Despite Android’s dominance of mobile in terms of market share there is a very important and lucrative niche that Google has been neglecting. The enterprise needs mobile devices and apps. Gartner suggests that worldwide IT spending in 2014 will be $3.7 trillion and an increasingly large portion of that is going towards smartphones, tablets, and supporting apps and services.
BlackBerry dominated the business world for years, but its failure to capture the wider consumer market eventually sank it. Apple crept in via the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend, saw the potential and worked to secure the market for itself. Despite making serious inroads in the business world with Google’s Apps for Business making the cloud affordable for companies of every size, Google didn’t follow up with an enterprise strategy for Android.
Has Google missed the boat on the enterprise or can it muscle in? Let’s take a closer look at the situation.
Apple is entrenched
A Good Technology report, drawing data from 5,000 business customers across 184 countries, suggests that iOS devices accounted for 72 percent of device activations in the enterprise in Q1 of 2014, 51 percent was iPhones and 21 percent was iPads.
According to Tim Cook the iPhone and iPad are even more dominant at the top end with “over 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and over 92 percent of the Global 500 using iOS devices in their business today” and that’s before the IBM deal was announced.
IBM isn’t just going to sell software for iOS devices through this partnership, it’s throwing “100,000 IBM industry and domain consultants and software developers behind it” and “will also sell iPhones and iPads with the industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide.”
None of that means that Google can’t take action to increase Android’s share, but it has allowed Apple to build a big lead and the enterprise is notoriously slow moving when it comes to technology. One of the main reasons that BlackBerry is still afloat is because the business world is phasing them out gradually. If Apple has already secured lock-in with a lot of companies, and is now being pushed as a solution by enterprise stalwart IBM, it’s going to be very tough to unseat.
BYOD is the way in
The same trend that carried iOS into the enterprise is now working to establish Android. People are bringing their own mobile devices to work and more and more employers are establishing policies to cater for that and extending IT support to enable access to necessary systems. Many companies have now switched to 100 percent BYOD and many more will in the coming months, but there are some obstacles for Android to overcome.
Security and fragmentation
Security is the big concern for the enterprise. BYOD is supposed to save money, increase employee satisfaction, and encourage people to work longer hours, but it introduces serious security risks. This Gartner survey highlights the issue succinctly, revealing that 25 percent of business users “admitted to having had a security issue with their private device in 2013, but only 27 percent of those respondents felt obliged to report this to their employer.”
Android has a bad reputation, largely undeserved, when it comes to security, and our old friend fragmentation also presents a major headache for IT staff trying to institute a solid mobile device management (MDM) policy.
For enterprise customers buying devices in bulk, iOS is going to look more attractive. Apple has taken steps to simplify enterprise deployments with the “Streamlined Setup Assistant” which enables zero-touch configuration of new iPhones and iPads.
Android for Work
Google did give a nod to the enterprise when it unveiled Android for Work at I/O this year. It’s a solution that allows for easy segregation of work and home sections on an Android device. If you cast your mind back it’s something that BlackBerry called Balance and it’s already part of Samsung’s Knox.
Android Work will be baked into Android L, but it will also be supported on devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and up. It will deliver some really important MDM features and IT controls enabling a much more secure BYOD future for Android. It will also open up APIs for enterprise mobility management vendors to integrate their wares.
The reason Android Work is so similar to Knox is that Samsung heavily contributed to it. Conquering the enterprise from a hardware perspective might not be high on Google’s list, but it’s very important for Samsung. The profit margin in this lucrative market is high, that’s why it makes sense for Apple to focus its efforts here because the consumer market is reaching saturation and it doesn’t want to compete at the budget end.
Google is happy to keep increasing market share and it already has a presence in the enterprise thanks to its apps. Samsung execs seem to have realized that if they want their Android devices to make a dent in the enterprise then they’ll have to do some of the heavy lifting. This battle is really between Apple and the Android OEMs, led by Samsung, rather than between Apple and Google.
As American as Apple
This may all sound like doom and gloom for Android, but if we step outside the U.S. for a moment we can see plenty of opportunity. Re/code cites IDC research which suggests that iPhones make up 82 percent of smartphones, and iPads account for 73 percent of tablets at U.S. corporations, but globally those stats are 36 percent and 39 percent respectively.
Because Android’s market share is huge and growing in many places the BYOD trend is going to carry more Android devices into the enterprise. If Samsung can pull Google and the OEMs together on this and make Android more attractive for businesses then it can definitely make inroads to the enterprise beyond the States.