The idea behind this program is to make it easier for enterprises to select Android devices, and to that end, it addresses features such as proper implementation of Android enterprise, support for Zero Touch, hardware specifications, speed and length of security updates (within 90 days, for three years), and availability of unlocked devices. Google will be testing these devices to ensure compliance. (Here are the initial devices.)
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Google also plans to expand the Android Enterprise Recommended program to other aspects of EMM, including training programs.
The point of the program isn’t to exclude other devices from enterprise consideration, though.
Basic Android enterprise support has been mandatory since Android 6.0 Marshmallow in 2015, and support for work profiles (on devices that meet processor requirements) has been mandatory since Android 7.0 Nougat in 2016. I recently learned from Google’s Sean Ginevan that even Android Go, the slimmed-down version of Android made for entry-level devices, supports Android enterprise.
The result is that any new device, and many BYOD devices, especially in typical office environments, already support Android enterprise. The Android Enterprise Recommended Program is just going a couple of steps farther.
In addition to all this, we’ve seen Google and EMMs plan to deprecate legacy Device Admin-based MDM for Android, and here at BrianMadden.com we’ve written about the state of Android enterprise in 2017 and how Android BYOD will change going forward.
The bottom line is that it’s a good and transformative time for Android enterprise, but there's a lot of outdated "conventional knowledge" (and, frankly, outright FUD) that Google and Android have to contend with. On the security side, last year they started surfacing more of their existing efforts by wrapping them up in Google Play Protect. The Android Enterprise Recommended program looks like a good way to help educate and encourage the enterprise market.