Google gets into the weeds of Android Work

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

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Pichai said the new Android Work features will be available on devices from Dell, Huawei, HTC, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, LG, Motorola and Asus.

The dual-persona capability in Android may push Apple to respond, some analysts predicted.

As more workers buy Android phones and other devices to use at work, IT shops have started using tools from dozens of small and large enterprise mobility management (EMM) and enterprise application management (EAM) vendors as they set up policies and procedures to protect vital corporate data.

Google, in its video, makes it clear that registered EMM software providers will be able modify their software using Google APIs to accommodate Android Work policies and can add their own features to their EMM software.

"Registered EMM providers can offer secure authentication to enterprise servers, control access to enterprise apps and can set policies to restrict what the user can do within the work profile," says the video's narrator, Android project manager James Kelly. "On the device itself, Google Play will securely provision apps within the Android Work profile."

Kelly adds: "The IT admin has fine-grain controls to make apps available to individual employees, groups or to the whole company."

For personal Android devices that employees bring to work, Google has created an app called Device Policy Client that IT admins can use to create a secure Android Work profile to keep work apps and data separate from personal apps and data, he explains. To access the work profile, BYOD users will be required to provide credentials that are approved by the IT admin. However, users will be able to launch a single unified interface that shows both personal and work apps and allows both "notification" and "recent" alerts to appear from either the work or personal profile in a flip card-file style on a single display view.

In cases where the company owns the device, Android Work provides a simple provisioning step that sets up the enterprise as the device owner. "A device owner is a special type of device admin that cannot be deactivated. The company has full control of the device, including data and apps," Kelly says in the video.

Google has also created new Android Work APIs called Profile Owner and Device Owner. Profile Owner is a special type of device administrator tool that cannot be modified by the device's primary user. Device Owner, the more powerful of the two, includes a "superset" of IT controls that can control all aspects of a device's operation, including whether Wi-Fi access is allowed.

In existing EMM approaches, profiles can be set up for different work groups that are granted access to specific apps. So one group might have access to accounting and financial apps, for instance, while another can access legal or marketing apps.

Kelly assured Android app developers that most of their apps won't need to be altered to run in an Android Work setting.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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