The iPhone and iPad may be losing their enterprise luster

Android's improvements are magnifying IT's frustrations with iOS and providing a viable alternative for real-world deployments

As I wrote last week, Apple seems to be reversing the Android dominance in the market as a whole or at least slowing it. But there are signs Apple's iOS may be losing its extreme dominance in the workplace, as both users and IT find reasons to favor Android devices over iPhones and iPads.

Bill Olsen, director of infrastructure services at the utility company Nevada Energy, told a panel I moderated this week at the ITExpo conference that most users at his company were now choosing Android devices instead of iOS devices. The same was true whether these were BYOD users or employees who had corporate-issued devices. (Nevada Energy supports iOS and Android in both cases.) Two years ago, they almost all wanted an iPhone 4, but now the Samsung Galaxy S series is the device of choice.

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Olsen also complained how hard it was to to get business apps through the Apple App Store, while it took just minutes to get an app posted to the Android Google Play store. Apple's review process has long frustrated developers, even as it's kept out nearly all malware and spyware. But that process is also inhibiting enterprise app developers in getting their apps into the private business area of the App Store.

And, he noted, because Apple tightly controls iOS, it forbids mobile management tools from providing as much control and visibility as an MDM tool can for Android. Isn't that ironic? iOS is natively much more secure and manageable than Android, but Android can be made to be more secure and manageable. The same reality that makes Android a big malware target also renders it more controllable: its open architecture.

The other two panelists, Louis Carr of Nevada's Clark County (which covers the Las Vegas metro area, plus rural communities) and John Andrews of the Dysart Unified School District in the fast-growing Phoenix suburb of Surprise, agreed that Android was picking up steam in their environments as well, for similar reasons.

Recent data from Good Technology bears this out as a larger trend. The MDM provider's clients tend to be on the conservative side, where security and manageability trump other needs. Yet the company's analysis of its customers' device activations showed Android activations rose this spring by half, from 8 percent to 12 percent compared to a year earlier.

Part of the Android uptake reflects Android's market share in the consumer market, and Apple's 90-percent-plus share of the enterprise market isn't sustainable. When it comes to deep work, market researchers continue to show iOS dominates because there are many more rich productivity apps for iOS than Android.

But the fact that iOS is frustrating IT pros in enterprise areas where iOS has long excelled is what should scare Apple.

It's a tough juggling act for Apple: Allowing interapplication inspection -- so MDM tools can see what apps are actually doing, as Android does, not merely monitor their communications through the network -- would defeat a key foundation of iOS's security model. So would allowing submitted apps to appear in the App Store within minutes.

But leaving things as is will drive IT toward Android -- and perhaps away from iOS. A secure system used by very few people is pointless -- ask BlackBerry. Nevada Energy may be a bellwether here, too: It went from 1,000 corporate-issues BlackBerrys to just two, as iPhones came in. Now it's Galaxy phones coming in increasingly instead of iPhones.

Given such a shift on the ground, Apple should reconsider some of that balance, at least among a trusted level of developers. iOS 8 takes some steps in that direction through controlled opening of interapplication APIs, but more may be needed. Different rules for business App Store submission review may be in order as well.

The truth is that IT isn't afraid of Android as it once was, thanks to both the security advances in Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" and later and in MDM tools. As far as Android's malware problem -- it's a magnet for viruses and spyware, even in apps that get Google's cursory review in the Play Store -- it's clear that IT organizations long ago decided that malware is simply the cost of doing business. Otherwise, Windows PCs would have been replaced with Linux desktops and Macs long ago. Android's malware problem won't be the deterrent to corporate adoption that it should.

This article, "The iPhone and iPad may be losing their enterprise luster," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.