T-Mobile G1's Enterprise Mobility Is Lost in the Cloud

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-10-22

T-Mobile G1's Enterprise Mobility Is Lost in the Cloud

Today, Oct. 22, is the celebrated launch of T-Mobile's G1 with Google, the first smart phone based on Google's Android open-source mobile operating system stack. Retail stores for the phone carrier are opening up at 8 a.m. to sell what has been reported as 1.5 million G1 units to Web service-hungry users.

What you won't find are business leaders lining up to order major shipments of the device. Indeed, T-Mobile made no secret at its Sept. 23 unveiling that the G1 would be targeted for family use.

No one can argue this after it was established the G1 wouldn't support Microsoft Exchange Server, generally considered table stakes for enabling enterprise mobility. Don't expect Google to go there; Android creator Andy Rubin said a third-party programmer would have to build it.

See G1 pictures here, if you can't make it to a T-Mobile store.

Mort Rosenthal, CEO of Enterprise Mobile, which helps companies plan enterprise mobility implementations for devices based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile, discussed why the G1 doesn't pass the enterprise mobility acid test with me Oct. 21.

I know what you're thinking. Rosenthal would seem to have good reason to knock the G1 down a few pegs. This may be particularly true given the speculation from GigaOm's Om Malik via eWEEK's own Joe Wilcox that Windows Mobile is the odd man out in the accelerating smart-phone race between Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Nokia's Symbian. You may well be right.

Yet what Rosenthal told me makes solid sense, as long as you agree that the so-called cloud, or Internet, is no platform on which to base a device designed to house and transmit sensitive and proprietary corporate information.

Rosenthal said what's missing in cloud computing from an enterprise perspective is control of the information in the cloud. Most enterprises are not going to be happy with an open communication structure.

Is Android Viable in the Enterprise?

I love the cloud, but it sure is hard to know what's going to happen to your data once it's fed into some Internet repository. Rosenthal explained:

The G1 has some compelling ideas in it. It has a nice interface. Certainly the open-source nature is interesting. The challenge for enterprises is that it's not even vaguely enterprise-ready. In fact, it's, I would say, enterprise-frustrating at this point. Certainly the Exchange constraint is a big one. It's just so steeped in the world of connecting to the cloud, which is compelling for a consumer but not at all compelling for an enterprise. An enterprise needs to control or disseminate its proprietary information to its employees and there's not an mechanism for that to happen in the cloud.

I reminded Rosenthal that a lot of people said the iPhone was not acceptable for enterprise use early on. He said the iPhone went nowhere until Apple released Exchange support, which included a basic level of security through the device management capability of Exchange 2007.

Of course, Rosenthal said the iPhone is still lacking enterprise juice in the areas of security, management, application integration and application distribution.

Now the G1 finds itself in the same boat, requiring not only Exchange integration but some degree of device management, which would allow a lost device to be wiped, as well as ways to control what is and isn't put on the device. Rosenthal added:

Google's strength is not really in enterprise-specific tools. It's not clear whether that will ever emerge from Google. It certainly may emerge from people who take the open-source [Android platform] and build on top of it. No one will say the cloud is the most secure environment.

One company that might help with securing Android devices is Mocana, which Oct. 22 unveiled its NanoPhone Suite for Android, which lets developers build firewall, VPN and encryption features for Android handsets. But Mocana is not enough.

Rosenthal said the ideal scenario for the G1 would be a range of integration that involves applications and connection to back-end enterprise systems.

Wanted: Programmers who can and will build enterprise apps to help push Android at the forefront of enterprise mobility with Research In Motion's operating system, Windows Mobile and Symbian.

Until then, the G1 might as well be labeled "for consumers only." If developers don't step up to the plate, Android will get the same label.

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