Dec 14th, 2012

With RIM’s Blackberry operating system and line of devices taking a backseat to Android and iOS in the consumer market, many are wondering who will be the company to gain the interest of enterprise. Some predicted RIM would never lose a ton of market share in that category, but they’ve steadily lost a lot of ground (albeit not at nearly the same rate as they did within the consumer market).

Apple might have been the obvious answer five years ago, and Microsoft is still positioning themselves for a run at that market, but Android is just as viable a platform as any when it comes to meeting the needs of big business.

Security has been one of the major issues that has kept Android back from being the end all, be all operating system in business, but now that Google is beginning to take a more steadfast approach in plugging up the holes we could see more suits looking its way. So, who do I think will win this particular war? My short answer is Google, but bias isn’t a part of that. Let me show you why I think Android could definitely look to dominate business.

Open and “free”

One of the biggest reasons businesses could have their cross-hairs squared on Google’s mobile operating system is due to its openness. Because Android can be had in open source form by anyone who knows how to compile source code, Google’s operating system lends itself well to businesses who need deep customization. We’ve seen Android adapt to everything from televisions and watches to glasses and tablets, so an IT department has to feel comfortable knowing they can do pretty much whatever they want with Android.

Realistically speaking, the amount of businesses who will customize Android that deeply is likely so small that they don’t even show a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things, but more control over software and hardware is something that a ton of businesses desire, and Android provides just that.

And because Android is open, anyone can take any crop of Android phones and put their own workforce environments on them without help from Google or the OEMs. You can cook up 10 applications for your business right now and install them on all of your employees’ Android phones without having to interface with anyone you don’t want to, and that is a very big deal.

Finally, if your business requires employees to use company-issued phones it would be a lot more cost efficient to order 100 or 200 cheap, unlocked Android phones wholesale through an OEM or third party seller compared to having to deal with the premium and perks that comes with interfacing directly with the likes of Apple.

It’s secure enough for the military and NASA

As I mentioned before, Google is starting to take security very strongly on the malware side of things. Malware isn’t the only thing to worry about when it comes to security, though. If businesses are wondering if Android can be tight enough to deliver secure mobile computing environments for its customers then they shouldn’t look further than what the United States military is doing with it.

There was a time where we couldn’t go a day without hearing about how the United States Army or the Marines were using Android in the field to help with day-to-day operations. Whether it be simple things like training apps and guides to full-on GPS systems for field combat, the military has embraced Android in ways that we never thought they would.

The United States Army regularly holds developer competitions to see who can develop the best and most innovative apps for its soldiers to use to help make life easier, and more serious and critical military applications are said to be worked on behind closed doors all the time.

Beyond that, even NASA has employed Android for its space exploration efforts. If you don’t remember, the Nexus S became the first NASA certified smartphone to be used on-board a space shuttle for a launch mission. It wasn’t out scouring mars for aliens or foreign particles, but it helped along in missions to test NASA’s new SPHERES satellites — that’s a very big deal, I’d say.

So if Google’s Android is powerful enough to help NASA and the United States military, private businesses surely have no reason to believe it’s not adequate for their own use, right? I would think so.

Email is the trump card

There’s no secret that fans of Microsoft Exchange are a bit underwhelmed by Google’s accommodations. For starters, Android’s Exchange support has never lent itself well to the calendar and tasks part of the equation. This has been an area where Microsoft (duh) and RIM have always shined, and I won’t act like it’s not an important thing to get right.

But if we’re talking about Apple vs Google, the latter would appear to have the upper-hand. Both platforms offer your basic, standard built-in push email support for Exchange email, but Google has a leg up on Apple in that it specializes in providing its own very good set of enterprise-focused services for email and calendar.

Google Apps for Business– which provides things like Gmail and Google Calendar for businesses — is a fantastic platform to migrate to and has proven to be a mainstay for many small and medium-sized businesses. Google’s still the little guy up against the likes of Exchange and IBM’s Lotus, but like Android the open nature of the platform means it can scale to the needs of a lot of different businesses (and at a fraction of the cost, no less).

Apple simply doesn’t have anything like that in their arsenal, and that could be detrimental to their efforts in trying to sway enterprise. Even if you aren’t a fan of Android’s built-in Exchange support or looking to switch your company over to Google Apps, there are still a lot of nice solutions — such as Nitrodesk’s Touchdown — that can deliver everything you need.

Enterprise won’t flock to Android nearly as hastily as consumers did simply due to the volatile and risky nature of switching up the communications aspect of any business, but when it’s all said and done I feel like Google has the tools — not only with Android, but with the powerful platform that is Google Apps — to emerge victorious.

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