Enterprise ready: Google launch Android Enterprise
Today Google announced Android Enterprise Recommended, a certification program for devices that aims to finally answer the age-old question - What devices are recommended for business use?
While Google has made an effort in the past to list devices suitable for business use based on support for Android Enterprise and zero-touch, there has been no clear set of requirements that guarantee the devices in question offer extended software support, adopt a unified Android Enterprise provisioning experience or meet minimum hardware expectations.
Partners, resellers and systems integrators all work with customers in the enterprise on a regular basis and will each by now have their own preferences based on experience, relationships with OEMs and other factors. Many, however, have to juggle customer requirements in trying to find the best balance between functionality and budget available, sometimes resulting in a device that may be under-specced or potentially unsuitable for the needs of the customer. With no stringent requirements in place to define what an enterprise device should be, the process can and has been a challenging one.
With Android Enterprise Recommended, that changes.
Devices submitted for certification will be thoroughly tested against Google's "established best practices and common requirements". Some of those include:
- Minimum hardware specifications for Android 7.0+ devices
- Support for bulk deployment of Android devices including zero-touch enrollment
- Delivery of Android security updates within 90 days of release from Google, for a minimum of three years
- Availability of unlocked devices, direct from manufacturer or reseller
- Consistent application experience in managed proﬁles and on managed devices
.. and more. The full list of requirements can be found here.
It's worth mentioning that this certification process is per-device, not per-OEM. This is a good thing as it ensures each individual device will need to be tested and certified, meaning the OEM itself can't submit a single device, receive Android Enterprise Recommended certification, and continue to manufacture devices that don't necessarily meet Google's requirements.
What does it mean for OEMs?
Devices that pass certification are granted the Android Enterprise Recommended badge (above) for use in marketing and publications. Arguably more importantly however, Google will support OEMs participating in the program with enhanced technical support and training. This means those that may be struggling with issues in implementing Android Enterprise, be that UX, capabilities or otherwise, will receive more help and support from Google themselves.
As someone who's done a fair deal of device testing independently and found discrepancies in the UX flow and scope of Android Enterprise support not only between OEMs but within the line-up of devices an OEM offers, this is excellent to hear! In theory, some issues I've highlighted in the past such as:
- Interjection of the setup wizard during AE provisioning (Huawei, Motorola, Sony)
- Access to device settings within a COSU kiosk environment that should be otherwise locked down (Motorola)
- Access to the SD Card from both work profile and the parent profile, undermining DLP policies that may be in place (Motorola)
..will all be checked and validated by Google themselves prior to certifying the device. Where they fail, Google can directly inform and mentor the OEM on how to fix this before the devices reach customers (or will be quickly patched if already available).
Ultimately it's in the best interest of OEMs to participate, as those who do will find it easier to stay on top of the evolving requirements for enterprise devices as the program and Android itself continues to mature. The AER certification will also almost guarantee heightened interest from customers with enterprise use in mind, while for those who choose not to take part I'd expect interest to fall.
And for organisations?
When buying devices for enterprise use from today, organisations need only look for the Android Enterprise Recommended badge to know the devices have been thoroughly vetted against the above (and more) best practices and requirements from the company that develops Android and the Android Enterprise solution. It'll help to ensure organisations align expectations (and potentially budgets) accordingly to ensure the devices being considered will:
- Be supported by the OEM for software/security patching for 3 years
- Meet the demands of typical enterprise use without worry of slowdown, incompatibility or other potential concerns
- Be available for purchase through multiple channels
- Act and behave reliably when being provisioned as a work-managed or work profile device
- Support Android zero-touch enrolment
Obviously with it being freshly announced there are a fair number of OEMs that have yet to submit their devices for testing, so for organisations in the final stages of device selection it doesn't make sense to stop. What I would recommend however is vetting devices against Google's recommendations and requirements (here) before signing on the dotted line for the reasons above.
Devices are already certified today
For organisations thinking about a refresh of their Android estate today, whether due to device age, suitability or anything else, there are already a selection of devices available for consideration:
- BlackBerry KEYone and Motion
- Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL
- Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, P10, P10 Plus, P10 Lite, and P smart
- LG V30 and G6
- Motorola X4 and Z2
- Nokia 8
- Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ1 Compact, XZ Premium, XA2, and XA2 Ultra
With more confirmed to be joining the program both in the short term and later in the year.
The program will expand beyond devices
An interesting note towards the end of the announcement states:
Throughout 2018, we will also be applying the Android Enterprise Recommended framework to additional partner types, including OEMs of “dedicated” and rugged devices, mobile carriers, enterprise mobility management (EMM) providers and systems integrators.
With Google looking to expand the Android Enterprise Recommendations program to providers, resellers and systems integrators later this year, not only will organisations be able to quickly and easily choose from certified enterprise-ready devices, but they'll be able to apply the same decision process in selecting the solutions and partners they work with to guarantee a successful Android rollout.
I'm very pleased to see what has been something of an uncomfortable process for a number of years now is finally getting the guidance from Google the industry sorely needs. Echoing Google's sentiments, this should mean less time and effort spent on the device selection process, more confidence for organisations in selecting the devices they see have met Google's AER requirements and - hopefully - a greater onus on OEMs to improve Android Enterprise support while receiving recognition from a trusted source that the devices they're offering to organisations are indeed enterprise ready.
I'm looking forward to seeing the Android Enterprise Recommended badge show up in the wild very shortly!
Are you a considering renewing your Android estate or currently in the process of doing so? What does the Android Enterprise Recommended program mean to you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, @jasonbayton on twitter or @bayton.org on Facebook. If you’re on LinkedIn, you can also find me there – /in/jasonbayton.