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Android has failed to gain an enterprise foothold, as end users, IT departments, device manufacturers and app developers focus on iOS and Windows 10.
Despite its popularity with consumers, Google's Android OS has a few shortfalls, according to IT experts. There are security concerns, and fragmentation issues make Android difficult to develop for, leading to fewer business-critical apps. Dell discontinued its remaining Android tablets in June, six months after HP Inc. stopped making its low-end Android tablets. The two big-name enterprise vendors made these moves to shift their focus to Windows 10 2-in-1 devices.
"Android is dying down quite a bit in enterprise because Android has so many different flavors, so it's less controlled," said Stephen Monteros, vice president at SIGMAnet, an IT consultancy in Ontario, Calif. "Microsoft is more focused with Windows lately, so people are leaning toward Windows or iOS on the large scale in enterprise."
Security, fragmentation concerns knock Android
Android security issues include the threat of malware and the lack of updated patches, because users do not typically install updates as frequently as users of other OSes, and Android vendors don't push out updates all at the same time.
Some Android device vendors have tried to push into businesses by offering more security capabilities. Samsung's Knox security suite, for example, separates personal and corporate data using app-level containerization and offers device management capabilities. Google's Android for Work provides segmented profiles to contain and secure corporate data on smartphones and tablets.
"Android for Work was a big deal when it first came out, but it hasn't done much since it was announced," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst at IDC. "There was not a lot of adoption."
Robby Hillfounder and CEO, HillSouth
Enterprise mobility management can alleviate some security concerns, but fragmentation still makes the Android OS more difficult to work with for IT. Just 10% of devices run the most recent version, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, according to the Android developers page. Twenty-five percent are on Android 5.0 Lollipop, and 31% still run Android 4.4 KitKat, which came out in 2013. Twenty-three percent of devices use even older versions.
"There are so many flavors to build for, and that creates a challenge for developers," said Emmanuel Mathew, president of Agiline LLC, a software development firm in Ontario, Calif.
Plus, apps come out for each version of Android at different times, and device vendors don't get new versions all at the same time, said Robby Hill, founder and CEO of HillSouth, an IT consultancy in Florence, S.C.
"You don't see businesses deploying complex applications for Android due to concerns about all the hardware and software platforms you'll encounter," he said.
IT, vendors turn to Windows 10
Microsoft Windows is not as fragmented as Android, and it takes better advantage of larger screen sizes on tablets and has far more business-critical apps, Ubrani said.
"In the short term, there is not a lot of opportunity for Android in enterprise," he said.
Most Android tablet apps are just blown-up smartphone apps, while Apple and Microsoft have done a good job of getting developers to support and better optimize apps for larger screen sizes, he added.
Highlighting the opportunity vendors see around Windows 10 devices, Dell and HP Inc. signed on to resell the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro last year, and IBM joined them this month. IBM will develop data and analytics apps for these devices, aimed at financial service customers. Similarly, IBM resells Apple iPads and builds customized data and analytics applications for iOS devices.
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