Android vs. iPhone: Business loses either way

The battle to win users' hearts -- and wallets -- has one clear loser: IT

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The last time I worked full-time in an enterprise, corporate IT not only controlled e-mail, but it placed significant restrictions on the use of instant messaging. Yes, it was irritating to us users, but since the company had a lot to do with the stock market, the risks of individuals disclosing market-moving information rightly outweighed our convenience.

But now that we all have smartphones, we can tweet and text to our heart's content and there's not a damn thing IT can do about it.

Not only does the smartphone as a platform create implicit challenges to IT, the device makers go out of their way, at times, to be IT-unfriendly. There's no better example than the fact that, prior to the 3.0, iPhone OS had been falsely reporting to Exchange servers that it supports on-device encryption. Not only was the error undetected for some time, but Apple apparently knew the seriousness of this security glitch and covered it up.

But more pernicious is the helf-hearted support of IT's needs in all the up-and-comping smartphone platforms. Apple has a half-baked iPhone management tool and supports a decent number of Exchange ActiveSync policies. And it's the best of the bunch. The WebOS-based Palm Pre has no IT-oriented management capabilities, and even less ActiveSync policy support. Ditto for Nokia's Symbian-based devices. The new Android 2.0 OS finally supports Exchange ActiveSync, but when asked what its degree of ActiveSync support was, a Verizon spokeswoman told my InfoWorld colleague Galen Gruman that the new Motorola Droid -- the Android 2.0-based "iPhone killer" to be sold by Verizon starting tomorrow -- was "primarily a consumer device," not aimed at business needs.

Users must be accountable
While I don't always agree with Gartner's research, the current study is certainly worth considering. It projects that Android's share of the smartphone market will increas from just 1.6 percent in early 2009 to 18 percent by late 2012. Apple's share, Gartner says, will increase by 2.9 percent to 13.6 percent. Even more interesting, the most business-oriented platform, the BlackBerry, will lose 6 points, sinking to 13.9 percent of the market.

"All of the vendors recognize that you've got to sell the consumer first," says Dulaney -- a fact that may indicate that the best days of IT, when technology was relatively expensive and moved from business to the home, are behind us.

[ Yes, we're talking stupid user tricks. Read about nine real-world disasters courtesy of your network's weakest link. ]

That trend has encouraged a split between IT's undoubted responsibility for security and sane management practices, and its loss of power to enforce those policies. Having responsibility without real authority is never a good situation.

I'd like to see device makers and carriers give real thought to emphasizing enterprise-friendly features, but I don't expect that to happen any time soon.

In the meantime, says Dulaney, IT needs to make a pact with users: You can do more of what you want to do with your smartphones and other toys, but if something bad happens, you take the hit. Management, of course, has to sign off on this kind of a treaty, and that could be a tough sell.

Even so, smartphone users must grow up and accept responsibility for their behavior if they insist on bending IT to their desires.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net.

This story, "Android vs. iPhone: Business loses either way," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile, Google Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry at InfoWorld.com.

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