Google gets into the weeds of Android Work

Approach offers a hierarchy of management controls for BYOD or company-owned devices (see video below)

Google revealed more details about its new enterprise security and management framework -- otherwise known as Android Work -- in a seven-minute video the company posted during its Google I/O conference this week.

The video shows how an Android smartphone can be set up to function for both work and personal use with the next generation of Android, which is dubbed simply Android L and is due out sometime this fall. Makers of Android devices will be releasing new products that support the L version along with Android Work.

Developers are now getting access to a preview version of L, along with some glimpses of Android Work with a sample app called Device Policy Client, which is designed for use by IT admins and will come with the new operating system.

During the I/O keynote on Wednesday, Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome and applications, said Android devices will be able to partition personal data and apps from work data and apps.

"No one wants to carry two phones," Pichai said. "With L, there will be a whole set of APIs [application programming interfaces] to unify both experiences for a user, one for personal and another for corporate. That's full enterprise security."

Apps for workplace use will be sold through the Google Play store and can be purchased by enterprises in bulk, he added.

The announcement of the Android Work framework pleasantly surprised analysts who have dinged Google over the years for insufficient enterprise-grade security.

"Android Work is an improvement because Android typically gets knocks for being a security risk, simply because it's an open platform in many ways and because of all the apps you can bring to an Android device," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC. "So it's been a risk for a lot of folks.... Whatever Google can do to beef up that security, that's good."

Still, "one silver bullet won't do it all," Llamas warned, "it will take a myriad of improvements. You almost need a security platform of security platforms."

The idea of partitioning work and personal data and apps was implemented in BlackBerry devices as early as the Z10 smartphone, which was introduced in early 2013. Since then, BlackBerry's impact on the smartphone market has nearly disappeared and other smartphone platforms have adopted the partitioning concept. Those include Samsung Galaxy smartphones running Android along with an enterprise management and security framework called Knox.

Pichai publicly thanked Samsung for contributing Knox capabilities to Android Work and all of Android. Google in May also acquired Divide, an enterprise software firm focused on helping companies wrestling with the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) tidal wave.

Google's James Kelly, project manager for Android, explains Android Work.

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