Just last year, with the arrival of Google 's Android 2.0 mobile operating system, I warned that Android devices were not quite ready for the enterprise . But the mobile world moves at an astonishing rate. Since I issued that warning, Google has released two updates to Android, 2.1 and 2.2 (also known as clair and FroYo).
Although these are dot releases, they are significant enough to warrant another look. I still have my prior reservations about Android 2.1, but 2.2 has been updated significantly and is now acceptable for some businesses to deploy. The catch is that 2.2 is still not widely available on devices except for Google's own Nexus One.
Here's a rundown on how Android 2.2 is playing more nicely in the corporate sandbox:
Exchange support -- Unsurprisingly, Android has always offered superb integration with Google apps and services, but Exchange support was a poor stepchild before 2.2. Users looking to connect Android devices to Exchange servers needed to use a phone with a custom version of Android such as HTCs Sense UI or use a third-party application. With its 2.2 FroYo release, Google is finally offering Exchange support that's good enough. Mail, Calendars and Contacts all sync. FroYo also supports a full corporate directory with search. While it's not best of breed, it is acceptable for most business use.
Security -- Security in Android 2.2 takes a big leap forward. Users are no longer limited to Google's pattern drawing screen and can use full alphanumeric passwords. In addition, 2.2 allows IT departments to remotely control passwords and wipe devices clean through an Exchange server. These are both important steps for Enterprise adoption. Still missing is onboard encryption for removable media cards, which means Android will still come up short for some enterprises.
Remote management and configuration -- Remote wiping isn't all that IT folks look for, though. There's also remote tracking and the ability to remotely manage standard application load sets for mobile devices. Android is still lacking in these areas.
A lot of end users are finding Android devices such as the HTC Incredible and EVO 4G captivating, but the only device out there right now that's running 2.2 is the Nexus One. IT departments need to get the word out to users that their Android devices won't be considered for enterprise support until they are upgraded to 2.2. Unfortunately, for most devices, that won't happen until much later this year.
To make matters more complicated, Google promises at least one more operating system release (known as Gingerbread) before the end of the year. There are likely to be further enterprise enhancements in that release. Another re-evaluation may be warranted then.
Michael Gartenberg is a partner at Altimeter Group . His blog can be found at Gartenblog.net . Contact him at gartenberg AT gmail DOT com . The views expressed here are his own.
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