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Android is looking to bolster its enterprise cred and one-up Apple as iOS devices continue to dominate enterprise activations

Android is looking to bolster its enterprise cred and one-up Apple as iOS devices continue to dominate in enterprise 

Google has announced the Android for Work programme, an effort to integrate and secure mobile and cloud-based apps on the Android platform. The initiative, which includes some big names in the enterprise space like HP, Dell, SAP, VMware and Citrix, is aimed at bolstering Android as an enterprise mobile platform – and combatting iOS’s dominance there.

Google said while Android is a popular platform in the enterprise, mobile devices running the platform remain underutilised, in part because it doesn’t ship standard with some key enterprise-focused mobility services.

Android for Work aims to fill that gap. Along with some big enterprise partners spanning the device, enterprise mobility management, application and networking space, Google is adding a range of features to a version of Android specifically tailored to the enterprise.

These include encryption by default, more robust user profiling and personal / work app and data segmentation; secure mail, calendaring, documents and browsing apps offered by Google (with IT retaining the ability to manage those apps directly); a version of the Google Play store for enterprise app deployment and distribution; and other built in productivity tools with support for Exchange, Notes and other common legacy platforms.

“Over a billion people today carry Android smartphones—devices that are more powerful than the computers we used just a few years ago,” wrote Rajen Sheth, director of product management, Android and Chrome for Work at Google.

“For many, these phones have become essential tools to help us complete important work tasks like checking email, editing documents, reviewing sales pipelines and approving deals. But for the majority of workers, smartphones and tablets are underutilized in the workplace. Their business and innovation potential remain largely untapped.”

Google has lined up some big names in the enterprise space to bring these capabilities to Android, many of which the firm already works closely with. It’s partnering with BlackBerry, Citrix, VMware and MobileIron on mobility management; more or less every firm it’s already working with on devices; Salesforce, SAP and Adobe on the application front; and F5, Cisco and Paloalto on networking.

The move seems intended to bolster Android’s appeal in the enterprise, where iOS has a clear lead. According to the Good Technology Index, which tracks trends in mobile activations, Q3 2014 saw iOS devices account for about 69 per cent of all enterprise mobile device activations, with 29 per cent going to Android devices. In the tablet space nearly nine in 10 of each device activated in the enterprise during Q3 2014 was an Apple device, with Android devices accounting for roughly 11 per cent.

The move also comes at a time when Apple is itself redoubling efforts to stay ahead in the enterprise. In December last year Apple and IBM announced the launch of a number of co-developed applications that implement a variety of IBM mobile and cloud services aimed specifically at the enterprise, the result of a partnership that kicked off last summer.