As most of us are aware, Android has been the dominant smartphone OS for quite a while now. As of January Android occupied 52% of the mobile OS market share with iOS coming in a distant second at 34%. But Android has faced an uphill battle for the enterprise market since the very beginning. There have been concerns about security, fragmentation, and the overall complexity of the ecosystem. But that was then, and now is now, but to understand where we are now, we must take a journey back in time to an age of darkness and confusion… 2004 or so.
Back in days of yesteryear there was this company called RIM that made this device called a Blackberry. It was exceedingly popular, especially in the enterprise market. It offered employees secure access to company email and messaging all from a mobile device. Today of course, things are quite different. But despite the Blackberry's meteoric crash into oblivion in the consumer market, it still makes up 20% of the enterprise market here in North America and 15% worldwide. How can this be possible? Let's take a look at the alternatives.
iOS is/was quite popular for a while. It offered a more intuitive, full featured approach to the mobile device than the Blackberry's tiny keyboard and frustrating scroll wheel. And the popularity of the iPhone among consumers has lead to a new phenomena known as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). The idea being that since practically everyone already has their own smartphone, it makes more sense for a company to develop proprietary apps than to purchase and support separate devices for its employees. Especially since iOS had a perception of being more secure than Android, iOS was able to make some significant gains in the enterprise space, especially early in the game.
As Android evolved and its popularity exploded enterprise customers have begun to take notice. As you can see in the graphic above, Android is already the most used enterprise smartphone mobile OS. However the tablet market is a different story.
Unsurprisingly the iPad dominates the enterprise tablet market just as it does the consumer market. But with the release of more and more high quality, powerful Android tablets every few months, Apple's lead in this sector is slipping away as well. But it doesn't look like it is Android that is positioned to take these customers away from Apple. A surge in interest in Microsoft's tablets make something like the Surface Pro a more likely candidate.
Again, this makes sense. Despite the recent upheaval of the consumer demand for desktops and laptops, the fact is that Windows is still the dominant operating system by a wide margin among companies around the world. The dream of a tablet that runs full versions of the Microsoft Office Suite, and can easily be supported by IT personnel who have been supporting Windows devices for their entire careers is too much for most CIOs to pass up. Despite the fact that the Microsoft Surface line of tablets has yet to sell significant numbers, the devices certainly have the attention of those who make the purchasing decisions for most companies.
But Android offers its own set of advantages to enterprise customers. Recently there has been a rise in the use of "Android on a Stick" devices, especially among students and business-people who demand an exceptionally mobile environment. Essentially these devices have all the hardware of a smartphone, except without the smartphone. They are USB sticks that run a full version of Android and can be plugged into virtually any TV or monitor with a USB port. Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity provides easy access to the internet as well as a keyboard and mouse. Imagine yourself as a consultant or salesperson that is constantly doing presentations on various TVs and projectors. Being able to plug in a USB stick and almost instantly be connected to everything you need would be a huge advantage.
The diversity of the Android ecosystem is also a draw for businesses. Rushang Shah, the Software Marketing Director at CompanionLink said an a recent interview that the multi-platform environment of Android has a significant appeal to businesses, complexity issues aside. "The business audience we've always catered to is one that values options more than being tied into one system like Apple. That is one of the major drivers of Android's growth in the business market — business users want options." It is interesting that the same features that have drawn so many consumers to Android are also driving businesses to consider using Android devices. Android is flexible, powerful, secure and can be run on virtually any device. And in today's increasingly fast paced and competitive economy, flexibility and adaptability are often the keys to success.
It appears the the future for Android continues to be bright in both the consumer and enterprise markets. It will be quite a fight for the tablet market among business customers, and we have seen smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and LG make big plays for enterprise clients recently. As the competition heats up, we are certain to see some fantastic innovation from all of the major players in the mobile industry and as always, that will be a win for everyone.