What does 3,997 different versions of Android look like? The chart from OpenSignalMaps paints a spectacular picture.
Let’s start with the good news. GOOG Chairman Eric Schmidt says it’s not fragmentation. It’s differentiation. If you are a device manufacturer trying to get noticed in the consumer marketplace, that may be a good thing. Not so much if you are in enterprise IT.
4,000 Android variants, Trouble Lurks
Here is another look at fragmentation on a smaller scale. Animoca keeps all of these Android devices in-house to support their application testing.
How does this impact the enterprise? Most IT shops are starting to recognize that apps will be part of the enterprise mobility strategy. There may be some web-based HTML 5 solutions and even some VDI, but the simplicity, efficiency and touch capabilities of a native device experience will force IT departments to adopt and support some apps. Your support must consider the impact of Android fragmentation.
What about Android Security?
The other obvious issue is security. With so many variants, how can you police the user base and ensure compliance with enterprise security standards? The Mobile Device Management (MDM) crowd presents a partial solution as do the app security developers. A poll I conducted on the LinkedIn Group, Enterprise Mobility Management, offered four choices to the question: Who thinks Android Fragmentation is an issue for the enterprise?
- Not an issue, enterprises will use iOS (4%)
- MDM will solve the fragmentation issue (12%)
- Big issue for enterprises and consumers (50%)
- Enterprises will limit approved devices (33%)
With or without statistical significance, you have an educated group on mobility and over 80% see Android fragmentation as an issue that needs to be addressed. Some of the MDM vendor representatives believe fully in their products and argue that their abilty to identify Android version and integrity will allow organizaitons to address variations in both administation and security. Others diagree. Even if they are right, their MDM solutions wouuld not address the app develoment and support challenge.
Strategy for Enterprise Mobility
Enterprise mobility isn’t going away nor is Android fragmentation. Many organizations are avoiding the issue altogether by standardizing on iOS. In fact, Gartner forecasts that more than 50% of enterprises will only support iPads for their tablets. Once you introduce smart phones into the equation, you get right back to an Android issue because most enterprises want to offer some choice in that category.
Limit Approved Devices
The silver lining here is that Samsung today has about 40% of the market. If you combine that with HTC, Sony and Motorola you exceed 50% of the market and that will provide enough employee choice for most organizations. Limting approved devices similar to limiting approved applications is a sound strategy for managing Android in the enterprise.
Adopt MDM and App Security
For security you should adopt both MDM and an app security solution. MDM provides some standardization of security and controls at the device level. It can enforce the device and OS versions you allow in the enterprise as well as limit the apps that are approv under a ccommon administration framework. In some cases they can establish secure containers that segregate enterprise from emloyee apps.
App secuirty provides a wrapper that addresses another layer of variation at the app and OS layer. This will further address the variety that you do allow and provide added security protection.
Unless you plan to enforce an Apple only policy at your enterprise, there is little doubt that you will be forced to confront Android fragmentation or be victimized by it. With new OS versions hittng the market frequently, this will get much worsse before it gets better. By limiting device selection, OS version and adopting MDM and app security you can start to get ahead of the fragmentation challenge and take advantage of the differentiation heralded by Mr. Schmidt.
How do you think enterprises should address Android fragmentation? Comment below.