Is Android ready for the enterprise?
One question that’s gotta be asked – with Android taking over the top spot in units sold, why is it getting no love from IT Departments, who often still prefer to equip employees with a Blackberry? Especially now that RIM is taking it in the teeth from all sides? One word: security.

Android has had its many documented security issues – we’ve covered a few of them here in this space, and now there are worries that people installing “security apps” are actually infecting themselves. That can’t help the perception of Android as a troublemaker, especially when users are carrying a lot of sensitive data on their devices.

Now, that’s not to say that Blackberry hasn’t had the occasional security problem. But despite these incidents (and the occasional too-long outage), there’s still a sense that Blackberry offers far greater security. And maybe that’s because you get the feeling that, for all the other problems RIM may be exhibiting at the moment, someone’s keeping an eye on user security there.

By contrast, it sometimes feels like Android is akin to the Wild West, with the local sheriff missing in action. Even were this largely perception, perception matters when purchasing decisions are at stake.

There are a few companies trying to take control of the situation, to add not only a bit of security and stability to the process, but more importantly, the PERCEPTION of security and stability, too. While there are third-party companies offering enterprise management tools, some of the major Android manufacturers are also stepping in with programs of their own.

Lenovo was one of the first companies to actively target the enterprise market with an Android product offering. Not only does the company feature a lineup of Thinkpad-branded Android tablets designed for use in an enterprise environment, the company also offers enterprise the ability to lock down the tablet’s ability to install apps to a customized list of company-approved apps. Even though that’s a bit less fun for the eventual user of the tablet, it provides the IT department with a bit more peace of mind knowing that rogue apps won’t easily end up on company equipment.

Samsung is also throwing its hat into the enterprise-friendly ring with the release of Android hardware qualifying for its SAFE program (SAFE stands for Samsung Approved For Enterprise).

Devices that are SAFE-certified include Mobile Device Management features such as the ability to enable/disable the camera or wireless; remotely remove applications; enforce roaming policies and password settings; and on-device encryption. While some of these features are Android spec, the branding exercise here is what’s more important; it reminds IT departments that they can have control over Android devices.

The forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S III will be SAFE-certified right out of the gate, but other devices will also qualify, including the Galaxy Note. Samsung is even offering an incentive for people to switch to one of their new SAFE devices at – up to $300 for a trade-in of their old devices.

Do these enterprise-friendly programs mean that these devices are completely 100% safe? Of course not…but it’s a start for a platform that many IT department regards with a fair amount of wariness.

And it may be just in time, with the announcement of the Microsoft Surface tablet. While Microsoft’s new tablet is still a bit of an unknown quantity thanks to its slightly nebulous specs, pricing and availability, it could potentially pose a further threat to the adoption of Android devices into enterprise – big companies know and trust Microsoft, even with its security issues.

If more Android vendors step up and show a willingness to address enterprise concerns, it could help stave off a showdown that they just won’t win, when the final decision is made.

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