Out of the gates, Android a long way from enterprise ready

The first phone to use Google's Android operating system is not a better enterprise bet than its rivals.

For avid Google-philes, T-Mobile and HTC's Android-powered G1 has almost everything they could ask for: easy access to a variety Google services, both a touch screen and flip-out keyboard and a speedy 3G connection. Mobile managers, however, will have little interest in the new phone – and its young OS – until Google or a third party shows more serious enterprise commitment.

"From launch, Android is squarely positioned in the consumer market," said Adam Leach, principal analyst for Ovum. "Tactically, for T-Mobile, it's a response to the iPhone, and looking at the specifications, there are some parts missing. But it is more or less competitive."

Some of the most obvious parts missing, however, are exactly what enterprises want to see, like robust security features and support for Microsoft Exchange.

Android's security, and the lack of centralized control, was a particular red flag to Leach.

"It's all user prompted, whether you'll install or run an application," he said. "The Android G1 leaves all that to the user … which makes it very attractive and open in the consumer market, but not suitable in its current form for the enterprise."

The iPhone shared many of these shortcomings when it first arrived on the scene, but it proved widely popular with executives who demanded support from their IT departments.

"Enterprises don't change things very quickly unless there's a compelling reason to do so," said Jack Gold, principal of J. Gold Associates. "Ripping things out just because somebody thinks it's cool just isn't done a whole lot."

Gold said that while Android's openness was a plus, the core platform did not really bring much new to the table yet.

Gold recently published a survey of corporate mobile deployment plans that found only 4.8% currently have plans to deploy or support Android in the next three years, while BlackBerry was projected to be supported at 59.3% of companies and Windows Mobile 28.6%. Even Apple found itself at a respectful 16%.

Analysts said Google was probably fine with staying consumer, at least for now.

"I'm not sure it will necessarily harm them because of the nature of the market their going for," Leach said. "There is a market for media-centric and Web-centric devices that are not necessarily tied to the enterprise."

Leach said Google's main monetization strategy, mobile advertising, was better suited to the consumer market anyway and that Android's open nature meant future enterprise development would not be too prohibitive.

If and when Android starts making major inroads, that might become a necessity.

"Eventually, at least, you've got to provide the business tools that users are going to want. It's not enough to be a consumer-only device, as Apple knows, as RIM knows, as Microsoft knows," Gold said. "You have to have feet in both camps. But right now, Google's in the consumer space, which is where they're going to make money."

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