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Google's Motorola buy seen boosting Android in workplace

Motorola's 3LM software could be the key to expanding Android's mobile device management capability

May 25, 2012 10:45 AM ET

Computerworld - With the closing of Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility this week, talk of the possibilities for Android in the enterprise has spiked.

While Android has taken the consumer market by storm -- the OS runs 59% of smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2012 -- IT managers remain wary that maintaining security and control of consumer Android devices devices used by workers may be difficult if not impossible, according to various surveys.

IT managers say they can't get the Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools they need to control Android devices brought into the workplace by employees, analysts have said.

Gartner recently reported that it has found adoption of Android tablets and smartphones in large business has so far been "severely limited" because of the complexities of managing devices from multiple vendors running different versions of Android.

A Gartner survey in April found that only 9% of enterprises have made or plan to make Android their primary mobile platform in the next year. That compares to 58% of enterprises that use or plan to use Apple's iOS and 20% who favor Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS.

Some analysts say they are hopeful that Motorola's 2011 purchase of MDM software maker 3LM will improve IT's ability to manage and secure Android, perhaps in time for the release of the coming Jelly Bean and/or Android 5.0 versions.

Analysts say 3LM is not true MDM, but that its software includes a layer of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that could make Android work better with third-party MDM software, analysts said.

Though Google is expected to use 3LM to improve Android manageability, the company wouldn't comment on its plans for the software. Many analysts expect to gain insight into Google's plans at its Google I/O conference in late June.

Today, IT shops rely mostly on Exchange ActiveSync to manage Android devices used by workers for job tasks. However, analysts have said that ActiveSync lacks the sophistication required by IT shops.

"ActiveSync is a really low-end solution for MDM," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"Now that Google owns Moto (Motorola Mobility), I expect the Moto folks to start feeding back into base Android some of the technology they have developed. This is the primary reason that Google bought Moto, in my opinion," Gold added.

Gold predicted that the addition of Motorola Mobility will provide Android with "much more capable management interfaces and APIs." While that won't help current and past Android versions, it will mean enhanced security at enterprise standards for future Android versions, he added.

"None of this helps the Android enterprise users in the short term, unless they decide to work with MDM from Enterproid and others like Good that have a 'two-persona' capability on a device," Gold said. He explained that "two-persona" refers to the ability to partition data on a smartphone or tablets so that a user's personal photos and music won't be destroyed if an IT shops wipes off sensitive corporate data from a mobile device.



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