Let's face it, BlackBerry owns the enterprise mobile tech market. There's no disputing that, but increasing numbers of analysts are raising the cry that RIM's stranglehold is giving way to Google's relentless Android charge. The headline news is that, by some counts, Android already outsells iPhone in all markets -- Motorola happily reports it cannot keep up with demand for is Android phones. The "hot" mobile tech phones of summer (iPhone 4G handsets aside) are shaping up to be Sprint's Evo and Samsung's Galaxy S, both running on Google's mobile OS.
"Android is the platform to watch," said Vinayak Naik, vice president, Content at AppDiscover, a mobile tech apps development company. "While BlackBerry might have the upper hand in enterprise markets and Apple might be showing great strides in the consumer market, we feel these two players will be ceding their pre-eminent position to Android in the next 12 to 18 months,".
Apps are in, BlackBerry doesn't have enough, iPhone has the apps but it hasn't persuaded big business it is a serious mobility device. CIOs need to brace themselves for a stampede of employees seeking authorization to use app-loving Android phones on company business.
What should you say?
You should say "Yes", according to the experts. There's a mounting acceptance of the need to look beyond BlackBerry in the enterprise. To wit, here are 10 reasons Android deserves consideration for employees who have outgrown BlackBerry and want a genuine mobile Internet experience:
- The new OS (Android 2.2) makes it easy for enterprise to use Android phones, said Kevin Kitagwa, director of Strategic Marketing at MIPS, a developer of processor architectures. "With better support for Microsoft Exchange (mail, calendar, and global address books) and more enterprise security features such as remote wipe and password policies, Android 2.2 will make it easier for corporate IT departments to support it." Older versions of Android were undeniably balky with enterprise email but Android 2.2 changes all that.
- Great availability across networks, said enterprise mobility expert Azita Arvani of The Arvani Group. Of course, BlackBerry can lay similar claims but iPhone cannot (it comes with AT&T lock in). You want Verizon? T-Mobile? Sprint? Android delivers choice. It's even on AT&T.
- Ditto for device choices, as Google enlists an army of manufacturers, from HTC to Motorola, to create Android phones. This makes it easier for a particular user to find the phone that matches their needs. It's also produced a range of price points to suit most budgets.
- "Great integration with Google Maps and other location based services," said Rushang Shah, director of marketing at CompanionLink Software, can be a huge advantage in routing a mobile workforce to the right places at minimal cost.
- Tight integration with Google Voice means the mobile phone can easily be made a component of a unified business communications strategy. It also means the enterprise can make easy use of lower cost calling options.
- A blizzard of apps: 50,000+ in the official Android apps store alone, and independent apps stores now are sprouting up. Many apps are enterprise/productivity oriented. Yes, there are more apps for the iPhone, but there are more apps than anybody could possibly need available on Android.
- At least some Android phones -- for instance, Sprint's EVO -- can double as WiFi hotspots and, says analyst Mike Demler, an independent industry analyst based in San Jose, CA., that can help cut travel expenses (no need to pay exorbitant in-room WiFi access fees).
- The open Android platform is a key advantage because it means that development of the OS will continue at a fast pace.
- That same open platform also means enterprise can introduce its own custom changes, to better suit the particular business, said Eugene Goland, president of DataArt, an application development company.
- "Rapid OS update cycle leads to quicker fixes and resolution to issues," said Shah. Fiddling with the OS can produce bad code but, in the Android universe, fixes tend to come very fast.
Does all this add up to a sweep for Android? Maybe, but consider this final point from Mort Rosenthal, CEO of Enterprise Mobile who pointed out that the very openness of Android has bred fragmentation and increased incompatibility issues causing "headaches for IT," he said. Apps that run on Android 2.1 don't necessarily run on 1.6 and, even more problematic, every phone manufacturer is free to add some of their own code on top of the OS. This means a Motorola Android may behave very differently from an HTC or a Samsung.
"This is the one disadvantage I see with switching to Android," said Rosenthal who otherwise said he hears from ever mounting numbers of enterprise customers that they want more information on doing just that.
There is no counting BlackBerry out in enterprise, but there definitely also is a new kid on the block that is fast winning credibility. It's too early to predict Android will topple BlackBerry, but it is isn't too early to pull up a seat to get a close-up view of what is shaping up as a brutal brawl for enterprise dollars.
As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation's leading publications―from Reader's Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain's New York, and Fortune Magazine.