Android invades the enterprise

How three companies are coping -- even thriving -- amid the Android explosion.

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To impose some order on the chaos, Starz recently adopted a new program under which employees can use either corporate-owned or personal devices. Batenburg calls the approach "managed diversity." (Both the concept and the term come from Gartner, she says.) The new policy gives employees a say over their mobile devices, but also provides a way for IT to control costs and rein in confusion.

The program consists of three categories: corporate-liable, shared liability and true BYOD. Employees are placed in one of the categories based on their jobs. Executives and road warriors -- those who are highly mobile and/or highly dependent on a mobile device -- are in the corporate-liable category and are eligible for company-issued phones.

Shared liability is for people on technical teams who may not travel widely but still depend on mobile devices to do their jobs. These employees buy their own mobile phones or tablets, and the company helps pay for the service plan.

The true BYOD category is for everyone else -- employees who want access to the network and are willing to pay for their own phones and data plans.

The company uses mobile device management (MDM) software from MobileIron on all devices that connect to the corporate infrastructure, whether they're company- or employee-owned. That software enforces password policies, allows the company to search a device if it is subject to e-discovery in a lawsuit, and enables Starz to wipe devices that are lost or stolen, says Batenburg.

In the corporate-liable category, the company gives users a choice of iPhone or Android, but it has standardized on the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, which limits the time and energy that IT needs to invest to provide full support.

For the shared-liable and the BYOD programs, employees can use any Android phone. IT offers limited support for network connectivity problems and issues related to the MDM software. For anything else, "we'll refer them to the vendor," Batenburg says.

Some of the problems associated with Android have eased as the operating system has matured, says Colin McGuire, director of infrastructure at Starz. "After [Android 2.3] Gingerbread, things kind of calmed down," he says, noting that some of the biggest problems regarding connecting with email have been fixed. And iOS isn't immune to such hiccups: "We had similar problems with iOS early in its life," he says.

Starz is phasing out BlackBerries, which still make up about 30% of the mobile phones in the organization, says Batenburg. She expects that most BlackBerries will be replaced by iPhones. Currently, 57% of the phones are iOS devices and 12% are Android, while 95% of the tablets are iPads, she says.

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