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Friday, 31 August 2012

Porting to Android™

With Android smartphones being used by over 50% of smartphone users in the U.S. in Q4 2012, enterprises are increasingly being asked the question by employees, whether their new Android phone works with the company network and if they can move to using a single smartphone rather than two.  

In this blog we discuss features of Android as a platform for enterprises and how enterprises can port to Android with minimum change to accommodate users of different smartphone platforms while providing users a richer experience with no compromise on enterprise security.

Executive summary

Google® Android™ with rich device usability and great application eco-system has grown rapidly as the smartphone OS of choice across the world. With a totally open developer environment and lower barriers to develop on the platform, Android has fuelled innovation which is evident in the thousands of innovative apps on the Android market.

Android over the past five years has evolved as the OS of choice on majority of smartphone owned by Americans. After the release of the version 2.2 of Android in Q2 2010, the platform adoption has increased by over 100% to over 50% majority in the US in Q2 2012. 


A large part of the growth is evident in exodus of users of Blackberry® and Windows Phone™ who never experienced the rich media experience offered by their earlier platforms. With this move users are now able to experience the ‘app’ revolution. According to a Nielsen survey in 2010, 57% of BlackBerry subscribers were most like to switch to Androids and looking at the latest figures above this is visible. 

Enterprises are now faced with the question from their users; can I use my Android device on the enterprise network? It is not a question about shunting users from moving away from Blackberry – they will, the question is whether the enterprise is ready to accommodate the change and provide the same kind of enterprise user experience offered by the existing Blackberry infrastructure they have already invested in.

In the document we discuss features of Android as a smartphone OS of choice and how it compares to the dying Blackberry OS and how moving to an open and vibrant platform can benefit both enterprises and government whilst not compromising on security.


Introduction

Email, contacts and connectivity are characteristics enterprises treat very carefully, and they want these to be extremely secure for their managers and executives. Anything that is mission critical to their business in terms of data and functionality, typically enterprises want to have some pretty high level of security around its availability and access.         

Research in Motion® (RIM), with its offering of Blackberry was really the first mobile device manufacturer that was able to deliver secure e-mail on mobile devices that actually worked. Initially there wasn't a lot of competition, and only viable competition was from Microsoft® with Pocket PC and Palm® products. RIM had a big advantage as they were actually developing the operating system and making the hardware and delivered a product that worked and was secure.

What sealed their perceived monopoly early on in the enterprise mobility space was the release of the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) which now allowed enterprises to deploy an enterprise grade mobile solution. Enterprises could now deliver e-mail, contacts, wipe devices, set policies on devices, push applications to devices all in a secure fashion. Adopting the solution from RIM – Blackberry devices and BES to manage these devices, gave enterprise and government the comfort level that the proper security measures were in place and this saw wide adoption across corporate America.

When Google entered the smartphone market with Android in 2007 many argued that Android as a platform was not ready for enterprise adoption. Blackberry was able to deter any new entrant in the enterprise mobility space. But with the exponential growth of Android as a smartphone OS over the years and subsequent updates to the platform Android has emerged as a dominant platform and has all the characteristics of an enterprise mobility infrastructure.

With incredible losses in market share and exodus of faithful users away from the platform, Blackberry is not yet a viable investment for enterprises and governments when majority of their users are not on the Blackberry platform.

Changes since Android became main-stream

The single dominant factor that has tipped the scales in favour of Android is the Android Market. Users want “in” on the app revolution and they want the rich media experience the OS offers. With its fresh looks and ever growing app inventory users have embraced Android devices and with many variants in terms of smartphones and tablets, users are able to perform everything they used to do at their desk using these devices.

Users are now asking their enterprise IT managers if they can use their Android device with their corporate network. Everything the Blackberry and BES combination had offered earlier is available as an app on their device and they have tried and tested it and are happy. But enterprises are not ready and should now look at what is out there for them to accommodate these.



Blackberry as a mobile device management (MDM) provider has dominated in this space and still have a slight advantage because they are the most proven solution available with deployments in governments, and world's biggest enterprises.

