How "Android for Work" Could Help Google Inc. Gain Ground in Enterprise

Google Android devices accounted for 81.5% of the smartphone market in 2014, according to IDC. However, Android still isn't considered a serious enterprise platform for companies due to concerns about security and fragmentation. That's why many businesses stubbornly stuck with BlackBerry devices in the past.

However, many companies now realize that they can cut costs by letting employees store company data on their personal smartphones instead. This paradigm shift, known as the BYOD (bring your own device) movement, is a boon for Google and Apple and a bane for BlackBerry, which now controls less than 1% of the global smartphone market.

To address security concerns, Google added a new "Work Profile" to Android 5.0 Lollipop, which split business and personal data into two separate accounts. Google then launched its "Android for Work" program with several enterprise mobility management (EMM) providers, including Google Apps for Work, Citrix , SAP, MobileIron, and even BlackBerry. Will this new push help Google dominate the enterprise market?

Android garden. Source: Dan H., Wikimedia Commons/Flickr.

The business of mobile monitoringEMM vendors provide "dashboards" that let companies secure and monitor their employees' mobile devices.

For example, the latest version of BlackBerry's EMM solution, BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Service) 12, lets companies monitor their employees' BlackBerry, Android, Samsung KNOX, iOS, and Microsoft Windows Phone devices. Last year, BlackBerry gave out free trials of BES through its EZ Pass program to aggressively expand its presence in this fledgling market, which Radicati Group expects to quadruple in value to $5.75 billion between 2014 and 2018. BlackBerry is currently the top EMM vendor worldwide with a 14% market share, according to IDC, but rivals like MobileIron aren't far behind.

To build upon its partnerships with these EMM vendors, Google launched the "Google Play for Work" store, which lets developers sell enterprise versions of popular apps. This new store has already attracted well-known vendors like salesforce, Adobe, and Box. For older pre-Lollipop devices, Google launched an Android for Work app which separates users' profiles in a similar manner. Google has also launched a new suite of email, calendar, and contacts apps which can be managed via APIs from an EMM dashboard. To ease the transition to Android enterprise devices, Google made its work profile compatible with secure networking VPNs from Cisco, F5 Networks, Palo Alto Networks, and PulseSecure.

Google's enterprise blitzLast May, Google acquired Divide, the developer of the profile-splitting containerization technology which makes Android for Work possible. In July, Google partnered with Samsung to add some of the latter's KNOX security features to Android 5.0. In October, it slashed subscription prices for its Chromebooks for Work initiative, which encourages small and medium-sized businesses to buy cheaper Chromebooks and remotely monitor them with Google's IT tools.

The similarities between Android for Work and Chromebooks for Work are clear. Both programs give enterprise users split profiles and let employers remotely monitor devices. However, there's a huge difference in market share -- Android is the dominant mobile OS, but Chromebooks only account for around 2% of the PC market.

This means Android for Work might have an easier time securing an enterprise foothold, but Chromebooks for Work will have a tough time challenging Microsoft's dominance across Windows PCs. However, Google enterprise partner Citrix notably specializes in "virtualization," or the remote delivery of Windows applications to non-Windows systems like Android and Chrome OS. This can "bridge the gap" between Windows PCs and Google's mobile devices, and might persuade smaller businesses to adopt all-Google enterprise solutions.

Citrix Receiver. Image source: Google Play.

BYOD is here to stayBlackBerry's launch of BES was a clear admission that the days of company-issued mobile devices were over. The focus has now shifted toward split profiles, EMM dashboards, and enterprise app stores for personal devices.

By tying those markets together with Android for Work, Google could eventually dominate enterprise mobile devices in the same way Microsoft now controls the enterprise PC market. However, neither Microsoft nor Apple is willing to let this market go without a fight. Microsoft plans to unify mobile devices and PCs with Windows 10, which could help Windows Phone gain lost ground among enterprise users. Apple signed a massive enterprise partnership with IBM last year, which could boost iOS'business presence.

Nonetheless, Google investors should keep a close eye on Android for Work and Chromebooks for Work, which could both improve its enterprise market share.

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Leo Sun owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Adobe Systems, Apple, Cisco Systems, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Palo Alto Networks, and The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and International Business Machines. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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