap between the two and Google really need to maintain the benefits.


3 Jul 2014, 11:24 a.m.

Great that Google also showcased software for wearable devices, cars and other mobile gadgets Wednesday morning during the keynote address for its annual I/O developers conference in San Francisco.