With Android L, Google makes pitch for enterprise users

With its use of Knox features and recent purchase of Divide, Google is 'catering directly to enterprise concerns for Android,' analyst says

Google will provide enterprise-focused security and management features to its entire Android showcase of mobile devices, including features reserved only for Samsung devices running Samsung's Knox security software, a Google executive announced during the Google I/O keynote address Wednesday.

Android L screenshot
Google is incorporating more security and management features into its Android smartphones and tablets to them more appealing to enterprise users. (Screenshot: Google I/O)

The work-related features will appear on smartphones and tablets from competitors to Samsung when the next generation of Android, dubbed only "L," is available in the fall, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and applications for Google.

Google also will also bundle the current Knox security capabilities to make them available to previous versions of Android, Pichai said during the developers conference in San Francisco.

"We really want to thank Samsung for [carrying over] Knox to all of Android," Pichai said. "There will be one consistent experience."

Calling the enterprise capabilities "Android for Work," he said all Android smartphones will have the ability to partition personal data from work data, to make it easier for IT staffs to monitor apps and data being used for work-related purposes. Knox, first introduced by Samsung in early 2013, provides the ability to partition work from personal data on many of its smartphones and tablets.

"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."

All the apps for workplaces will be available through the Google Play store and will can be sold in bulk for enterprise purchasing, he said.

Android has consistently suffered from the reputation of being less secure and less manageable for enterprise use than other platforms, including iOS. In apparent response to such concerns, Pichai said 58% of the Fortune 500 have "gone Google," although he didn't define what he meant. Presumably he meant those companies have some Android smartphones and tablets and perhaps Chromebooks.

On a slide, Pichai indicated that Android for Work features will be available for devices from Dell, Huawei, HTC, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, LG, Motorola and Asus.

Several analysts greeted the work-related features of the coming Android L cautiously although they had urged the company on Monday to address that need.

"This is the first time that Google seems to be catering directly to enterprise concerns for Android, which has the lowest level of security among the major platforms," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. Gold said Google's acquisition in May of Divide, an enterprise software company focused on BYOD services, was a key reason for the dual persona announcement.

Gold said the dual persona capability will put Android ahead of iOS, adding that Apple "doesn't appear to be willing to discuss dual persona to address growing bring your own device concerns." But, he added, "now Apple may change its tune."

Use of Word docs in Google Docs

Gold also cheered Pichai's separate announcement that Android users will be able to do edits of native Word documents within GoogleDocs. Gold called that move "another big nod to business and a reaction to the continued delayed release of an Office capability for Android."

Google also said it will provide unlimited cloud storage in Google Drive for Work, a big benefit to business users and a threat to cloud storage companies Box and DropBox, Gold said.

Google I/O, the company's developer conference, kicked off Wednesday in San Francisco with a focus on in-car technology, wearables and a new mobile OS. IDG News Service's Martyn Williams joins Nick Barber to give you the highlights.

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