Google made headlines earlier this week by finalizing an acquisition of Divide (formerly Enterproid); a company specializing in the internalization of a work container within an employee’s personal smartphone.Google has planned to incorporate the Divide feature to future Android releases, thereby strengthening the platforms’ enterprise capabilities as a whole. The acquisition will impact the ecosystem of vendors focusing on mobility management for the enterprise, and will give HW OEMs that compete with Samsung an opportunity to offer a well-integrated containerization solution along with their hardware. The move by Google also portends to a more strategic focus (albeit late) on the enterprise market.
Similar to other popular containerization solutions, Divide’s secure workspace separates employees’ personal and business use on an individual smartphone while simultaneously preserving the experience that users expect. Container solutions such as Divide offer an elegant way to give users the ability to use their device the way they are accustomed to without the threat of privacy issues, and more importantly, give IT administrators flexible and powerful tools for administrative oversight as well as granular policy control for their corporate data and applications.
Is Android Finally Ready for the Enterprise?
Does this mean that Android is now completely enterprise-friendly? The move certainly strengthens the platform’s viability, particularly when considering the enterprise capabilities that have been integrated into the most recent Android releases (Jellybean and KitKat). Additionally, depending on how Google decides to integrate Divide and how easy OEMs can customize it, Divide will potentially give HW OEMs new ways to approach business customers. With Apple’s recent production of iOS7, Apple could fill the enterprise mobility void left by BlackBerry. With no major fragmentation concerns (~80% of iOS users are on iOS7), Apple’s walled-garden approach and its reputation for proactive responses to malware threats has served it well. While Apple was dragged into the enterprise, it has clearly been embraced by large organizations and accepted as a secure mobile platform. EMM and mobile security vendors have created very powerful solutions that have made Android a very secure platform – however, without these third-party solutions, the platform would not be gaining the traction in enterprise settings that we have seen since the 4.2 release.
The Debate will Persist – To Secure the Device and/or the Data
Containerization, unfortunately, is not a black-and-white solution. Although it can potentially allow for more employee privacy through less IT supervision, containerization can easily be described as an incomplete solution (depending on the use case). While containerization solutions separate applications and data between personal and corporate use, they do not provide the enhanced security, granular policy controls, asset management functions, or provisioning capabilities that an integrated solution from an EMM vendor can provide. However, containerization and app virtualization (a topic for a future blog) are changing the dynamics of the competitive landscape. We expect the “securing the data vs. the device” debate to persist – but we see containerization as only one element of the holistic enterprise solution (one that will not replace MDM, but add to it).
Everyone Has a Container – Can Divide be the De Facto Android Container?
Containerization has become a central solution component to almost every vendor participating in the enterprise mobility market. AT&T’s Toggle, BlackBerry’s Balance (both powered by OpenPeak), Excitor, Fixmo, Good, and Samsung (KNOX), along with almost every EMM vendor, have all incorporated containerization into their solution portfolios. While these vendors can all “play” in the iOS ecosystem, Android has been the platform of choice on which to differentiate. With its acquisition of Divide, Google may have an opportunity to make Divide the de facto containerization solution for Android (if HW OEMs play ball). We anticipate that Divide will be integrated into future Android releases, and we will be carefully watching if and how Google “opens up” the Divide platform. Samsung has been masterful in attracting enterprise-oriented vendors to work with its KNOX platform – while KNOX has been slow to take off; aggressive marketing and extensive media coverage have made Samsung the most visible enterprise-grade handset OEM. To its credit, Samsung has integrated and co-opted Android and effectively has made it an extension of its hardware by incorporating significant device-side capabilities at the chipset level. HW OEMs that compete with Samsung will need to do the same, and Google has an opportunity to enable them to do so. Google’s acquisition of Divide is an important and necessary step forward if the company wants to further its enterprise strategy – however, it is just one step.
(Research and contributions by Natalie Buckner)