Is Android ready for the enterprise?


On question that’s gotta be asked – with Android taking overthe top spot in units sold, why is it getting no love from IT Departments, whooften still prefer to equip employees with a Blackberry? Especially now thatRIM is taking it in the teeth from all sides? One word: security.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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