Most of the time when we talk about enterprise mobility management, we take the role of Android and Google for granted.
The common knowledge (which was represented in my two recent articles covering the EMM platform market and the dual persona Android device market) is that Google and Android don’t take a very active role in enterprise mobility management. Instead, each device manufacturer has to figure out advanced Android management features on their own. From the enterprise perspective this creates fragmentation, but alas, that’s just the way things are.
I actually saw some articles mentioning this possibility a few weeks ago, but since they all referred back to one source and there are “rumors” like this all the time, I didn’t give it much thought. In fact, when writing about Android EMM fragmentation yesterday I said, “Google could render this conversation moot by building a bunch of new management features into Android, but that’s not likely to happen.”
But regardless of whether or not this particular rumor is true, I’d like to revisit the idea: What if Google added more enterprise management features to Android?
In theory, yes, this move could ease fragmentation and seriously make a lot of IT pros lives’ much easier. EMM vendors would have an easier time, too, with fewer different custom APIs to support.
But is this really a possibility?
- First, what are the chances that Google knocks it out of the park and gets absolutely everything we need on their first attempt? Probably not great. We would still need to rely on manufacturers to step up and fill in the gaps, meaning we’d still have to deal with fragmentation.
- Second, even if all these new Android APIs were perfect, Android is still an open operating system. Manufacturers would still try find ways to differentiate their products, so again, fragmentation would remain.
- The best we can hope for is that the “floor” of minimum Android management capabilities available on all device might be raised—assuming of course that all devices are updated to this hypothetical new version of Android.
The bottom line is that Android fragmentation isn’t likely to ever go away. It’s important to keep in mind that from the EMM perspective, there is no one thing called “Android.” Rather we have to think of it as Samsung devices, HTC devices, Motorola devices, etc. It’s like how you don’t download “Linux”—you download Debian or Ubuntu or Red Hat.
Fortunately we have ways of dealing with this. Most EMM vendors strive to support as many different device manufacturers as possible, and app-level solutions can help with fragmentation, too. So that’s the best we’re going to get in the near future, regardless of whether or not Google gets “serious” about enterprise management of Android.