But with growing user base of Android smartphones, many new entrants in the mobile device management are seen delivering products similar to BES. Enterprises can now adopt some of these newer devices, and still keep the security measures in place.

What has really resulted in a setback to Blackberry is about 15% – 25% utilisation of the BES infrastructure as users have migrated to other smartphone platforms. The BES and Blackberry combination does not still justify as an investment. Enterprise should now think towards moving to a more robust mobility solution and port their existing applications to Android. 

What Android offers is
  •          Device popularity
  •         Code quality
  •         Platform support

Android as an enterprise mobility platform

With the release of version 2.2 of Android and subsequent versions, Android fulfils two most important requirements for enterprise acceptance in mobile platforms security and device management. And with Android now supporting Microsoft ActiveSync® technology which enables built-in support for Microsoft Exchange – the cornerstone solution for secure corporate email and many third-party apps, guarantees there’s always a host of choices to replace BlackBerry-like functionality.
The Android Market now has premium apps that parallel and even enhance all the features available on a BlackBerry.


Switching over to Android for an enterprise

The important thing to consider when an enterprise decides to switch over to Android is to, migrate the rich business data to the new devices.

Data security and encryption
Android provides an application environment that ensures the security of users, data, applications, the device, and the network. To achieve the level of security enterprises today demand, Android provides some key security features:
  •  Robust security at the OS level through the Linux kernel
  • Application sandbox for all applications
  • Secure inter-process communication
  • Application signing
  • Application-defined and user-granted permissions
  • Strong security policies that prevent data security breaches

Version 3.0 and later of Android provides full file-system encryption, so all user data can be encrypted in the kernel using industry standard encryption techniques.

Custom application port to Android
Many enterprises have customised their users experience on Blackberry and many of these were J2ME applications. Since Android runs applications in Java, existing Java ME applications can be run on, or ported to Android devices fairly simply. J2ME applications can be deployed to Android as
  • Encapsulated within a J2ME emulator, or
  • Rewrite the application using Android APIs natively.


Device Management and Data access
The Android Device Administration API provides device administration at the system level. The built-in email application uses this APIs to improve Exchange support; enterprise exchange administrators can enforce password policies — including alphanumeric passwords or numeric PINs — across devices.

Administrators can also remotely wipe lost or stolen handsets.

Cloud based delivery of services and application provisioning
Users ability to access corporate resources anytime, anywhere – on employee-owned improves productivity, satisfactions and helps company revenues. A cloud based content delivery solution to Android devices makes managing growing base of devices simple and cost effective.

Comprehensive cost analysis and cloud control
With more number of Android devices in the enterprise there is a greater dependency on cloud based services and this requires dedicated network connectivity. The organisation can detect and control a devices data usage in real-time and remediate against them to avoid non-budgeted data costs.

Android provides cost sensitive APIs; allowable by user to control different cost parameters used by a device. These APIs can manage Telephony, Messaging, Network, Data and In-App billing



Capability

Supr iLabs can help your enterprise devise a mobile strategy around porting your existing Blackberry applications to the Android platform in a cost effective manner. Our team has been developing Android applications for over 3 years and has experience working with clients across different industry verticals.

Get in touch with our team to understand more on how we can help at mailto:hello@supr.in


Conclusion

Android is today the most used smartphone OS in the US and around the World. With a minimum support commitment of 18 months by many of open handset alliance members, it is the platform you as an enterprise should choose to deploy your applications.

Enterprises today are feeling the need to embrace new technology and should move away from dying technologies such as Blackberry which may not survive the stiff competition from more superior mobile platforms. Android being a ground-breaking platform with offering more than what was previously available on Blackberry should be the platform of choice to build the next generation of enterprise apps.

The American government has embraced mobile technology and has put across directives to deploy this technology to serve their citizens. The vision is to allow American people to access services on their smartphones.

In this blog post we have discussed features of Android platform and how it can be used as an enterprise mobility solution.

If you want to build an application for your enterprise or port an existing Blackberry application, please get in touch with us at hello@supr.in