AT&T announced on Monday plans to offer a new service, called Toggle, that will securely run enterprise apps like email on any Android phone a worker chooses to buy.
The service will run on technology developed by Enterproid, a company that just last week received funding from Google, Qualcomm, and Comcast.
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End users with Toggle will see two separate personas on their Android phones. One includes enterprise-grade email, calendar, contacts, and messaging apps and a browser, all of which can securely access corporate data. The other is the open Android platform, where users can download and use any app they please.
Any corporate email service that uses ActiveSync can be delivered to the phones.
IT administrators will have access to a Web console that lets them manage the service. They will be able to manage which employees have access to which company resources, remotely delete or add business applications to the devices, and remotely wipe corporate data stored on the phone.
AT&T will sell the service to enterprises but will allow them to apply it to phones running on other operators' networks. The service will work on phones running Android 2.2 or higher. It requires an application on the phone, which IT administrators can push out to users, and works in coordination with a hosted backend system.
While the service only works on Android phones now, Enterproid is developing a client for iPhones and may target other operating systems. In a couple of weeks it also plans to offer the service directly to end users and enterprises under the Enterproid brand.
Enterproid hopes its technology will appeal to people who would like to choose their own device to use at work but who don't like the idea of their IT department potentially accessing personal information on their phone. With Enterproid, "people can still download what they want and browse what they want. They can SMS whatever they want about their boss and be reassured that the company has no insight," said Alexander Trewby, vice president and co-founder of Enterproid.
Enterproid is also continuing to build an SDK that will let developers create other applications using Enterproid's secure system. The company expects to begin offering that around the end of the year, Trewby said.
AT&T said its Toggle service will become available before the end of the year.
Enterproid's technology is not the only one that aims to address the conflict between people who want to choose their own phones and enterprises that want to make sure those phones don't open security holes when used to access corporate data. VMware, Red Bend and Open Kernel Labs are all developing types of virtualization technology to separate enterprise apps on phones -- particularly Android phones -- that are susceptible to malicious apps.