Is Android ready for the enterprise?


blog The question of whether a predominantly consumer-oriented technology is “ready for the enterprise” is one that Gartner analysts, chief information officers and, really, anybody who works in IT departments, loves to debate endlessly. On his blog, Queensland-based software developer Sam Moffatt has been expressing his opinion in the negative, re: Google’s Android operating system. Writes Moffatt:

“The first problem I noticed with it was the flagrant disregard for the proxy settings by all of the apps on the device – except the web browser … However the real nail in the coffin is the lack of complete 802.1x authentication, which while improving it appears that [the University of Southern Queensland] current configuration makes it fail.”

My feeling is that there are really two levels of being “ready for the enterprise”: Firstly, a technology has to be making its way into large organisations organically, which Android certainly is. There are scores of people around Australia using an Android-based smartphone as their primary work mobile phone — which indicates that they do find utility in the platform, and that it is therefore an enterprise-capable environment.

However — and this is where things get tricky — the fact that a technology has utility in a large corporate or government environment does not mean it is truly ready to integrate well into such environments. Issues such as the ones Moffatt discusses, as well as the everpresent question of how well mobile platforms like Android integrate with Microsoft Exchange messaging environments, are core to the question of how “enterprise-ready” certain technologies are.

And in this vein, it’s clear that the rapidly evolving and morphing Android platform still has a ways to go just yet. For example, it has only been in the past few months that Google has started adding enterprise-grade security features such as device encryption to Android.


Image credit: laihiuyeung ryanne, Creative Commons


  1. There is definitely valid concern on security features in the enterprise. Really, you could say that only Blackberry really has it nailed in that regard. Yet C-level execs – and more – don’t want Blackberry now. They want iphone and ipad. The trend seems to be beginning to swing to Android, but the security is still less than even iphone. They do both support Exchange policy, but there are distinct issues with the current Android implementations on the market.

    And no-one wants Windows Phone 7 :-)

    • True; you can see this trend in the Federal Government especially — where, despite recent advances by both the Apple and Android camps, it’s still only BlackBerry, to my knowledge, that is certified as being secure by the Defence Signals Directorate. This is why many Federal Government staff and politicians carry around two phones — a BlackBerry for all their work stuff, and an iPhone or Android for … pretty much everything else.

      BlackBerry is still the safe option for enterprises.

  2. The problem is I don’t think companies realise the policy they are going to have to take if they “go Android”, you won’t have a Vanilla build with Android, or rather you shouldn’t, it isn’t built like that.

    Android is designed such that you can build your own platform specific to your companies needs. I understand however that a lot of companies would rather not take this particular apporach, however a smart company could make a buckload if they start shipping “enterpirse ready” handsets. Sure it won’t be running Gingerbread or Honeycomb (i.e. the latest build) but that’s the thing isn’t it, in most Open Source enviroment a “secure” release is always slightly behind the “bleeding edge”.

    Android for Enterprise just requires a completely different way of thinking about it. You can’t just “buy” an off the shelf Enterprise handset, yet. It’ll take time. It took a while for RedHat (for example) to come into the Linux Market and take on the “enterprise ready” distrobution, and I strongly suspect a company will start doing the same for Android in short order.

    To answer your question Renai, I don’t think Android is ready just yet. But present demand for this particular function, and I’d give it a year to see custom builds, and two to see dedicated handsets ready for Enterprise.

  3. True, that is a massive issue — Android is currently splintering, and will prove hard for IT departments to support for that reason.

    You raise a fascinating point, NightKhaos — custom Android handsets for the enterprise. I reckon there is a market right there, for someone to produce a custom set of Android handsets that are fully interoperable with a decent back-office stack (IE, replicate the functionality of BlackBerry Enterprise Server) and then start pitching to BlackBerry accounts to just replace their handsets and back-office stuff wholesale.

    We saw some movement in this line a few years ago with some decent Windows Mobile handsets … but then iPhone came along and changed the game entirely — and then Android mixed things up even further, obviously. Still stacks of room for innovation in this space.

  4. Queue rant

    Yeah, I’m totally burnt by this. I get the whole ‘cool’ factor and looks impressive in meetings. But consumer grade devices have no place in the enterprise. Try to explain to someone why they can’t sync their corporate data to their iDevice via DropBox and they just look at you blankly. “But it works fine at home”. Sysadmin quits the trade and takes up flower arranging.

    End rant…..maybe…

    Enterprise ready, means N devices can be deployed and managed as one. An easy example of this is I decide that XYZApp is the corp standard MS Office viewer/editor. In on transaction I acquire 20 licenses and deploy them to the entire fleet from a central console. That’s enterprise ready.

    In my humble opinion. Which isn’t very humble.
    But definitely an opinion…..maybe I should start a blog…….

    • The DropBox thing does worry me a little … I am hearing many stories at the moment about how board directors are synching internal documents to DropBox so they can display them on their iPad at the board meeting … I mean, I have faith in DropBox’s security. But it just seems a little … too risky ;)

  5. Given the almost open-ness of the Android platform, what is to stop a large company modding the OS to suit their purpose?

    Say a Government Phone, with extra encryption on data and tied down networking so that it only uses secure connections?

  6. Tell all this to your CEO and/or your board when they say they want to use their Android phone on the company network. And again, three months later, when they ask how it’s coming.

    Android’s sales leadership will drive security innovation, because a more diverse ownership increases demand for solutions. It’s already happening. Phone vendors and 3rd party shops are cooking up enterprise solutions, while we (well, you) sit around pontificating. Motorola just bought secure tech start-up 3LM. LG and VMWare have their virtual work environment running. Meanwhile, in an increasing effort to accomodate developers, Google keeps building up the stack at their end.

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