By March 5, 2015 8 Comments Read More →

Google’s Android For Work Isn’t a Slam Dunk

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Android for Work (AFW) is a game changer. It offers a new set of applications, online services and industry partnerships specifically designed to ease the two chronic concerns –security and fragmentation –that have hamstrung Android in the enterprise and left its business and innovation potential largely untapped.

But, as much as I like Android for Work and recognize that it has leveled the playing field between the Android and Apple IoS ecosystems, I do have to offer a few words of caution to CIOs and IT.

Android for Work is not a slam-dunk. Before adopting Android for Work, you’re going to have to make sure you:

  1. Look over your company apps to make sure they’re compatible.

    Google’s approach allows Android owners to create two user profiles –one for work life and one for personal life. To distinguish between the two, each work app icon will have an orange badge labeled “Work Mail” or “Work Chrome,” referring to Google’s Web browser. But, if a user tries to move info from an app that isn’t badged (say, DropBox) into a badged app (like one for work email), then there’s a risk the app will crash.

Recommendation: Take inventory of all your apps –the ones you’ve built, the ones you’ve bought and the ones you’re planning –to make sure they’re compatible with Android for Work’s standard API.

  1. Recognize that Android for Work is made possible by the multi-user support and SELinux security features introduced in Android 5.0 “Lollipop.”

    Although Google is offering an Android for Work app that offers similar profile-separation capabilities for pre-Lollipop devices, I wouldn’t risk the shortcut. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for the most opportune moment to update devices, it’s time to take action.

Recommendation: Update all devices to Android V5 Lollipop or replace older devices, ideally with those that are based on ARMv8 architecture.

  1. Turn on encryption.

    Despite Google’s claim that Lollipop will encrypt smartphone and tablet data by default “out of the box,” encryption is not being enforced on all devices running Android 5. Why not? Because of multiple reasons related to whether or not encryption happens in software or hardware and how it impacts performance.

Recommendation: Use ARMv8-based Android devices.

  1. Appreciate that industry dynamics are shifting.

    With Android for Work, Google gives businesses more control over the apps and data that employees store on their handheld devices. It also offers a new level of security that, as I said months ago, is “Knox-like, but not Knox.” While Android for Work positions Google in a dead-heat with Apple for enterprise users it is a new untested at scale scheme. And remember It’s not just a platform; it’s an ecosystem.

Recommendation: Check with your Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM), Application and Handset suppliers about when they’ll be ready to support of Android for Work and what specific actions are needed by your organization. Also, as with all new major software rollouts, test and verify through a reasonable size beta before adopting Android for Work commercially enterprise-wide.

Android for Work is widely regarded as a huge step forward for Android users who want to use their devices at work. I agree. But don’t be misled; it’s not a free ride. Before adopting Android for Work, think it through. With a little forethought, you can ensure your workforce is able to take advantage of all the benefits, without suffering the potential pitfalls.

This note was originally publish on Bob Egan’s Things Mobile Blog at http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobegan/

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