Google finally steps into Android mobile management

The new capability in Google Apps has less than meets the eye technologically, but it's a key step for business acceptance

Google yesterday announced a mobile management tool for its Google Apps cloud suite that finally adds Android devices to what its Google Apps cloud productivity and communications suite can manage. the solution involves new capabilities in Google Apps, Android OS 2.2, and a downloadable client app, the Google Apps Device Policy app.)

Google Apps has supported BlackBerry, Apple iOS, and Windows Mobile devices. That's a big deal coming from a provider of a mobile OS -- Android -- whose native security and management capabilities are poor. As Google pushes for businesses and governments to get rid of Microsoft Exchange and Office in favor of the cloud-hosted Google Apps, it needs to take mobile management and security seriously, given how prevalent mobile access has become.

But what Google is actually doing is basic, tapping into some security and management APIs introduced in Android OS 2.2. In essence, there's now a connector between Google Apps and Android. Via corporate Gmail, Google Apps uses, ironically, the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol (EAS) to manage EAS-savvy devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and Windows Mobile devices, as well as Android 2.2 devices that have EAS-savvy clients such as NitroDesk's Touchdown or Motorola's Corporate Email app installed. Gmail also provides a software connector for BlackBerry devices that works through Research in Motion's BlackBerry Enterprise Server, as well as an unrelated client on BlackBerry devices using Google technology .

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But Android's larger management problem still exists, with subpar capabilities (compared to iOS, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, and corporate-oriented Nokia Symbian devices) for internal-server-managed devices.

Still, the Google Apps support for Android mobile management is a good first step, but no different than what mobile device management tools such as those from Good Technology and MobileIron already do. The only difference is that if you use corporate Google Apps, you now can manage these policies directly from Google Apps. It also means you have one fewer reason to be tied to a physical server, which Good and MobileIron require.

What Google really needs to do, of course, is what its main competitors -- Apple, Microsoft, and RIM -- have already done: Bake security and management into the OS itself. Until then, all these clients are just patches -- welcome patches, but still just patches.

This article, "Google finally steps into Android mobile management," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com.

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