Google doesn’t care about the enterprise, or your BYOD program
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In my last post, I talked about my love/hate relationship with Apple and how iOS is really the best, most secure platform for BYOD. Today, I want to talk about Android, and why the platform is just plain terrible for corporate use, and a nightmare for BYOD. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Google doesn't care about the enterprise. If it did, it would be more like Apple. Yes, I said it. After years of hating on Apple and being an Android fanboy, I admit it. Android stinks for corporate use. If this weren't an IBM sanctioned blog, I would probably use stronger language.
Google needs to be more like Apple, at least when it comes to Android. Before I continue, let me admit that I have both a Google Nexus 7 tablet and a Motorola Droid Razer Maxx smartphone. I get IBM e-mail using IBM Traveler on my Droid, but my Nexus 7 tablet is used mostly for e-books, games and personal correspondence. I love both my Android devices.
You would think my claim about Google not caring about the enterprise doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially when Android has, as of mid-2013, almost 80% of the smartphone market. This absolutely dwarfs anyone else. Apple comes in at just over 13%, according to IDC. The tablet market is becoming almost equally Android heavy. As of mid-2013, Android owns 63% of the Tablet OS share to Apple’s 31%, again according to IDC. To be fair, a lot of this market domination has to do with the fact that Apple hasn't released a new product in more than a year-an eternity in this business. And it hasn't released anything innovative since the first iPad. Add in the fact that Apple products are, IMHO, grossly overpriced, and this all contributes to the epic smack-down Google is putting on our friends from Cupertino.
So if Google is selling so many tablets and smartphones, some of them must be being used in the enterprise and for BYOD, right? Unfortunately, they are. And while I love the later versions of Android, starting with Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Jelly Bean (4.1), that doesn't mean I think they are good for enterprise use. Android is a great mobile OS, and it has tremendous capabilities to organize and simplify its users’ busy lives. I much prefer the user interface to iOS, and its integrated voice activated search makes Siri look feeble-minded. But Android’s sole purpose is to provide Google with another method to target advertising to its users. Maybe that’s a cynical view, but let’s take a look at why I think that, and why I think Android is bad for BYOD:
Android has no standard e-mail client: That’s right. Unless you use GMail and Google docs, which albeit, many companies are starting to look at, there is no standard e-mail application across Android devices. Samsung has its own client, Motorola its own, etc. So having a standard PIM solution that an enterprise can remotely configure and manage requires an additional app that must be purchased and maintained. There are several good ones out there. If you are an Exchange shop, Nitrodesk Touchdown is a great solution. For IBM Notes, Traveler is the way to go. We support both of them in IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, as well as a full dual-persona solution, Divide, which is the best container solution for Android and iOS, bar none.
Android has no bulk purchase program for Apps: This is even more galling than the lack of a standard email client. Not only does Google force enterprises to buy an app to support corporate e-mail on Android, but it doesn't have a good way for enterprises to provide it. Apple has its VPP, where organizations can buy apps for employees and manage the licenses. It’s not perfect, but it works. On the Google Play store, each user has to sign in with his or her individual account, purchase an app, and then, if it’s for corporate use, submit an expense report for reimbursement. Not so easy to manage for thousands, or even dozens of users, for that matter.
Android’s management APIs are woefully inadequate: In iOS, there are literally dozens of APIs that IEM for mobile can leverage to provision, manage, and secure a mobile device. Everything from pre-configuring e-mail, disabling or enabling all kinds of features like Siri (I hate her), iCloud, VPN, WLAN, and just about anything else you can think of. With Android, you can manage the device password, disable the camera and force encryption of the OS and memory card (on ICS and above), and that’s about it. Pathetic. And even worse, Google had a perfectly good solution it could have leveraged when it purchased Motorola Mobility a few years ago.
Part of the Motorola Mobility acquisition included a not-so well-known company called 3LM, which, as far as I can tell, sole purpose was to provide APIs on top of Android that device manufacturers could use to provide management capabilities into Android. And what did Google do with them? Instead of integrating them into the operating system so all Android manufacturers could have a standard set of APIs to work with, it simply shut them down. Kaput. Gone. Thanks a lot, Google.
Samsung has done a pretty good job of creating its own set of APIs called SAFE that we are able to leverage to manage its Android devices, and it also has a very promising dual-persona capability called KNOX that we will support when it’s released. But of course, those only work on Samsung devices. And, as anyone who follows Android knows, there are many different device manufacturers that use Android. Each one of them puts their own twist on Android, so no two different hardware devices, even if they run the same version of Android, are alike. You add all these things up and it makes managing these devices a nightmare. Especially when you consider large corporations may have hundreds, or even thousands of these little monsters running around their network accessing all kinds of data.
Yes, it’s hard managing Android devices-certainly much harder than iOS, as much as I hate to admit it. But Google has an easy way they can fix this mess…on about 90% of all Android devices still being used. A few months ago, Google pushed out an app to all Android devices Gingerbread (2.2) and above, called Google settings. Go on, check it out. It’s there on your phone or Android tablet. This app, really a set of APIs, provides a common management framework that developers can leverage to interact with the OS. Unfortunately, so far Google has only created APIs that help developers track high scores, and better locate you to target advertising to you. But at least Google has a mechanism to fix it, if it ever chooses to. But why should it? When you have an 80% market share, it ain’t broken, so why fix it?