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Google acquires Divide to help Android bridge the gap to the enterprise

Google recently bought enterprise device manager Divide. Will it be the linchpin Android needs to break through in the enterprise?

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Google is making deeper pushes into education with Chromebooks, and it is capitalizing on XP end-of-life with Chrome OS and Google Apps; but with only 26% market share in the enterprise there is still an untapped enterprise opportunity with Android.

On Tuesday, May 20, enterprise device management company Divide announced on its website that it was joining Google. Divide, which focuses on corporate BYOD policies and enterprise mobility is joining the Android team, and could be one of the final pieces of the puzzle to help Google break into the enterprise space with a serious mobile offering.

"The company was founded with a simple mission: Give people the best mobile experience at work. As part of the Android team, we're excited to continue developer solutions that our users love. For existing customers, Divide will work as it always has. Thank you to everyone who has downloaded our app, partnered with us, invested in us and provided feedback along the way," Divide said on its website.

Divide got its start four years ago as Enterproid. The company, which was initially funded, in part, by Google Ventures, was launched by a group of former bankers who saw the writing on the wall of how important a role mobile devices would play in the enterprise. According to Gartner research director Chris Silva, Divide's offering hits right at the pain point of Android in the enterprise.

"If I were putting my hat on as someone who looks at this from a mobile management standpoint, the biggest Achilles heel in the Android strategy despite its massive penetration, despite its massive global appeal, has been the ability to properly secure and manage Android devices in a consistent way," Silva said.

While most mobile management systems offer some level of encryption beyond what is offered by the device itself, Divide offers what Silva calls a "secure container." What Silva finds interesting about Divide is the concept of a secure container that can now be branded by Google.

By offering a secure container, Google has the potential to ease concerns of device security and regain market share for Android. Silva notes that, up until this point, buyers had to look to third-party products, such as Samsung Knox, to get an Android device ready for the enterprise. If Google can properly market the new security features brought on by Divide, or even make them a native part of the Android platform, they have the potential to win some of the customers that may have been scared off due to security concerns. This also gives Google a way to compete with the BlackBerry Enterprise Service.

The acquisition of Divide is only one of Google's recent moves to address Android's shortcomings in security and manageability:

  1. Security - Divide acquisition, Easy Unlock from the SlickLogin acquisition
  2. Fragmentation - Android Silver rumor, broad KitKat 4.4.2 availability
  3. Enterprise credibility - Lenovo/Motorola deal

Google is known for their sandbox approach to new features. They throw products into the market, let people experiment, and see what comes back. What is unique about the purchase of Divide is that they are taking the lead in developing features specifically for business customers.

"Google, traditionally, in any market that they've been in from a device standpoint, leaves it to the market to provide the value-added features, to provide the management," Silva said. "To see Google buy Divide, and we don't know the terms of the deal, but [to] make that investment, shows that they're committed to building out their own set of tools to make themselves more appealing to the enterprise."

Other features that Divide offers are private browsing, task management, secure file storage, and access to work contacts and a work calendar. Interesting to note is that Divide will also continue to support iOS and it syncs with Google Apps, Lotus Notes, and Exchange ActiveSync.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the deal, but declined to comment further.

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Conner Forrest is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. He covers Google and startups and is passionate about the convergence of technology and culture.

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