3rd-party tools lacking for enterprise Android

Google alone will not turn Android into an enterprise-ready OS, instead it will be up to third parties to add necessary features for businesses, according to Android Developer Challenge winners Konrad Hübner and Henning Böger.

The two developers, who both have day jobs at consulting giant Capgemini, spoke about Android 2.2 in the enterprise at a conference in Stockholm on Thursday. The pair developed Cab4me, which makes it easier to find a taxi, and shared top prize with nine other teams in the original Android Developer Challenge.

Google has added improved Exchange support, a built-in hotspot and a cloud-to-device messaging feature — all of which will make Android a much better fit for enterprise use, Böger and Hübner acknowledged.

But it isn’t enough to satisfy all enterprise demands, and Böger doesn’t expect Google will develop all the features an enterprise needs. For example, all the device drivers a logistics provider wants for printers and scanners. Instead, enterprises will have to rely on third parties if they want to use Android, Böger said.

The main reasons for Research In Motion’s popularity in the enterprise market is its sophisticated management features and the ability to control every aspect of the phones centrally, which IT departments really like, according to Böger. But, for example, Good Technology is building more advanced management tools for Android, he said.

During a Q&A session the two developers said it was not likely that Google will develop an enterprise version of Android.

However, there are some features that Google should add, including the ability to encrypt all the data on the phone, said Böger.

Google and Apple’s consumer focus isn’t the wrong strategy since nine out of 10 phones are sold to consumers, but it can be frustrating for enterprise users, said Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner.

The improvements in version 2.2 make it possible to use the standard issue Android in an enterprise, at least for employees who don’t handle sensitive information on their phones, according to Wallin. However, for users who want an Android phone and handle company secrets, the additional security offered by vendors such as Good Technology, Excitor and MobileIron — which will soon add Android to the platforms it can secure and manage — is needed, Wallin said.

Android’s growing popularity among consumers and developers has started to rub off on enterprises.

Construction company NCC has liberal approach to the phones its employees can use for e-mail and accessing the Internet, including HTC’s Android-based Desire, Apple’s iPhone and the Symbin-based Nokia E72. The company has started working on a more standardized mobile environment, and Android is one of the alternatives, according to Radu Serban, who is in charge of mobile platforms at NCC in Sweden. The biggest attraction with Android is its openness, which allows developers to do exactly what the company wants, Serban said.

However, convincing enterprises that have standardized on BlackBerry phones may be a tall order for the Android camp. Service management company Sodexo has used BlackBerries since they debuted. The company is now in the process of doing a telephony procurement round, and has looked at Android and the iPhone. But it didn’t take long to realize that RIM’s features for central management are outstanding, according to Viktor Dellmar, enterprise development director at Sodexo in Sweden.

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