Despite its popularity in the consumer world, Android hasn’t been adopted as enthusiastically by enterprises as iOS, and while there are several reasons for this the biggest is security. Interestingly, Android head, Sundar Pichai, announced at Google I/O that the next version of Android would include Samsung’s Knox security container for all devices, not just those made by Samsung. This means Google has convinced Samsung to give up one of its key differentiators, but more on that later.
Although Knox has been marketed as making Android safe for work, analysts have queried whether it is able to withstand the current volume of security risks, especially with hackers using 64-bit root kits.
With the vast majority of mobile malware targeting Android, and Google’s official line being that Android is designed for freedom rather than security, these fears may not be laid to rest anytime soon.
In addition to the security concerns which include malware-ridden and entirely fake apps on the Google Play app store, the lack of Office for Android has been seen as an issue for Android enterprise adoption. Although there still isn’t a version of Office for Android as there is for iOS, it will be possible to edit native Office documents in Google Docs, which may be good enough for many users.
On the bright side, some of the new features such as allowing enterprise IT to bulk purchase apps and automatically deploy them should be very useful, as is the new Google Drive For Work programme which offers encryption, improved admin controls, auditability and unlimited storage.
There are also concerns for Android L in that the major improvements in battery life, speed and security doesn't stand out from the previous KitKat version, and the fact that Samsung Knox hasn’t yet affected enterprise mobility marketshare (as measured by activations of the Good software), and Samsung still declines to specify how many paid customers Knox has won.
While iOS has shown that enterprise mobility management isn’t the most critical factor in a BYOD world, it seems that Android phones can be sufficiently difficult to manage that they actively deter IT departments. One feature that could become a differentiator is a dual-persona model that allows users to separate work and personal data, answering one of the big challenges of mobile device management.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE…
One of Google’s biggest challenges in replicating the success of iOS in both the consumer and enterprise mobility markets is that it cannot offer a clear choice of device for each use case because it has to deal with a wide range of OEMs. This task cannot be made any easier by the fact that of the OEMs, only Samsung appears to be profitable and they appear rather keen to rock the boat.
Samsung has been developing its own mobile OS, Tizen for some time and started selling smart watches running the OS earlier this year. The Tizen OS allows Samsung to create a very similar user experience to its Android phones but replacing Google services with Samsung ones, thus depriving Google of user data and advertising revenue. It’s no secret that Google and Samsung both seemed to be trying to hedge against the other, with Google’s announcement of Android Silver to provide market development funds to OEMs that follow a more stringent set of user interface and hardware rules.
The biggest surprise from Google I/O may well be that Google is getting its house in order. I can only imagine that Samsung would not have agreed to provide Knox to other OEMs unless it was reassured about the future of the relationship, or it felt enough of a threat to step into line.
Perhaps there are problems with Tizen that we aren’t aware of?
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.