Assessing the executive outlook on Android’s enterprise ecosystem #MWC15

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Analysis It’s an exciting yet challenging time for the CIO. Employees are going to bring their own devices into work, but even though Android is the dominant consumer platform, the enterprise side is relatively lacking. If there is a paradigm shift afoot, something is still holding it back.

Nowhere is this more keenly felt than Google itself. The much-vaunted release of Android for Work (AfW) last week plays to the concerns of fragmentation and security worries from the C-suite, giving employees more freedom and security on their Android devices. Bolstered by an influx of partners on the management, device, application and networking side, this year’s Mobile World Congress seemed like an ideal opportunity to assess Android as a viable enterprise operating system.

The current landscape seems clear enough; iOS rules the roost, particularly in regulated industries. Good Technology’s latest Mobility Index report found iOS activations overall rise to 73% in Q414, representing 95% of devices in the legal sector, 82% in the public sector and 81% in financial services.

While Good is not a partner in Android for Work, it has buddied up with Samsung in Good for Samsung KNOX, achieving a similar goal through a different route. Phil Barnett is Good EMEA general manager. Leaning on his previous role in charge of global accounts, he sees two clear trends in the emergence of Android as a business use case; age and geography. Barclays Bank, one of Good’s customers, used to issue BlackBerry phones to its interns before changing tack. Now, 70% of devices students brought along were Android.

“Whereas North America or Western Europe [was] very Apple-centric, Asia Pac is almost completely dominated by Android,” he says. “If you’re a global company and you’re going to address the Asia Pac market and you’re going to bring younger people into the use of BYOD, then Android’s going to be really important for you.”

Barnett’s view is that in a lot of companies, the CISOs simply didn’t sign off Android. Whether this changes with the release of Good for Samsung KNOX, or Android for Work, remains to be seen, yet plenty of executives are confident.

Noah Wasmer is end user computing CTO at VMware. Given AirWatch is a partner for AfW, Wasmer has seen first-hand the change and the customer reaction. “I think there’s been a lot of concern in the market about Android, just in terms of the fragmentation, [and] concerns about [making] sure we can have consistent management,” he explains. “This answers those questions.

“It’s a big deal for us. I think the reception from customers has been fantastic,” he adds. “We’re seeing this in almost every conversation we’re having. It’s been largely an iOS story, but now this really opens up the door to bring whatever device [employees] want, and that’s a great thing.”

For Brent Cohler, SAP director of mobile product marketing, the proliferation of smartphones at a lower price point was key. If there’s a wider audience of smartphones, it’s more likely to be bought by the younger generation, and Cohler argues they will flood the workplace – but with a caveat. “Either you enable those workers or you block them – and either way, it’s a bad experience,” he explains.

“If you block them, they’ll find workarounds and they’ll use other things that may or may not help them get their job done faster but it’s not a secure fashion, and if you enable them that’s providing a great experience as long as you’re doing it in the right way and making sure it’s secure, because with the fragmentation and different device types you can’t do it all.

“What they’ve done with Android for Work, it’s really set up for the future with the L devices moving forward, making that great experience much simpler for the IT managers and also providing that experience for those end users that want to bring their personal devices to work but are a little bit leery of [putting] any corporate security on my device,” Cohler adds. “Everybody’s happy, so it’s a great solution.”

Yes, we can hear you saying that partner vendors will almost certainly have positive things to say about their new venture. Yet most analyst outlook is relatively upbeat. Investment analyst firm Zacks.com tried extremely hard to hedge its bets in a note published this week, but conceded that Google is “definitely making it more and more tempting to say yes to Android.”

Sanjay Kharma, senior mobile phones analyst at IDC, argued that the enterprise app store Google Play for Work element could be key, as well as simplified containerisation, but it’s not cut and dried. He told the Financial Post: “If those two things alone deliver, it will be a big part of the story. But it does take a lot of work on the partnership side.”

Google has been beefing up its enterprise portfolio for many months now, including the acquisition of Divide and the release of Android L. But how will this melting pot affect the landscape going forward? We’ll have to wait until the next set of industry data to assess this. Every executive this publication has spoken to at Mobile World Congress has noted the fragmentation element, but if Android L devices go up compared to its previous generation brethren, market share will go up with it. Either way, Google certainly seems to be on the right path.

 

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