Android vs. iPhone: Enterprise Showdown

By admin, June 16, 2010 4:58 am

A recent comment on an old pre-release post speculating on Android's potential in the enterprise prompts me to take another look at the next generation smartphone face off over the enterprise market. My take at the time was that while the iPhone had polish, it didn't have much support from Apple, and that Android probably wouldn't get a lot of support from Google, but would at least be a more open platform for businesses to adapt to their requirements.

It's two years later and iOS 4 promises to provide a lot more support for enterprise operations than I had ever imagined. Exchange integration, mobile wipe, multi-tasking, in-house app distribution, and encrypted VPN capabilities are all touted for the June 21st release.

But despite being a newer OS, Android (frequently in the guise of manufacturer customizations, which have lead both Google and Apple in feature introduction) has offered almost all of this sooner, and the pace of development is clearly faster than what Apple has been able to manage with the iPhone.

Google remains a gaggle when it comes to ambitions and emphasis, however, and they haven't put anymore weight into selling to the enterprise than Apple has done. Apple, on the other hand, has with gritted teeth made efforts to make nice with enterprise customers, but still represents a significant question mark for enterprise IT departments. Perhaps the greatest opportunity for these devices in enterprise contexts is their capacity to run web applications; but Apple's battle with Adobe over enterprise web-development standby Flash may give a lot of IT departments pause when considering the iPhone in that role. Android won't have that problem (Google's money rests in opening the platform up, not locking it down); it will, however, pose challenges from fragmentation and branching that will never afflict the iPhone.

But that lack of diversity works against the iPhone more than for it. Apple's exclusive deal with AT&T puts the iPhone right off the table for many enterprise customers, who either already have (and want) contracts with other carriers, or simply can't function with the company's strained data network and anemic 3G coverage. There are a lot of things you can weigh when you are comparing handsets, but a lot of people seem to forget that all the other features are pretty much useless if you can't get a signal.

On the whole, though, I would say that though it has been two years, it's really still too early to say how the battle is shaping up. Neither company has been too serious about attracting enterprise customers, relying instead on guerilla adoption and consumer appeal to spread their handsets. This spring really marks the start of the competition. We'll have to look in another two years to see how it plays out.

6 Responses to “Android vs. iPhone: Enterprise Showdown”

  1. Joe says:

    The problem with ANdroid phones is the inconsistency. While SOME phones have some features, there’s no guarantee that any given phone/carrier combination will support it. For example, while some ANdroid phones are now at version 2.2 of the OS, my daughter just bought a brand new Backflip which is at v. 1.5 or 1.6 - and no signs of when she’ll be able to upgrade (if ever).

    iPhones, OTOH, are consistent and when an OS upgrade is available, it’s available to everyone at the same time.

  2. Scott Wilson says:

    Hi Joe,

    I think that’s a problem for certain power users and app developers, but in this context, it’s a non-issue. Enterprises have the ability to select and standardize on a handset and carrier and it doesn’t matter a whit whether other carriers or handsets match the version they select. And since upgrades are at the carrier’s discretion with Android, enterprises actually have more leverage in determining their upgrade path during contract negotiations than they would with AT&T and iPhones, since Apple is the ultimate arbiter of that upgrade path.



  3. JPO says:

    Isn’t Android an open standard? Can’t any Android user install ANY program they want? Isn’t this opposite of what corporations would want their phone users to do with their corporate phones (pertaining to illicite - illegal - or potentionally harmful programs)? Does google support MS email?

    I know the iPhone goes through great pains to issolate the ability to download any program users want - and ebven allows for a corporate iApp market to deploy corporate specific apps to users only.

  4. Scott Wilson says:

    Hi JPO,

    As legions of open source developers will tell you, “open standard” doesn’t equate to “insecure.” The fact that Android is “open” actually means that third parties have been faster to introduce enterprise management tools that allow companies to lock down available apps and other functions (google “excitor” for one example).

    The iPhone has offered secured application distribution for a while now via iTunes, but is only just catching up on wireless enterprise app distribution and other desirable enterprise features that third parties have previously stepped in to offer for Android.

    And Exchange works just fine with Android.



  5. gus says:

    Seriously this article is a joke. Apple has been very serious about courting the enterprise market. Their exchange support blows away Android. There is no hardware/device encryption on the android. Lots of Exchange shops won’t support android because of this… 4 out of 10 iphone purchasers from AT&T are business users. Seriously there is no showdown…

  6. DataFon says:

    Have a look at DataFon on Its a new way to build apps for enterprise users for the iPhone.

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