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Is Android in the business world to stay?

Jon Gold | April 3, 2013
Security, fragmentation concerns persist, but Android smartphone and tablet choice a big lure

It's official, and it's been official for a while -- Android is far and away the most popular smartphone OS in America. Ever since January 2011, when the platform surpassed RIM to take the top spot for the first time in comScore's monthly market share rankings, Google's operating system has continued to grow its user base, which accounts for 52% of the market as of this January.

This growth has been created on the back of substantial software upgrades, in the form of Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean (Android 4.0 and 4.1, respectively), as well as increasingly impressive hardware from OEMs like Samsung, HTC, Sony, Motorola and LG. Last year's Samsung Galaxy S III was the first phone to dethrone the iPhone in total quarterly sales in years, according to research from Strategy Analytics, though the subsequent release of the iPhone 5 saw Apple retake the top spot quickly thereafter.

It's easy to find a host of reasons for Android's ascendance among consumers -- a wide variety of devices offers more choice to prospective buyers, stronger hardware and bigger screens appeal to fans of the latest and greatest, and as of Android 4.0 and 4.1, the interface is arguably more impressive than the latest version of Apple iOS.

What's less simple, however, is figuring out why that dominance has taken such a long time to translate into broader uptake in the business world -- the conventional wisdom is that the iPhone supplanted the BlackBerry as the enterprise smartphone of choice thanks to its own wave of popularity with the consumer, which gave rise to the bring-your-own-device phenomenon.

In contrast, Android has only recently begun to become a popular option for business users, despite its ballooning overall sales numbers. So what gives?

New management, new use cases

For starters, the perception of security issues in the Android platform have limited its appeal to businesses and made IT departments jumpy about a large number of Android devices accessing the network.

However, the past year or so has seen big changes in that state of affairs, says Morten Grauballe, an executive vice president in charge of corporate development and strategy at Red Bend Software, which provides over-the-air firmware update capability to many top Android OEMs.

"Android had a disadvantage in the enterprise compared to iOS because iOS was just more secure," Grauballe says. "What's happened over the last 12 months is that the mobile device management solutions that evolved around both iOS and Android ... [have] grown in functionality when it comes to supporting the devices, so I think CIOs in enterprises are feeling more comfortable letting Android devices on their network."


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