Google launches Android for Work: A move to make Android more enterprise-friendly

Picture credit: "androids eat apples!", by "ryanne lai", used under CC BY NC / Modified from original

Updated Google has officially launched the Android for Work program, beefing up its enterprise play to give employees more freedom and security on their Android devices.

The move has been a long time coming, and the search giant is stacked amidst a plethora of partners, on the management, devices, applications and networking side.

Android for Work features four primary technology components: dedicated work profiles, so IT can deploy approved work apps alongside personal apps and keep data safe; an Android for Work app, for users who run Ice Cream Sandwich through KitKat; an enterprise app store-styled Google Play for Work; and a suite of bespoke business apps for email, contacts and calendar as well as supports document editing capabilities.

Rajan Sheth, director of product management at Android and Chrome for Work, described the importance of the new rollout, writing in a blog post: “Together with a wide range of management, application and device makes, we believe the Android for Work program provides businesses and workers with the choice and flexibility they need to get things done at work.”

One of the partners for Android for Work is EMM provider AirWatch by VMware. VMware end user computing VP Erik Frieberg told Enterprise AppsTech: “Android for Work brings consistency to managing a broad range of Android devices on AirWatch. With containerised profiles that separate work and personal data, we expect that Android for Work will help even more of our customers launch and manage BYOD programs that allow the diverse ecosystem of Android-powered devices.”

David Goldschlag is senior vice president of strategy at Pulse Secure, and former CEO of MobileSpaces, which Pulse Secure snapped up in October 2014. Pulse Secure is a networking partner, and Goldschlag argues Android for Work, unlike some other new tech releases from Google, is “a real program with a roadmap and with partners.”

“Google Android has become serious about security the past few years, and Android for Work is a serious commitment to the enterprise,” he told Enterprise AppsTech in an email.

Goldschlag also notes the importance of Google Apps as an EMM play for Android for Work. “This is another part of Google’s serious commitment to the enterprise and is likely to be competition for Microsoft Office 365 as well,” he added.

Cloud storage provider Box, one of the applications partners, noted the importance of Android for Work going forward. “More and more businesses are embracing policies that allow employees to choose whatever platforms, apps and devices they want so they can stay connected and collaborate,” said David Still, VP mobile products. “While choice is great, it must be considered with a firm commitment to security.

“We’re excited to support a program that works with the entire ecosystem of device makers, application developers and management providers to enable business to be productive and keep their content secure wherever they work,” he added.

Another partner, MobileIron, believes the move will accelerate enterprise adoption for Android customers – the company announced increased MDM support for Android as far back as November 2013, in an attempt to snag more of BlackBerry’s user base. “Android for Work offers a set of enterprise productivity and security tools that are designed to address two of the biggest enterprise concerns about the platform: security and fragmentation,” said VP strategy Ojas Rege.

Plenty has been said over the supposed vulnerability of Android as an enterprise operating system, yet Google has been making strides towards solidifying it in recent months.

Last May Google acquired corporate device policy provider Divide, and the latest iteration of Android, Lollipop, is notably more enterprise-centric, with features including factory reset protection, encryption by default, as well as Screen Pinning, which can enable field sales personnel, for example, to pin an app to the phone’s screen and theoretically lock their phone, enabling them to show clients presentations and documents among others.

Yet CIOs remain to be convinced. Enterprise mobility provider Globo, in its most recent survey of registered devices, found that Samsung, not surprisingly, continues to dominate the Android enterprise hardware market, while just under half of the devices run on KitKat. While it represents a step up from the last figures, released in November, Lollipop only accounted for fewer than 3% of Android devices examined – and it’s this fragmentation which Globo argues continues to hold Google back.

Samsung has its own ideas up its sleeve, such as its push towards managed services, and is expected to make aggressive plays at the upcoming Mobile World Congress. Yet the issue of Android enterprise security, one which has continually plagued Samsung and Google, appears to be taking a larger step towards being resolved with Android for Work.

 

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