Google has announced their intention to make future versions of their Android mobile operating system more enterprise-friendly and fight harder to gain market share from competitors like the RIM (Research in Motion) Blackberry. Android has a long way to go to be an enterprise-class mobile platform, and Google isn’t even heading in the right direction.
Andy Rubin, Google Vice President of Engineering, said that Google plans to build “enterprise features” into future versions of the Android OS including the ability to sync with Google apps such as Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. The problem with that strategy is that those are not enterprise applications, at least not yet. The ability to sync a mobile phone with Gmail is not a compelling feature for an enterprise.
Enterprise admins need a mobile platform that can be centrally managed. They need to be able to set and enforce policies across the environment. They need to be able to meet compliance requirements by logging activity and retaining communications on the mobile phones. They need to be able to ensure that communications and data on the phone are protected from unauthorized access. They need to be able to integrate the mobile phone operating system with the tools and applications used in the Enterprise such as Exchange Server. I can’t be positive, but I am pretty sure syncing with Gmail is not on any Top 5 features list for enterprise admins.
The irony is that in the same statement announcing the intent to make future versions of Android more enterprise-friendly they also indicated their resolve to make it integrate more seamlessly with social networking sites. Google wants to emulate and build on the features developed by Palm for their Synergy application that pulls data from social networking sites such as Facebook.
That gives Android a split personality. A serious enterprise-class mobile operating system platform needs to provide the central management, policy enforcement, security, compliance, and productivity functions needed by enterprises. A social networking mobile operating system should be open, and connected, and built for entertainment and social interaction.
A consumer may not care if their phone is capable of connecting to Exchange or not, but an enterprise should care if their mobile operating system platform also allows users to perform inappropriate activities or potentially compromise information. Google needs to resolve Android’s identity crisis and pick a direction. I think they have much greater odds of success pursuing the consumer, social networking path, than trying to take on RIM for enterprise mobile platform dominance. Google already has its hands full trying to fight Microsoft for the desktop operating system and web browser markets.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.