The Apple/IBM partnership may not outclass Android in the enterprise as much as the early analysis might suggest if Google and Android start thinking more like an enterprise business.
The Apple/IBM partnership news is still causing a stir in the press and amongst some analysts. My first thought about the partnership swirled around its potential dominance in the enterprise mobility market. After a twitter chat with Yaacov Cohen, CEO of harmon.ie, and talking with some other industry contacts was I able to see really how possible it might be for Android to counter Apple and IBM in the enterprise.
Here are some ways that Google and Android can counter the Apple/IBM partnership:
1. Develop, define, and evangelize your mobile security message
While I'm seeing some improvements in the enterprise security future for Android, part of my job is to be able to pick out such things. The Android enterprise security message needs to resonate with the knowledge workers and decision makers who aren't paid to follow mobility or mobile security.
Take, for example, the messaging Samsung Knox, a secure workspace for Android targeting Samsung devices. Since I've been a TechRepublic contributor, the status of Samsung Knox always seemed a wee bit fuzzy (and once or twice I thought it might be an enterprise mobility myth). Fast forward to today, Samsung Knox is called a contribution to Android set to show up in the upcoming Android L version.
Then there was the Google acquisition of Divide, another mobile security solution. I was favorable to Divide after writing about it for TechRepublic. News about Divide seemed to get lost after word broke about the Samsung Knox contribution to Android L.
Do you notice a pattern here? A notable Android security acquisition takes place, then radio silence. While I'm not suggesting that Google telegraph each step of their Android security strategy (at least at this time), some ongoing evangelism targeting Android enterprise security needs to start now to a wider audience that just mobile geeks. Android's rep as an enterprise security issue is going to take equal parts technology and messaging to get past especially when it comes to non-technical decision makers who have an iPhone and iPad at home.
2. Expand the productivity and back office app portfolio
A big part of that Apple/Enterprise partnership is a focus on vertical market and enterprise mobile apps. There are some great Android enterprise mobile apps on the market right now if you know where to look. However, when I was writing about Microsoft Dynamics CRM apps for Android, it became clear that the feature set, user experience can be across the map for certain app categories.
It could be said Google and Android are a few steps behind on this front. One way to fix this is developing a set of enterprise app standards for Android to make more of these apps business ready.
3. Bring MBaaS into the mix
Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) could be a potential counterforce against IBM's app development arm. Some key partnerships between Google, their professional service partner(s), and MBaaS providers could offer the app development speed to market that could beat app developers under the IBM/Apple partnership umbrella.
MBaaS also offers important multi-platform capabilities that don't appear in the early news and appraisals about the Apple/IBM partnership.
4. Build out a roster of traditional and non-traditional professional services providers
IBM has a reputation as a professional services juggernaut but in today's professional services market nobody is safe. Google needs to find a nimble, well-liked, and respected professional services partner or partners to counter IBM's gigantic footprint in the federal and commercial markets.
Google could even to take it one better with professional service providers by enlisting third-party IT support providers like those that serve small to medium businesses (SMBs).
While IBM has a powerful mobile first strategy in place to serve their current and prospective customers, I must question if IBM can be one size fits all as a mobility solution even with Apple on board.
5. Win the federal and state government sectors
The United States federal government and many state governments agencies trying to establish mobile strategies for their business processes and engaging with their constituencies.
One government sector niche that IBM and Apple can't yet touch are supplying the enterprise apps for ruggedized devices in use by the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, law enforcement, and other first responders. Android dominates that niche market.
Android vs. iOS at twenty paces in the enterprise
The Apple/IBM partnership may not outclass Android in the enterprise as much as the early analysis might suggest if Google and Android start thinking more like an enterprise business. Google did this change of thinking once before with Google Apps versus Microsoft Office.
Lurking out there also is the potential that the IBM/Apple partnership may fail to launch, as some high-profile partnerships have been known to do in the past. Either way, the Apple/IBM partnership may ultimately be the best thing ever to happen to Android in the enterprise because it will stoke competition in enterprise mobility and finally make Google carve off the rough edges of its enterprise mobile strategy for Android.