Android has the largest market share for smartphone operating systems among consumers, with almost half of all mobile devices in France, Spain and the UK now Android-based, according to a recent study by Orange. With that said, enterprise adoption has lagged due to the fragmentation of devices and operating system versions, which has created too much complexity for IT. As a result, while most global companies have piloted Android, they have not fully embraced it.
However, in the last few months, two major events have established the urgency and need of Android support; the first being the decline of BlackBerry. As a result, many Global 2000 companies are now considering a rapid and complete migration away from the operating system.
The second factor driving Android support is employee demand. According to IDC analysis, Android passed 75 per cent market share of smartphone shipments in the second quarter of 2013, making it the dominant smartphone operating system globally and the preferred choice of many employees in BYOD programmes. The analyst firm has also predicted that the mobile device onslaught will continue in 2014, with Android maintaining its volume advantage over the likes of Apple.
So what does this mean for the enterprise? Well, with Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt stating that Android devices will make great Christmas presents for iPhone users and suggesting that they would be better off on Android in the long run, the enterprise must be prepared for an influx of Android devices set to enter the workplace this month. How, I hear you ask? Well, they are going to need a complete and consistent approach to security.
The key to Android success
A successful Android deployment must not only address the complexities due to the fragmentation of devices and operating system versions, but also preserve the native user experience, and above all without compromising security.
What enterprises need to do is embrace and initiate a three-pronged approach. They must not only focus on managing devices but apps too. Employees demand apps to help them get their work done. The most important capabilities they need for mobile productivity are email, access to content, and browsing. The concern for IT is that corporate content can end up in personal cloud services like Dropbox.
The key is to separate personal and corporate apps and content on Android and containerise them, by putting them into a secure environment - an enterprise persona. Each app therefore becomes a secure container whose data is encrypted, removable and protected from unauthorised access. Because each user has multiple business apps, each app container is also connected to other secure app containers, which allows the sharing of policies, like app single sign-on, and the sharing of data, like documents, whilst preserving the native Android user experience.
Secure employee adoption of Android depends on the credible and clear separation of business app data into an enterprise app persona that can be managed separately by the Mobile IT team. The end result is an experience for both the employee and IT that is consistent across Android devices and operating system versions.
Whether the device is corporate-owned or part of a BYOD initiative, Mobile IT remains in full control over the enterprise persona. The administrator can set and manage app and data level policies and perform selective or complete wipes of the persona. However, IT has no knowledge of or access to the user's personal applications and data – the two environments are completely isolated on the back end.
What lies ahead
Android has moved from being a feature on a checklist for the future to being a core requirement for today. Employees choose Android devices because they love the user experience specific to that device, and they want that same experience when using the device for work. So with the New Year already in full swing, it is important for enterprises to wake up and smell the coffee.
More and more customers are switching to Android and want to leverage the powerful app experience of the operating system. And with the right approach – by containerising and isolating the enterprise data and communications from personal applications and devices - enterprises can deliver the native user experience, keep employees happy and finally transform their businesses with Android.
Image credit: Flickr (Victor1558)
Ojas Rege is the vice president of strategy at MobileIron.