Android's Big Rush Could Sack IT: 5 Preparation Tips

If you think iPhones and iPads are hard to support in the enterprise, just wait for the rush of Android devices that could blindside CIOs. Here's a look at how fast Android devices are coming - and advice to help IT prepare for a bevy of configurations.

Tue, February 01, 2011

CIO — For years, CIOs struggled with iPhones and now iPads coming into the enterprise—but Android devices will blindside them. Even worse, the fragmented world of Android is coming quickly.

Android's global tablet marketshare grew nearly tenfold in the fourth quarter of 2010, to 22 percent of shipments, up from 2.3 percent in the preceding quarter, according to new research released earlier this week from Strategy Analytics.

Android phone sales have outpaced iPhone since the third quarter of last year, in terms of units sold (although Apple (AAPL) still holds an overall market share lead).

The thorniest problem for CIOs will be supporting Android's many configurations, given its fragmented nature. Android has a plethora of devices running different iterations of the operating system. These different versions support different device management capabilities. Android will be further fragmented with the release of the Android Honeycomb OS, designed specifically for tablets.

And it doesn't stop there: Android device manufacturers are looking for ways to distinguish their devices, often developing their own graphical user interface. An Android HTC Evo phone might be running the latest version of Android OS, but other HTC devices are stuck on earlier OS versions. HTC's graphical user interface, called Sense, has different versions as well. Samsung has its own interface, called TouchWiz.

Carriers, too, are making tweaks to Android devices. For instance, AT&T has disabled loading of apps outside of the Android Market. Verizon (VZ) made Bing the default search engine on the Samsung Fascinate. The combination of configurations is mindboggling.

Compare this to Apple, which only has a few devices on the market, such as the iPod Touch, iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad, and two operating system versions. Multiply this out, and IT has nine hardware-software Apple configurations to support. Add a couple more when the iPad 2 comes out probably this spring.

"When Apple upgrades iOS in the next two or three months, a large portion of users will upgrade their devices so you'll still have around nine combinations of configurations," says Reid Lewis, president of GroupLogic, an enterprise tech vendor that enables Macs to access Windows server files. "With Android, it's something like 900."

The help desk will be overwhelmed trying to keep up with so many configurations, he says. If you're developing Android apps in-house, says Lewis, expect to spend a lot of time and money testing apps to make sure they work with all the Android phones in your environment.

Also, companies that don't have a good handle on Android configurations risk data security breaches, Lewis says. For instance, you might not be able to remotely wipe a lost or stolen oddball Android phone.

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