In this Third episode of my #AndroidForEnterprise series, I’ll zoom in on Android and Mobility. This may sound pretty weird. Why a separate blog on Android mobility? Isn’t Android all about mobility?
Well, yes, and:
- There’s mobility in terms of a device you can carry
- and there’s mobility in terms of embedded devices
I’d like to clearly seperate both, which is why I’ll only discuss the Carry-along devices in this episode and write a separate blog on embedded devices. So in this episode, I’ll talk about Smartphones, Tablets and Rugged devices.
Initially, Android was intended as an operating system for smartphones. It essentialy went head to head with iOS and Meego/Maemo.Google, who wanted to compete on the mobile market and essentially saw a great opportunity to extend it’s advertising work, bought Android and further developed it to what we know today.
From its first launch in 2008 on the G1 to the Samsung Nexus today, Android has undergone a huge evolution and conquered the mobile market by storm. There’s hundreds of smartphone models out there and 100,000’s of new phone activations daily! Prices range from less than 100$ for a basic feature phone to 600$ or more, for the high-end models.
This broad range of devices is very interesting to consumers, but also to enterprises. Not every employee may require a GPS module or NFC module or high amounts of storage. So depending on the type of work an employee does, the enterprise can supply him with a phone or a budget. (Buy Your Own Device)
This Buy Your Own Device trend is touching ground in many enterprises that think about mobility. Where Bring Your Own Device may force the enterprise to support a lot of different mobile operating systems, the Buy YOD strategy allows the enterprise to limit the list of possible devices. Enterprises can supply employees with a list to choose from and a budget to spend. In this list they can include the devices which they want to support, based on minimum requirements.
The device is yours to keep, and you may increase your budget with your own money. As the enterprise co-sponsors your phone, they can also install the device management tools in there, so that you can also use the phone for business tasks.
After the succesful release of the first iPad, many android phone manufacturers wanted to have a piece of the tablet market and launched tablets featuring the Android phone OS. Google Acknowledged the need to introduce more tablet features in their smartphone OS.
Many saw this as a branching of the Android Operating system, but it’s actually still very much the same operating system. Especially in terms of virtual machine, the tablet version is still perfectly compatible with the phone versions. Just try any smartphone app on a tablet and it will work. The only branching that happened, was on kernel/Driver level, and that is not something where a developer should worry about. This is a concern for the manufacturers. The VM itself just underwent an evolution.
With the latest version (IceCream Sandwich) Google has merged the tablet kernel and the smartphone kernel back into a single version, containing yet a new version of the virtual machine as well.
The Android tablets are picking up speed in terms of market adoption, but they are still lagging behind quite far on the iPads. However, they are already outnumbering all other Tablet OS’ like RIM’s QNX or HP’s WebOS.
With the introduction of the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the number of Android Tablets is expected to skyrocket. This may trigger a pull effect in enterprises. As more employees have cheap(er) tablet devices, the demand can rise to use them internally (for training material, documentation, business tasks).
In a previous blog, where I highlighted rugged devices, I briefly mentioned the rise of Android in this section as well. This isn’t really a surprise. Most rugged devices run on Windows Mobile 6 or 6.5, which does not offer a finger happy interaction. instead, you must work with a stylo, need two hands to operate the device and it does require some training.
Android offers a much nicer interface with more intuitive input and it’s finger happy. Many iOS users have had their hands on my Android devices and they all admitted that it worked pretty much the same as iOS and provided a very user friendly interface. Having a rugged device which is finger happy and intuitive can increase productivity of those who work with it.
As a plus, when opting for Android, you get to profit of the vast community of developers out there. How many people, as a professional, do you know that develop, or want to develop for Windows Mobile? Compare that to the number of people you know that are willing to do, or doing, the same for Android.
Don’t cheat! Don’t include Windows Phone. Because that one is not available on rugged devices and will never be supported by MS for rugged devices. Instead, Microsoft will continue to develop its WinMob 6.5 platform and rebrand it as Windows Embedded.
Despite the many efforts of using the fragmentation of the operating system as a reason to not promote the use of Android in enterprises, we see that there is very little reason (if not, none) to worry about this. Business apps will rarely have code that runs directly in the base OS’ environment. Instead, they’ll practically all be running on the level of the virtual machine. As there is backwards compatibility in the virtual machine, any app developed for Android 1.6, will still run on 4.0.
The abundance of choice in Android devices makes it interesting for companies where employees want to have a choice in which functionalities on their device they have. Also, instead of having to equip everyone with an expensive uniform device, the enterprise can offer many different devices, ranging from rather cheap to expensive, which may reduce costs.
Not only can you satisfy the office workers at all levels with Android devices, but even employees that use their phone in extreme conditions have a growing choice of rugged devices to suit his needs.
Instead of a risk, Android clearly offers an opportunity in terms of carry-along devices.
This article is a part in the #AndroidForEnterprise 1: Management Overview series