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Android Ambivalence: The Enterprise Mobility Perspective

In case you missed Google announced today the latest version of its Android mobile operating system.  Version 2.3, a.k.a. Gingerbread is now available and will soon find its way to devices old and new – most notably the new Nexus S by Samsung.  There was a wonderfully interesting article over at ZDNet today that is perfectly summarized by its opening remarks:

Let’s face it: there are too many Google Android devices.

The author is dead on.  In just over two short years, there are now over 100 different Android devices that have been out in the market.  I almost laughed out loud at his analogy regarding the myriad options available in your local toothpaste aisle.  How can we possibly care about all the subtle differences in all the various devices out there?  Heck, Samung has done the same thing by releasing multiple variations of its Galaxy S series of devices.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the fragmentation in the Android world is bad for enterprise mobility management.

While the ZDNet article wonders if Google is creating ambivalence for Android handsets, I’ll take the question one step further and ask if Google is ambivalent about Android in the enterprise.  Now generally speaking, we know that Google is not ambivalent to the corporate sector as it has created Google Docs, Google Apps and even filed litigation against the US Government on what it called anti-competitive bidding for a deal that was ultimately won by Microsoft BPOS.  Again, Google cares about the enterprise….when it wants to.  I’m not sure that is the case with Android.

If you look at the release notes for Android 2.3, you will not see a single advancement for the workplace (notice how I did not say the “enterprise”).  As we know, Android is sorely lacking in native support for key enterprise mobility management, most notably on the security front and massive fragmentation in the operating system user base….oh, and did I mention also all the differences in the hardware specifications across those 100+ devices?

Now of course, you have at the other end, Apple and the iPhone.  There are three models out there right now….four if you count the iPad in the iOS family.  They are the Henry Ford of mobility – you can have any color you want, as long as it’s black (OK, I know you can get a WHITE 3GS, but hear me out people!).  Apple and iOS are as locked down as it gets.  You do things the Apple way or you don’t get to play with them.

Instead with Google, you have laissez-faire incarnate.  They don’t care what you do, as long as you just use their platform.  That’s great (in theory) in order to get quick market share (which it obviously has) but what happens when you need to have some sets of control?  At least with Apple, they have consistently (albeit to the beat of their own drum) improved the enterprise chops of iOS – most notably with its native MDM capabilities. For the record, I can’t believe I am giving kudos to Apple.   Back to the Google ambivalence.

What is it going to take for Google to start caring about the corporate sector?  I don’t know frankly.  (BTW, there’s a related discussion going on in the Forums area)

I wonder however if at some point we are going to see the equivalent of modern day politics affect mobility in the workplace.  In modern day politics, it’s the voice of the (extreme) minority that somehow seems to influence the majority of what goes on…we need only look at America’s Tea Party as a prime example.  Are we going to get to a point where the CIO/CSO is actually going to make enough noise that they will start setting strict guidelines on the platforms employees can use….even in an individually liable scenario?

If this were to happen, I can see new winners and losers in the mobility market share battle.

5 Comments

  1. Posted December 8, 2010 at 11:52 | Permalink

    Philippe,

    I think Google is taking a page from Apple’s playbook. That is, the workplace is of inconsequential importance compared to consumers. What we have seen is that the workplace sensitivity is coming from Verizon Wireless. Further, VZW seems to have a good feedback loop both to Google and handset OEMs.

    Our fastest internal adoption of Androids are Moto Droid X and HTC Incredible. Both these devices seem to have a decent level of support and the porting delays from vanilla Google OS release to Verizon/OEM making available are acceptable for now.

    The Android device market will consolidate to some degree as everyone learns the necessary lessons but the amazing innovation cycle we are witnessing will compensate for early pain now. Our developers are still thinking through software lifecycle for apps and how to handle multiple platfrom geometries. The KILLER apps at this point in time are Exchange mobility, Google platform integrations, and Android’s trick Web Browser.

    So, don’t despair for Android. Much work to do, but for those of us who live with multi-year maturity lifecycles in many technologies, we are pretty accomodating.

    ~Art

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    • Posted December 9, 2010 at 14:42 | Permalink

      Art,

      “…for those of us who live with multi-year maturity lifecycles in many technologies…”

      Is that still possible in today’s mobile workplace?

      Philippe

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      • Posted December 12, 2010 at 00:07 | Permalink

        Philippe,
        I guess my POV is that everything is evolving all the time and we need to influence what we can and adapt to whatever the realities are.
        ~Art

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      • Posted December 12, 2010 at 00:17 | Permalink

        On maturity lifecycles, many architectural pieces take a long time horizon to realize. I may also be unrealistically optimistic but my personal experiences with Google/Andriod have been very positive to date.

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      • Posted December 13, 2010 at 06:28 | Permalink

        “…my POV is that everything is evolving all the time and we need to influence what we can and adapt to whatever the realities are.” <— amen

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Philippe Winthrop and Mobixy, Ryan Faas. Ryan Faas said: RT @biz_mobility: Android Ambivalence: The Enterprise Mobility Perspective http://t.co/kzEz7zE via @the_emf_dot_org [...]

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