Android Takes Another Step Towards the Enterprise…But Will It Matter?

Glenn Gruber | April 19, 2018 | In the News Mobile Strategy

It’s been long the case that Android holds a significant lead over Apple in overall unit share worldwide, while Apple holds an almost equivalent profit share of the industry. But when it comes to Android in the Enterprise, the opposite is true: Apple reigns supreme. To some extent this is due to first mover advantage (back in 2011 companies handed out iPads to employees like they were on Oprah) and concerns about Android malware and overall security.

Though Google talked about targeting the next 5 billion users, those users would prove less profitable than the first billion and wouldn’t have improved the health of the Android OEM ecosystem. The Enterprise, however, still held the potential to be the last, best hope for Android to target high-potential customers.

But all the ecosystem fragmentation makes it difficult to set a true strategic course for Android. Samsung actually got the enterprise ball rolling when they introduced Knox at Mobile World Congress in 2013 and contributed it to the Android Open Source Project a year later at the next Google I/O.
Android in the Enterprise
In the intervening time, Apple put more emphasis on the enterprise-not only by launching features like DEP (in 2014), but by strengthening its enterprise hold through partnerships with IBM, Cisco, GE, SAP and others.

After a long respite, I’m happy to report Google has a renewed focus on the enterprise-which is good for just about everyone. Since Google I/O this past spring, they have introduced:

  • Google Play Protect: A mobile threat detection service offered to apps deployed to enterprise users via a private Google Play store. “Powered by Google machine learning, the service scans all apps on the device daily, and blocks harmful apps from reaching the device.”
  • Zero Touch Deployment: Google’s answer to Apple’s DEP protocol. Though still limited to specific devices, it’s a step in the right direction.
  • Android Enterprise Recommended program: Google’s newly launched program that blesses devices that meet a minimum specification to ensure Android delivers “the best experience for our enterprise customers.”

But will these initiatives move the mobile enterprise needle? Not likely. None of these actions really improve the standing of Android over iPhone. Their last announcement is perhaps the least interesting of all, because the biggest and most important player in the Android ecosystem – Samsung – isn’t even part of the initiative. Today, Samsung IS Android in the Enterprise and nothing in this press release is going to change that fact. In fact, Samsung’s lack of participation isn’t because they didn’t qualify, but because they chose not to participate, as they didn’t want to be `brought down’ to the level of the other Android OEMs.

And while Android has neared smartphone parity with iOS, it still lags far behind in terms of tablets. And now they’re forced to fight a war on two fronts:

  1. The iPad seems to be on the rebound. For as easy as it was to make fun of declining sales, the device was still a multi-billion dollar product at its nadir. But now the iPad is back on the upswing. Sales have been up quarter after quarter for the last year. This upswing is due to improvement in the iPad Pro line, plus significant updates to support the tablet format with iOS 10 and 11.
    I expect the upward trend to continue with the introduction of the $329 Pencil-compatible iPad. Combined with A-series chips that exceed the power of Intel chips, the vision of the iPad as a desktop replacement is closer to reality than ever.
  2. Microsoft is starting to see some enterprise traction with its Surface products-and now with entrants from Dell and Lenovo. Though still a duckbilled platypus, the device is making inroads as a notebook replacement. They tried to increase its enterprise focus with their “Surface as a Service” offering, which bundled Surface devices with O365 and Win10 licenses. You can see Surface Pros shift to the enterprise vs consumers in Microsoft’s latest earnings report, which showed a decrease in units, though revenue remained steady as average sale prices increased.

Lacking a valid tablet offering makes the value proposition of Android as a foundational pillar of an organization’s enterprise mobile device strategy that much more remote. But don’t let that deter you from pursuing your own enterprise mobile strategy. If you need help determining the foundational pillars and approach for your organization’s enterprise mobile strategy, please reach out. We’d love to get you started.

There is still one big opportunity for Android in the enterprise…but I’ll leave that subject for a future post.

Glenn Gruber

Glenn Gruber is a Sr. Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He leads enterprise mobile strategy engagements to help companies determine the best way to integrate mobile into their business -- both from a consumer-facing perspective, but also how to leverage mobile to empower employees to be more productive and improve service delivery through the intelligent use of mobile devices and contextual intelligence. Glenn has helped a wide range of enterprises on how to leverage mobile within their business including Bank of Montreal, Dubai Airports, Carnival Cruise Line and Merck. He is a leading voice in the travel sector as a contributing Node to Tnooz where he writes about how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the travel sector and a frequent speaker at industry events.

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