Is Android for Work making an impact in the mobile enterprise?

Image by davide ragusa via Unsplash.com

Android for Work, in my opinion, is long overdue to power Android into the enterprise. While Android for Work acts as an extension of an enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform, it adds another layer of management to Android in the enterprise.

Android has long been an employee want for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) but deemed a security risk. Now with Android for Work, an enterprise can deploy secure versions of mobile apps that employees can run as part of a work profile on their favorite mobile device. A user can maintain a non-work profile on the same device.

Android for Work is a secure container solution. Google acquired Divide, a mobile security startup a few years ago in the run up to Android for Work. There’s also integration with Samsung KNOX, a mobile security solution that has a bit of a troubled past in my opinion. Samsung KNOX marketing launched well before the solution leading me to believe at some points that KNOX was a mobile industry myth. When I wrote about mobility on a more frequent basis, I used to get PR pitches about KNOX from a Samsung partner that at first glance read like they came from Samsung. Whether Samsung had signed off on that or not, the messaging served to turn me off from KNOX over time. I can’t speak for other writers, but this partner messaging only fed my confusion further about Samsung KNOX.

There’s a free Android for Work mobile app available for download from the Google Play Store. The store entry is quick to note that the app is only compatible with Android for Work partner solutions. IT admininstrators manage the Android for Work app through partner management solutions including

  • Policy enforcement
  • Control over app distribution
  • Remote wiping

App development & deployment

In order for Android apps to be compliant with Android for Work, developers have to add certain protections into the apps. The same rules apply to Google Play apps and internal apps

Enterprises that go with Android for Work now deploy mobile apps through Google Play for Work.

Work apps are deployed through Google Play for Work. IT can prevent installation of apps from unknown sources and apply app configurations.

Personal data protection

Personal data protection has been one of the greatest fears around BYOD initiatives. Android for Work includes personal data protection, and I didn’t come across much of anything new about this feature during my research.

EMM vendor partnerships

You still need an EMM or mobile device management (MDM) platform to do anything with Android for Work. Google does have all the right partners, but the EMM/MDM market remains ever changing and still ripe for consolidation. Google has the checkbook, brand name, and operating system that warrants pretty tight and inclusive partnerships that I would imagine would make this a non-issue.

Android for Work’s dependency on EMM vendor partnerships also raises a philosophical question in my mind with Android for Work. Who’s running the strategy? While Google can afford to hire and pay the best and the brightest, they are involved in so may technology niches these days. Where’s the line drawn between Google and their EMM partners? What if I’m a chief information officer (CIO) of a mid to large-size enterprise, where do I take my needs for the product roadmap? More importantly, who do I hold responsible for any issues that occur? Based on my research, the EMM partners are going to be carrying the customer contact and support of the Android for Work partnership.

Android for Work in the enterprise

While I like what I’m reading about Android for Work, I’m just not seeing the customer wins and case studies that I’d expect to come out from such a high profile initiative at this time. There’s also the question is Android for Work too little, too late for enterprises that have made their mind up about Android in their enterprise already?

In the end, will it be Android for Work impacting the enterprise? Or, will it be the EMM vendor making the impact in the enterprise? From my perspective, while Google has the brand, it’s the EMM vendor shouldering the real workload right now.

Are you using Android for Work inside your enterprise? Share your experience in the comments.


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

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