This week, research firm Gartner announced that by year's end Google's Android will rocket past both Apple's iOS and Research in Motion's Blackberry in popularity.
While the report that Google's smartphone OS will claim 17.7 percent of worldwide sales by the end of 2010--an astounding leap from the 3.9 percent it had at the same time last year--has grabbed headlines, Android's speedy ascent should come as little surprise. Its multivendor business model brings iPhone-like capabilities to a variety of smartphone models and wireless carriers, allowing consumers myriad choices for their mobile experience.
In addition to its broader selection of devices and carriers, Android's open platform offers customizable features and a breadth of applications for each manufacturer, carrier, and user to tailor the OS to their individual needs. This versatility clearly makes it an attractive option for those who don't want to be locked into Apple's walled garden, particularly corporate customers seeking a platform they can readily tailor to their business environment.
That versatility should help Android continue to make inroads in the business world. And though Android in its earliest incarnation had been commonly dismissed as an option for business professionals, Android 2.2 has made strides in its enterprise applications, bringing beefed up Exchange support and stronger security features, including the ability for IT administrators to remotely control passwords and wipe devices.
Despite these developments, Android still has a way to go before it's an ideal tool for every business. It still lacks a decent option to encrypt removable media cards, which will certainly blacklist if for businesses trafficking sensitive data. And in its present version, it can't yet match the administration features of the BlackBerry. Meanwhile, RIM's roll out of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express--a free, slimmed-down version on its lauded mobile administration system squarely targeted at small businesses that allows them to deploy up to 75 BlackBerry devices without any additional software or user license fees--indicates that the BlackBerry won't easily be toppled from its perch as the go-to mobile device for businesses.
And, of course, the Android Market still lags far behind Apple's App Store in its selection of downloadable software.
Still, Android's popularity will undoubtedly continue to grow and a rumored 3.0 version to arrive later this year will likely bring more significant improvements. But it's going to need an even more sophisticated suite of enterprise tools if Android devices are going to be embraced as a corporate as well as consumer smartphone.