The Android enterprise dilemma: why isn't it more popular?

A lot more enterprise hands are holding iPads (above) and not Android-powered devices. Credit: flickr photo by John Karakatsanis

I have an old Android phone (a Motorola Droid 2, running 2.3.4) that needs replacing. I’ve been thinking about the iPhone 5, since there already are three in my household and it looks like a great device.

But I just started covering Android for CITEworld, so I’ve changed my focus to finding the best device powered by Google’s open-source mobile operating system.

Right away I decided I wanted to get a Samsung Galaxy S3, and not just because I love this commercial. But then I read a great review of HTC’s DNA. Then I heard that Samsung might be coming out with the S4 in April. Then I heard Google would release Android 5.0 in May, along with a couple of new Nexus phones.

The dilemma for Android shoppers is obvious – overwhelmed by choices, and nagged by the feeling that whatever they buy today will be eclipsed by a cooler Android device in two months. It’s hard to pull the trigger under those circumstances.

This designed fragmentation of the Android platform allows for great flexibility, but it can create confusion and hesitancy. I wondered if this was the reason why Android has been a distant runner-up to Apple’s iOS in the BYOD revolution.

But that wouldn’t make sense, since Android has 68.3% of the mobile OS market share, according to IDG, with iOS at just under 19%. Since BYOD is all about people bringing in their own mobile devices to work, you’d expect a similar breakdown in the enterprise.

Instead, it’s almost the opposite. Mobile device management software vendor Good Technology releases semi-annual reports on device activations. While a new report is expected next week, Good’s numbers from last July show that nearly 71% of its device activations were for iOS, with only 28% for Android.

I asked John Herrema, Good’s senior vice president of corporate strategy, why Android’s consumer market share isn’t being mirrored in the enterprise. He cited several reasons, the first one regarding security.

“We have customers that allow users to BYO their own iOS devices, but still don’t allow them to bring in Android devices,” Herrema says. “What customers seem most concerned about is lack of curation on the (Google Play) apps store and the potential for malware. That is not a risk on the iOS platform -- at least in their eyes -- because Apple is doing that up-front curation.”

Another reason iOS dominates in the enterprise, Herrema says, is that the workplace is not totally a BYOD world.

“Many of our customers, while they’re supporting BYO, in many cases also are proactively deploying devices,” he says. “And what we’re seeing with customers who are actively deploying tablets, by and large the platform they’re selecting is the iOS platform.”

A couple of examples of this (though these aren’t necessarily Good Technology customers) can be found at Long Island University and St. Jude Medical, which each went all-in on large iPad deployments.

Chris Hazelton, mobile and wireless research director for Boston-based 451 Research, says Android suffers from a “perception problem” in the enterprise.

“When people think about tablets, their first choice is the iPad,” Hazelton says. “That might change as people get more familiar with Android because of their smartphones.”

Hazelton also cites security concerns around Android.

“The challenge you have is Google is not really focused on the enterprise,” he says. “There were a lot Trojan apps floating around in Google Play.”

Herrema adds that another reason Android has been unable to match its consumer performance in the enterprise is because corporate America is a different demographic than consumer America.

“It’s what I call the ‘gray-hair factor,’” Herrema says. “You have a demographic coming in from the enterprise side that might be more comfortable with the iOS platform, in some cases because it is less diverse, there is less variability. And in that demographic, $50 or $100 isn’t going to be a major consideration. They’re probably going to go with what they perceive to be the best. These aren’t teenagers walking into stores and looking at Androids and low-cost devices.”

Neither am I, but I’m still going to buy an Android phone. I just don’t know which one. Any advice or lobbying is welcome.

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