Google Android Keeps Kissing Away Enterprise Customers

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-08-02

Google Android Keeps Kissing Away Enterprise Customers

The Motorola Droid is about to get Android 2.2, a big step in the Android universe. With the new version of the operating system will come support for Flash, better security and presumably more stable operation.

The automatic update, which will start for the original Droid the week of Aug. 2, has been eagerly anticipated, but there's still a lot that needs to be done if the Droid and its cousins are going to find a warm welcome in the enterprise. Don Reisinger has pointed out 10 issues that could derail Android's early record of success, including the need for greater attention to privacy, security and support for enterprise users. 

Improving enterprise support is a particularly important factor. For example, while Android 2.2 supports Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync, it's not totally functional for some of the limits that ActiveSync has the ability to impose. You can require users to use a password or PIN to use the device, and you can perform a remote wipe. But even though ActiveSync has the ability to turn off features like the camera or Bluetooth, the Droids won't comply. 

For many organizations, cameras are especially troublesome since they give users a way to quietly record documents or other intellectual property, or to compromise security. This is why you can buy a BlackBerry without a camera, for example. 

There are other fairly glaring security failures as well. One of the really nice things about the Android family is that you can use applications that aren't centrally controlled through an application store. This means that you don't need to check with Google before developing a custom application for your Android device. In addition, Google is famous for being very open about the applications that it allows in its application store. 

But the revelation that the company had to pull an application from its store that was funneling information to a site in China is enough to give enterprise security managers pause. Is it now necessary to buy malware detectors and antivirus software for your phone? Of course, they wonder the same thing about Google itself, which is famous for collecting data from Android phones for aggregation into its products. 

There are more mundane issues for enterprise consideration as well. A number of enterprises aren't comfortable using Google's mail product. Given Google's history of data loss and Gmail's history of going down randomly, it's easy to see why. Moreover, Google's cloud-based data storage is a hard compliance nut to crack. Google doesn't guarantee that its consumer applications meet compliance standards, and there's every indication that they don't. 

Androids Security Gaps Make IT Managers Nervous


But there are issues beyond security. For example, you can't attach your Android device to your computer and sync your Outlook or Lotus Notes contacts, calendar and other material with your phone. First you have to sync with Google. This adds an extra step, and it's a step that a lot of companies don't want to take. This is a significant issue that explains why RIM and Apple fit more comfortably into the enterprise in many cases. 

Of course, much of the reason why Google collects the data it collects, and why it demands that Google's applications be used for synchronizing information, is that Google wants to build up its own choices rather than Microsoft's. This may be understandable, but it's the wrong answer for large enterprises. These companies aren't about to abandon Outlook or Notes and go with something they view as unproven. 

This was a prominent area of concern for security managers I interviewed when I was preparing my upcoming feature on the collision between consumer and business technology. They don't view Android as being completely enterprise-ready. Fortunately, there are companies that can provide additional software that will remedy this, but not every enterprise wants to spend this money if they can avoid it. It's much easier to simply decide that Android devices aren't quite ready for prime time. 

Whether there is, in fact, a lack of enterprise-level features in Android devices is beside the point. Right now the perception is that the Android phones aren't enterprise-ready. If Google really intends to have Android take over the market share currently owned by RIM and Apple, then this perception will have to be changed. To accomplish this, Google is going to have to improve security, find a way to protect personal data either from malware or from Google, and provide a way for companies to connect more completely with the corporate environment. 

While it may meet Google's goals to have the world going to Google for all information, it doesn't necessary meet the goals of its customers, especially when those customers are companies that really don't want to share their critical data with Google, or to store it in Google's cloud. With those goals, Google is effectively kissing the enterprise goodbye. Perhaps that's OK with Google, but I suspect it's not-otherwise why would the company have gone to the trouble to include the enterprise tools that are there already? More likely, the company just needs a more customer-oriented focus.

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