Google’s ‘Android for Work’ seeks to give world’s most popular mobile OS more professional image

If you bring your Android smartphone to work, only to receive the ire of your IT department because it’s hard to manage and opens up any number of security vulnerabilities, then you might be pleased to hear Google is looking to solve that problem.

While worldwide, Android is by far the most popular mobile OS, it hasn’t been the first choice of many corporations to deploy to an enterprise of employees. That’s because the open eco-system that made it so popular, since it can be used for free by manufacturers, also means it has some vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. The Google Play store that serves up apps for Android devices, for example, is known to often host malicious applications.

Therefore, similar to BlackBerry’s Balance feature and Samsung Corp.’s Knox feature for its Galaxy devices, Android for Work will now offer a virtual partition on your smartphone that divides it into two parts. One part will be the flexible, open and customizable Android experience you’re used to. The other part will be a more secure space that your IT department can manage and lock-down as needed. Google covers the four main features of Android for Work in a blog post:

  • Work profiles will isolate and protect any data associated with business. This way, any company information won’t be accessible from non-authorized personal apps that you keep on your device. That avoids the embarrassing scenario where you post your client records to Facebook, instead of the cat photo you wanted to upload. It also means that if the IT department has to wipe your device for security reasons, your personal data won’t be affected.
  • The Android for Work app will be for devices that run versions of Android that precede version 5.0 Lollipop. It will deliver the secure mail, calendar, contacts, documents, web browsing, and access to work apps that you’d experience in the work profiles feature, and is still managed by your IT department.
  • Google Play for Work is just like the app store you’re used to accessing, except the IT department has complete control over what appears in this area. Since the open nature of the Google Play store is one of the main windows for malicious software to get onto your device, this will go a long way to soothing IT department concerns over the security of Android.

Google of course has thrown in access to its suite of cloud productivity tools in Android for Work. It’s also working with an ecosystem of partners that will be supporting Android for Work, including BlackBerry, which says it will have compatibility on its BES 12 servers.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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