When Verizon Wireless launched its vaunted HTC Droid Incredible April 29, it put out a statement touting the device as “well-equipped for the business user with enterprise-grade security, always-on connectivity and much more.”
Unfortunately, the “much more” for the device, based on Version 2.2 of Google’s Android operating system, doesn’t natively include the ability to force the use of a complex device password or to create and wipe the device when lost or stolen.
Handy technical users can create and add these features to their Android devices, but Google doesn’t readily provide them.
Incredible or not-the device rated highly with eWEEK-Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney won’t recommend smartphones based on Android because it lacks such capabilities.
Dulaney told eWEEK he actually recommends Apple’s consumer-focused iPhone over Android for business use.
That complex password capability, remote wipe and other features analysts put on their enterprise check list are coming to Android seems a matter of when, not if. When asked about these capabilities, a Google spokesperson told eWEEK the company doesn’t preannounce new product features.
The spokesperson then pointed to Android’s support for Microsoft Exchange, which is probably the top requirement for a device to be enterprise-capable. More than 500 million people use Exchange for business use, so it’s a great starting point for making a platform ready to handle business use.
Indeed, Verizon in its statement noted that the Incredible offers Exchange ActiveSync to help corporate road warriors access e-mail, calendars, contacts and tasks while employees are away from the office.
True enterprise capabilities revolve around security and manageability, say analysts such as Dulaney and J. Gold Associates principal Jack Gold.
“If you’re in any kind of regulated industry and you use an Android phone, you can get nailed big time-it has no encryption, no wiping and no policy setting capability,” Gold told eWEEK.
“This is an inherent flaw in ActiveSync-not in the technology itself, but in the licensing. Microsoft will license ActiveSync to anyone (as they should), but they do not enforce what features/functions you must incorporate.”
What this does is allow vendors to pick and choose what they implement, challenging enterprises that look to enforce specific policies.
What will end up happening, Gold predicted, is there will be a very disjointed Android market, with companies like Motorola and HTC building special layers on top of Android to add the missing security layers and other missing features.
Of course, that will lead to more fragmentation in the Android platform, a persistent problem for an ecosystem in which four versions-1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1-currently command developers’ attention. Moreover, Google is rumored to be launching Android 2.2 at Google I/O later this month.
That is not to say enterprises aren’t embracing Android with gusto. Some of them are. Mobile device management provider Tangoe, for example, launched full Android support last week.
The company, which makes software used by more than 400 companies around the world to manage expenses related to their mobile communication assets, won’t support the iPhone until June.