Mobility

Why the Google Pixel phone won't steal the enterprise crown from the iPhone anytime soon

Google's brand new flagship Pixel phone is trying to nudge Apple's iPhone 7 off its pedestal. Nevermind the consumer realm: Is Apple's mobile enterprise supremacy really at risk?

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Image: Google

Yesterday's Pixel phone announcement by Google has people all over the tech industry talking. Is it an iPhone killer? Will it finally help Google earn a spot in the enterprise? For some it might seem like a competitor, but there are serious limitations that will prevent it from really making a dent in Apple's armor.

To understand why the Pixel isn't the new enterprise golden child we only need to consider what the businesses truly want in a mobile device. Unfortunately for Google it's not all great cameras, bright blues, and headphone jacks.

What the enterprise wants

To be fair, there are some features of the Google Pixel that will make it a good choice for businesses—but those perks aren't enough to take the spotlight off what it lacks. Enterprises need four things in a mobile device: security, ecosystem partners, integration capabilities, and support.

It's all about security

Mobile devices are ubiquitous, and that means they're being used for work. While an increase in mobile use in the workplace creates a security risk it can be mitigated by making good hardware and security choices.

"Apple is favored by enterprises because of the tight ecosystem control that Apple exerts, over the air OS updates (vs. Android updates that are OEM dependent), and because iPhones operate in a secure 'sandboxed' environment," says Werner Goertz, mobile analyst for Gartner.

SEE: Why haven't we seen the smartphone security apocalypse in iPhone and Android yet? (TechRepublic)

Also worth mentioning is the lack of security features discussed at the Made By Google event at the Pixel launch. Serious improvement needs to be done to eliminate Android security issues if they aren't simply going to be an immediate threat to enterprise networks. Not mentioning security makes it seem like Google is intentionally avoiding it.

Google needs ecosystem partners to succeed

Apple has a huge leg up when it comes to enterprise-level partnerships: IBM, Cisco, SAP, and Deloitte all have agreements to help integrate iOS devices into business infrastructures. If Google and Android want to get in they have to catch up.

Goertz said that Google has tried pushing its way into the enterprise with Android For Work, but has had limited success when up against Apple's already formidable partnerships.

Easy business integration isn't optional

Here's where Pixel might have an edge: it's highly integrated with G Suite. Businesses that use a lot of Google Cloud services may prefer using Pixels to iPhones: Anyone who's spent a lot of time using an iOS device with Google apps knows they aren't the best of friends.

SEE: 10 mobile security myths that need debunking (TechRepublic)

iPhones can definitely hold their own against Google when it comes to the cloud—it all depends on how important Google integration is for a particular business.

Support is essential

Being able to get help with a device is essential, especially if you're not a huge business that has an ever-available IT team. Pixel owners have access to 24/7 live support, which can be incredibly helpful.

The catch with the Pixel is how long Google is going to support it: software upgrades will stop after 2 years, leaving owners with a phone that's only going to receive security patches, and those will stop in just one more year.

Apple products, on the other hand, have an amazing support platform in Apple Joint Venture. $499 a year gets support for five systems, and it is extensive support. Apple will migrate files, set up machines, and provide live support, pretty much acting like a remote helpdesk.

Apple devices also receive updates for five years, not just two. When iOS 10 launched in September it was available on iPhone 5, which launched in 2011, and newer devices. It can get expensive to replace devices for a whole company every two years when support ends, making a five-year window far more attractive.

The bottom line

There are reasons a Pixel would be a good choice for business: better G Suite integration, 24/7 phone support, and unlimited cloud storage for photos and video.

If Google is hoping to truly break into the enterprise with Pixel it's going about it the wrong way: the first step is a larger focus on enterprise integration, big partnerships, and (most important) Android security.

Also see

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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