Google’s Android operating system is expected to become the top mobile platform for corporate smartphones by the end of next year, outpacing rivals including Apple’s iOS, Microsoft ‘s Windows Phone and Research In Motion.
But before that can happen, Android-based smartphone makers will need to address one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of their devices within companies – concern within the IT department about their security and manageability.
These concerns are frequently cited by corporate chief information officers and other IT professionals to explain why the adoption of Android within businesses – either as company-provided handsets, or as part of a bring your own device (BYOD) project– has lagged behind adoption among consumers.
The importance of ensuring that personal devices used by employees are safe and secure is underscored by research conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Eset Internet Security. That research suggests that more than 80 per cent of American employees use a personally owned device for work-related functions. Of that number, 38 per cent are using smartphones and 15 per cent are using tablets.
More importantly, 24 per cent of survey respondents said they use their smartphones to access or store company information while 10 per cent use tablets for the same purpose.
Samsung, the leading Android-based smartphone maker, claims to be the first to address corporate IT departments’s concerns about these devices, and those that are purchased by the companies themselves.
Samsung claims its flagship Galaxy III smartphone, which launched with mobile network operators in the US this week and will be rolled out to the top five US mobile operators before the end of July, is the first, “quality assured, enterprise-compliant Android smartphone.”
The Galaxy III is also the first handset to tout the Korean company’s “SAFE” (Samsung Approved for Enterprise) logo designed to make it easier for companies to choose handsets that meet their security and manageability requirements.
Among the features designed to appeal to businesses, SAFE-certified devices include on-device AES-256 bit encryption, enhanced support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and support for industry-leading Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) software and services.
“Over last few years IT departments have increasingly added more devices to their supported device list, but to date, some have been reluctant to support the Android OS primarily due to data and application security concerns,” said Timothy Wagner, cice president and general manager of enterprise sales at Samsung Mobile.
“Now, with the introduction of the SAFE-branded and QA-tested SAFE Galaxy S III smartphone, we have systematically eliminated these concerns by supporting a consistent level of enterprise-ready features and capabilities.”
Despite the growing popularity of smartphones and PC tablets, Samsung believes the opportunities to make further inroads into the business market are substantial. According to Samsung’s research, only 18 per cent of companies currently have a comprehensive mobile strategy, although another 34 per cent have some elements of a strategy, typically implemented at a department of business unit level. Another 42 per cent say they are developing a comprehensive mobile strategy.
Based on Samsung’s experience, Mr Wagner says these strategies usually fall into one of three types:
“Pure” BYOD – These industries have officially (or unofficially) adopted a BYOD policy for their employees. They are concerned about data security but are willing to embrace the BYOD trend because of the rewards. They may or may not have an official BYOD policy in place, and are therefore unaware of the risks involved. Examples include higher education, hospitality and the entertainment industries.
BYOD/Corporate-liable mix – These typically are companies in transition or ones that give employees the option of BYOD or using a ‘corporate-liable’ device. They are concerned about data security but may or may not have an official BYOD policy in place. Mr Wagner says these industries may overlap slightly with the “pure” BYOD category but will most likely not include industries in the corporate liable category. Examples include field services, transportation/logistics and technology companies.
Corporate-Liable – These industries require the highest level of security from any mobile device on their network. They are unlikely to implement a BYOD policy because they believe the risks outweighing the benefits. Therefore, any employee work device will be distributed by the company and controlled by the IT department. Typically these companies are in the banking/finance and healthcare/medical industries, or are government and security-related agencies.
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