Google announces new enterprise tablet features

Google has renewed its efforts to get businesses to take its tablet offerings seriously, beefing up the management features available to Google Apps customers - including a new option to force data encryption on client devices.

The new features, which are live in Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Education now, allow enterprise customers significantly improved control over their users' tablets and smartphones - something which is critical to the success of Android as a platform for corporate mobile computing.

The first new feature will be familiar to anyone who's used Apple's Mobile Me service: a tracker that allows users to locate misplaced Android smartphones and tablets via network or GPS-based positioning. Users can also ring the device - useful if it's fallen down the back of a sofa - and reset the PIN or password on all Android 2.2 and above devices.

The second feature is purely for tablets - and comes as a direct answer to Research in Motion's upcoming business-oriented BlackBerry playbook: enforced encryption. Tablets running Android 3.0 'Honeycomb' that are equipped with the latest version of the Google Apps Device Policy package can now be forced to enable encrypted storage via a central management console - potentially saving administrators serious headaches in the event of lost devices.

The final feature is a little more basic: a corporate address book app which queries Google Apps contacts - via text or voice input - for an easy way to share numbers and e-mail addresses across an organisation. Lookup is available on Android 2.1 or higher devices.

The new features will help drive Android adoption in the enterprise market, Google's Mayur Kamat explained. "Android works quite well with Google Apps, but we’re working to make it an excellent choice for both end-users and IT at businesses and schools. These improvements should help make Android users even more productive while keeping their information secure," Kamat claimed - while teasing us with a promise that "there’s more to come."

While enterprise adoption of tablets has been slow - even for Apple and its market-leading iPad range - many consider it to be a major area for growth, and the next obvious target for when consumers tire of oversized smartphones.