Google's Android Mobile Platform and the Enterprise

Search king Google has unveiled Android, its open-source platform for the smartphones of tomorrow. What will it mean for corporate IT? Perhaps a greater number of targeted, portable applications that hop from phone to phone, for starters.

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Fri, November 16, 2007

CIO — Even IT leaders who are not gadget lovers had better understand the implications of Google's recently unveiled "gPhone"—which turns out not to be one phone but a software platform called Android. And Google hopes it will power many, many phones.

"If CIOs are not planning for mobility now, they better start," says Bill Hughes, principal analyst with market research firm In-Stat.

Consider the changes in 2007 alone, both for the mobile phone industry and the IT workers who support corporate smartphones and other mobile devices.

First, in June, Apple released its revolutionary iPhone, bringing high-end smartphones to the consumer masses and proving that such devices can be both beautiful and a joy to use. Then Google in early November ended months of speculation with its announcement of the upcoming open-source Android mobile platform, slated for release in the second half of 2008, along with an Android software development kit (SDK). Google also struck up an alliance of major handset makers, cellular carriers, software companies, semiconductor manufacturers and commercialization firms, dubbed the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which jointly developed Android.

Google Android robot logo
Google Android

The Apple iPhone's potential to shake the industry to its core—pun shamefully intended—was obvious the day Steve Jobs first showed it off in January at the company's annual Macworld expo. The gadget's unique and innovative user interface spoke for itself. IT departments with any degree of foresight knew immediately that they'd soon be asked to support employees ranging from sales representatives to chief executives looking to access corporate networks with their shiny new iPhones.

Whether Android will similarly change the jobs of IT support folks is unclear. But one thing is for certain: Google intends to roil the mobile market.

Like Apple, Google has deep pockets, seemingly infinite resources and brainpower to dedicate to the endeavor, and a track record of success in entering new markets. (Think online advertising.) And the search giant sees the mobile space as a crucial part of its success strategy for the coming years.

"We think mobile is an incredibly important market," said Douglas Merrill, Google's CIO, at a conference in San Diego just days before the Android announcement. "We spend a lot of time on mobile."

Why Enterprises Could Benefit from Android

Android is built on the open Linux kernel, and it includes an operating system (OS), middleware and a number of mobile applications. These include an e-mail client, short-message service (SMS) program, calendar and maps applications, and a browser.

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