Is Android in the business world to stay?
“One of our specialties is [working] with our customer to specialize products — so we’ll have a standard product … and if they need a slight modification to that product, or even an extensive one, we work with that customer to create what we call product specials,” Christensen says.
With just one device manufacturer to support, iOS seemed like the logical choice.
“Internally, we chose iOS because it’s a lot more predictable, a lot more secure. It’s really been quite easy for us to support,” she says. “We’re a smaller shop, we have a smaller IT group here, and [Android] would just be too much for us to support.”
However, Banner works with channel partners as well as its own sales staff. And not all of those partners wanted to use the iPad. Christensen says that the company used a third-party developer to translate the app over to Android.
The process was pleasantly straightforward, she notes.
“It actually was fairly easy to port [the app] over to Android devices. The biggest thing that we were dealing with from a design standpoint was that the screen was different … and making sure that those buttons were still friendly to use and that everything could be seen on the screen,” Christensen says.
Mobility vets: Don’t sweat security, fragmentation too much
CompanionLink Software Marketing Director Rushang Shah says that this multi-platform environment has its own appeal to businesses, complexity issues aside.
“The business audience we’ve always catered to is one that values options more than being tied into one system like Apple,” he argues. “That is one of the major drivers of Android’s growth in the business market—business users want options.”
CompanionLink has made mobile device sync software since the days of Palm OS. Shah says CEO Wayland Bruns was one of about 30 people present at Palm’s first developer conference, 18 years ago.
While the conventional wisdom holds that the two main factors holding back Android growth are security and platform fragmentation, Bruns and Shah say they question how valid those concerns still are.
According to Bruns, the issues caused by the complexity of the Android environment—different devices, different software versions, and so on—have been evaporating of late.
The credit for this goes to Google, he says. Ever since Android versions 2.2 and 2.3 (Froyo and Gingerbread), the company has been energetically attacking fragmentation problems.
“The API functions are better than ever at allowing us to add a new feature for new phones, and still be able to run the same software on older phones. Two years ago, we were bombarded by bugs and incompatibilities related to obscure phone models,” Bruns says. “It has now been months since we have had such problems, even though we support the older phones as well as the newest Jelly Bean phones and tablets.”
As to security, Shah says, there’s nothing intrinsically less secure about the Android platform than iOS.
“Inherently, I don’t think there’s anything about the Android platform that’s more risky than iOS. Yeah, Apple has this aura of ‘we lock down things’ but … it’s just as risky,” he says.
But will Android still be Android tomorrow? Rumors that Google would merge the mobile OS with its growing Chrome ecosystem started in earnest after the news in mid-March that longtime Android chief Andy Rubin would be making way for Sundar Pichai, who heads up Chrome and Google Apps.
The answer, for the moment, is yes, according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who said that the two products would remain separate during a recent trip to India.
That said, tight integration with Google’s existing product infrastructure—from Gmail to Google + to any number of other offerings—has long been a hallmark of Android, and further blurring of the lines between Chrome and Android is far from impossible.