Google (Lack of) Support Hampers Android, Analyst Says

Adoption of Android tablets and smartphones in large businesses has been "severely limited" because of the complexities of managing the various Android models and versions, market research firm Gartner said in an evaluation of 20 mobile device management (MDM) software vendors released Friday.

A survey that Gartner conducted in April showed 58 percent of enterprises have or will make iOS, used in iPhones and iPads, their primary mobile platform in the next year, compared with 20 percent for BlackBerry and 9 percent for Android.

Google offers "weaker management support" for Android than Apple for iOS or Research in Motion for BlackBerry, Gartner added in its new 34-page study.

The broad-ranging study said the explosion in consumer smartphones and tablets used in workplaces is making MDM the "fastest-growing enterprise mobile software ever in terms of number of suppliers, revenue growth and interest from Gartner clients."

Mobile Movement

MDM license revenues were about $200 million in 2010 and $350 million in 2011, and are expected to reach $500 million in 2012, Gartner said. Research firm IDC recently said the revenues were higher in 2010, at $300 million, and expects the market will reach $1.2 billion in 2015. A principal problem with Android management capabilities, Gartner said, is that Google hasn't opened many application programming interfaces (APIs) for the dozens of MDM vendors to connect their various management tools to Android, Gartner said. In Android 4.0, Google only provided 16 APIs, compared to more than 500 APIs for the latest version of BlackBerry.

Some MDM vendors have built their own APIs for Android devices, but the process "is time-consuming and expensive to do for each device and version of Android," Gartner said. "This [problem] has severely limited Android adoption in the enterprise, and even today, very few enterprises provide [Android] support."

Google didn't respond to a request to comment. However, Android vendors such as Motorola Mobility -- which Google is acquiring -- have defended the security and management available in Android for enterprise uses, mainly through software from 3LM, a software vendor that Motorola acquired in 2011.

Christy Wyatt, general manager of Motorola Mobility's enterprise business unit, commented in January: "We have to get Android as a whole at a stable and secure place, and once Android is behind the firewall [with 3LM], that helps. There's a lot of mythology around Android and whether it's secure or not." Other Android device makers, such as HTC and Sony, have struck agreements to license 3LM software, she said at the time.

Gartner's report noted that Google hasn't disclosed what it plans to do with 3LM as part of Motorola, adding that enterprises Gartner works with are hoping Google will use 3LM as part of an enterprise version of Android for device makers.

Earlier in May, 3LM announced version 3.0 of its Mobile Device and Application Management platform to handle smartphones and tablets running Android 4.0, as well as manage iPhones and iPads. Other new features including an easier interface for IT managers and tools to prevent users from copying data from corporate apps to non-corporate apps.

Security Concerns

Gartner didn't rank 3LM in its latest review of 20 MDM vendors because it doesn't consider 3LM a true MDM vendor. Gartner analyst Phillip Redman, one of three authors of the latest report, said in an e-mail interview that 3LM builds APIs and doesn't provide actual MDM, adding that those APIs serve as a "layer between MDM and a mobile device."

Claims that Android is broadly secure are "not true," Redman added. "All Android is not created equally." He didn't elaborate.

The presence of BlackBerry smartphones, which have been widely regarded as secure and manageable through its BlackBerry Enterprise Server, are on the decline in enterprises. RIM in April released an MDM platform, Mobile Fusion, that provides management for iOS and Android as well as BlackBerry. Gartner didn't evaluate Mobile Fusion for its report because it is too early, but said the software "could be a force if [RIM] decides to invest more in this area."

Of the 20 MDM vendors that Gartner studied, it ranked these five as leaders: MobileIron, AirWatch, Fiberlink, Zenprise and Good Technologies. SAP and Symantec were listed as "challengers," while BoxTone and IBM were described as "visionaries."

The other 11 MDM vendors were called "niche players" and included: McAfee, Sophos, Soti, Trend Micro, Tangoe, OpenPeak, Silverback MDM, Amtel, Landesk, Smith Micro Software and MyMobile Security.

In all, there are probably more than 100 vendors globally that offer some form of MDM, Gartner said. To qualify for the group of 20, the MDM vendors had to have a well-rounded set of mobile management tools. For security management, each of the 20 had to have, at least, IT tools for these services: Enforce a password; wipe a device of data; remotely lock a device; create an audit trail for logging in of a device, including verifying device configuration from a central console; ability to detect jailbreaks and rooting; and support for at least three mobile OS platforms. Security components also include support for antivirus software, encryption, firewalls and mobile VPNs.

Other requirements included tools to block use of flash cards or other external storage, and tools to audit changes made on the hardware. For software, the 20 MDM vendors had to support the ability to push or pull apps on a device and to verify the origin of the mobile app. The software also had to support app updates, patches and an enterprise and third-party app store.

All 20 MDM vendors in the Gartner group had to have at least $1.5 million in MDM-specific revenue. The average price for MDM software is about $60 per user per year, Gartner said, a price that should drop to $40 per user per year by 2015 as more cloud-based MDM systems emerge.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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