Google is making its Google Apps suite more attractive to businesses that let their workers access their company data from the road, a growing trend thanks to the rise of smartphones equipped with full HTML browsers.
Beginning Feb. 4, IT administrators who license Google Apps Premier and Education Edition will be able to dictate security settings for their users' iPhone, Nokia E series and Windows Mobile smartphones right from the Google Apps control panel.
These policies include the ability to: remotely wipe data from devices that are lost or stolen; lock devices after they haven't been used for a certain period; delegate a password for each phone; set minimum password lengths; and require passwords that include letters, number and punctuation.
Admins will be able to control these settings from the Mobile tab under Service Settings in the Google Apps control panel as soon as corporate users began syncing their smartphones with Google Apps.
This action may seem like a small measure of control for admins, but it could be a big cost saver; admins will be able to set these controls in the Google Apps cloud computing environment without running any additional software or having to manage dedicated enterprise mobile servers.
Interestingly, while Google is covering iPhone, Nokia E series and Windows Mobile devices today, it does not yet have provisions in place to let admins control devices based on Google's Android operating system, such as Google's new Nexus One or the Motorola Droid.
However, Google Mobile Software Engineer Bryan Mawhinney said to "stay tuned for similar features" for Android devices.
The broader story is Google's push to extend the reliability of Google Apps to the mobile enterprise, an area where Research in Motion have reigned over the last decade.
RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server has become the top enterprise mobility platform over the last several years, so much so that corporate giant IBM regularly ratchets up its relationship with RIM. Google would like a touch of RIM's enterprise mobility magic.
Not surprisingly, then, Google last August integrated Google Apps with BlackBerry Enterprise Server so that IT admins for Google Apps Premier and Education editions could sync business users' Google Apps e-mail, calendar and contacts with applications on BlackBerry devices.
One year ago, Google released Google Sync to let users of iPhone and Windows Mobile phones sync their Gmail Contacts and Google Calendar events to their phones. Several months later, the company added push mail support for Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and Windows Mobile smartphones in Google Sync.
The Google Apps team has made progress adding more control for corporate-sanctioned mobile devices, but there is more to be done. Google will hardly be considered a viable messaging and collaboration software provider unless it supports all major devices running on all key platforms, including Google's own Android.