Android's Openness Makes It Easier to Support than iPhone, Tangoe Says

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-30

Android's Openness Makes It Easier to Support than iPhone, Tangoe Says

Tangoe, which makes software used by more than 400 companies around the world to manage expenses related to their mobile communication assets, on April 27 said its mobile device management software will now support smartphones based on Google's Android operating system.

Tangoe's MDM Version 5.0 client software, which IT administrators install on mobile devices, is now compatible with devices running Android 2.0 and higher. This includes such high-end Android smartphones as the Motorola Droid, Google Nexus One and HTC Incredible, which Verizon Wireless began selling April 29.

The Android "device client collects information regarding device hardware and installed applications" and sends smartphone voice, SMS (Short Message Service) and data usage information "to the MDM V5.0 server where it is monitored and managed in real time, based on the plan assigned to the specific smartphone user." The idea is to help IT administrators get a better handle on the expenses their corporate employees are racking up on their smartphones.

But that's just a smaller theme in a broader story. Tangoe, which already supports Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices, began supporting Android before its rival Apple iPhone smartphone platform.

Most companies support the iPhone, which has sold more than 50 million units and provides remote wipe, complex password protection and other security and manageability capabilities enterprises require. Indeed, Tangoe rivals such as BoxTone began supporting the iPhone in October 2009, adding Android support one month later.

Julie Palen, Tangoe's senior vice president of mobile device management, who spoke with eWEEK at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium April 26, said Android's open architecture made it easier to support Android before the iPhone.

"The closed architecture makes it challenging for enterprises to manage the iPhone and for us to manage them the way we want to, whereas we can do whatever we wanted, so supporting Android was a much faster process," Palen said. "With all of the restrictions on the iPhone, I could build the client but it couldn't send the information I need to effectively manage it."

She also lamented that Tangoe won't be able to provide the same level of management detail for iPhones that it is providing for the BlackBerry and Android Windows Mobile platforms.

Even so, Tangoe plans to ship its MDM client for the iPhone in June, barring any delays from Apple's strict App Store.

Analysts Discuss the Android, iPhone Management Challenge

Informed about Tangoe's perspective, Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler indicated that the iPhone is still the gold standard for smartphones. 

"While it's true that Android's openness makes it easier for vendors to get in and get going, at the end of the day, there's no market for these vendors if they don't support iPhone," Schadler told eWEEK.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told eWEEK his research company recommends the iPhone for enterprise use over Android phones.

This is because Gartner believes mobile platform providers must institute two policies when connecting to the leading Microsoft Exchange e-mail server: to wipe the device when lost or stolen and to force the use of a complex device password with periodic changes. The Android devices do not support either feature.

"With a third party like Tangoe you can make the Android device more secure and manageable, but only to a degree because the firmware is not in the device to ensure that some items cannot be compromised," Dulaney explained.

"With Apple you have no access to the file system, no background processing and no interprocess communications. So no app can manage the entire platform. With Android you don't have those restrictions."

Android support is just one facet of Tangoe's MDM V5.0, of course.

The suite adds new business intelligence capabilities and sports new carrier plan monitoring and management features to help administrators delegate carrier plans to mobile device users on the fly.

The management suite also helps companies get a better handle on "international roaming charges, smartphone usage and policy monitoring," Tangoe said.

Palen said this is important because, "The costs associated with overage charges, international roaming and other services not included in a smartphone user's existing corporate plan can be very substantial." Enterprises have a hard time monitoring but managing these expenses in an efficient manner, she said.

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