Many tech pros secretly abhor the consumerization of IT, says an Apple expert. Now, it will get tougher as holiday Android devices are surging toward the corporate network. But IT's reaction to Android might surprise you.
Memo to CIO: I’d like to get email and some cool apps on my shiny, new Amazon Kindle Fire. Make it happen.
IT departments everywhere will be getting requests like this to support executives’ new consumer devices that they got as holiday gifts, especially the not-very-enterprise-ready Amazon Kindle Fire. According to mobile device management vendor MobileIron, the Kindle Fire lacks all criteria for enterprise support.
Moreover, Android devices in pilot phase last year will move to mass deployment this year. Indeed, 2012 will be the year Android invades the enterprise, according to MobileIron’s recent customer engagements. Yet at the same time, security experts say that Android OS has become a malware magnet.
On the iOS side, more iPhones and iPads are in people’s hands, too. Verizon says it sold 4.2 million iPhones during the holiday period. All tallied, some 35 million iPhones were likely sold in the fourth quarter. The number of new iPads hitting the market won’t be known until Apple releases its earnings later this month, yet analysts expect big holiday iPad sales despite new competition with the Kindle Fire.
All of this adds up to a wild year in the consumerization of IT. “With Android devices, it’s going to get really muddy,” says Aaron Freimark, IT director at Apple services firm Tekserve, which helps Fortune 1000 companies adopt the iPad.
Given Android’s openness and security troubles, you’d think IT would be dreading the coming of Android in the enterprise.
But then again, maybe not.
CIO.com spoke with Freimark about this next phase of consumerization of IT and how it might impact IT and corporate networks.
We’ve talked about the iPad culture shock for IT. As Android devices march deeper into the enterprise this year, how will tech pros handle it?
Freimark: Consumerization of IT means innovation is now coming from the consumer space, not the business space. Yet the pride and nobleness of the IT profession is in innovation. The best IT guys think of themselves as technology inventors, not maintenance workers. So now the attitude is that they’re playing second fiddle and have to figure out technology rather than spec technology.
Interestingly, a lot of IT guys are rooting for Android. The reason, I think, is that there’s some unexpressed hope that they can lock down the Android OS. They can put on what they want. They can do the monitoring. They can do the auditing. They can reconfigure and redeploy with their own image.
Of course, that’s missing the point. It’s no longer consumerization of IT, but goes back to the traditional models where IT has control all over again. If you think you have trouble supporting Android with its fragmentation now, just wait until businesses start getting a hold of the source code and recompiling it.
This is a religious war: whether businesses really need to control the innovation and the technology, or whether businesses should just be innovators in their field and let the technology be useful. The story isn’t that businesses have lost some sort of advantage in the consumerization of IT. The story is about the fantastic strides consumer technology has made.
Do you think companies will be able to handle the surge of consumer devices coming to their networks?
Freimark: I hope corporate Wi-Fi networks are prepared for it and network admins have their [stuff] together with the number of IPs they’ll be giving out. Just the raw number of devices, I wouldn’t be surprised if it doubles. We’ve had to re-engineer our Wi-Fi network a few times over the past few years. We’ll have 2,000 people walk through our door, each with two or three devices that they want to get on the network.
How does Android stack up against Apple in the enterprise?
Freimark: Companies may have not have been satisfied with Apple’s support in the enterprise, but the reality is that Apple has made big changes in the iPhone, specifically, for businesses. It’s not something Apple markets, which is part of the perception problem.
In terms of Android in the enterprise, you have to remember it isn’t a unified platform. It’s not enough to say you support Android. Which version? Which carrier? Which device? You’ve got different builds on each device. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, excuse the pun.
You’re dealing with a lot of different companies, each with their own policies. Security fixes are not coming directly from Google; they’re going through the carrier. Now Google does seem to be making a big effort to get centralized control of some of these critical areas, but those pieces are just beginning.
Are CIOs starting to appreciate Apple’s efforts in the enterprise?
Freimark: I think it’s becoming clearer to people that Apple’s App Store model, which was really criticized in the beginning, is a very successful model for developers, users and businesses. Apple’s walled garden, with its code review process of every app going through the App Store, is a huge advantage. I like living in the U.S. where there are laws. I don’t like living in anarchy.
What we’ll see this year is more movement into the walled garden approach. Companies will be much better off. It’s very similar to the traditional IT approach of only allowing approved apps and Websites on the network.
Apple has spawned a cottage industry of mobile device management vendors. They’re just dipping their toes into Android support. With Android’s fragmentation, can they pull it off?
Freimark: It’s a big opportunity for MDM vendors to support Android. But to really support it, they’ll have to be working with the carriers and manufacturers. When you’re evaluating an MDM vendor’s support for Android, you really have to be asking hard questions. Support of Android is not a single check-off item.
So what does supporting Android mean?
Freimark: On my enterprise iOS site, I have a comparison of MDM providers on how they support Apple. You can use this [criteria] to find out how they support Android. Can you do Active Sync? Remote wipe? Pass codes? What can you do in terms of pushing apps out? Inventory of the device? Management policies? White listing and black listing of apps? These are the questions I’d ask the carrier.
In terms of mobile in the enterprise, we’re really at the beginning of this stuff.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.