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Mobile deployments get flexible with Android, device as a service

Mobile device admins have plenty of choices for their mobile deployments, including OSes and device ownership plans. Get the lay of the land with this Q&A.

Apple iOS and Google Android offer organizations two starkly different but still viable OS options for their mobile deployments.

Organizations that value greater security and a popular UI should look to iOS to fulfill those requirements, and those looking for a more flexible OS and less expensive devices will find what they need with Android. IT professionals who manage mobile deployments should evaluate the latest versions of these OSes in beta testing, iOS 12.2 and Android Q, to determine the best option for their organization.

In this Q&A from last week's IDC Directions conference in Boston, Bryan Bassett, a senior research analyst at IDC, discusses the strengths, weaknesses and use cases of Android and iOS in the enterprise, BYOD versus choose your own device (CYOD), and the device-as-a-service trend for mobile deployments.

What are the biggest trends around mobile devices in the enterprise today?

Bassett: One of the big things we're seeing now is Android in the enterprise. It had this reputation of being unsecure and very fragmented with all the OEMs and software providers playing in the same spot.

Bryan Bassett, senior research analyst, IDCBryan Bassett

Carriers are kind of controlling the software updates. In the past couple of years, Google has put quite a bit of effort into standardizing Android for the enterprise user through Android Enterprise and Android Enterprise Recommended. The majority of Android devices in the enterprise are probably Samsung, but the growing list of hardware providers that have the stamp of approval from Google to support regular security updates are becoming more popular.

Android [devices] come in at a lot of different price points and [the OS] can run on almost any piece of hardware, so you have a lot of flexibility in form factor. Android is seeing a lot of growth in the rugged or dedicated devices. A lot of the legacy OSes that were powering those are starting to reach end of life now, and there really isn't another mobile OS that is mature enough and secure enough to replace all that aging technology. That's where Android is going to move in.

Apple is kind of the incumbent mobility provider in the enterprise, but in different parts of the world, Apple isn't easy to get. Android is prevalent everywhere. Having that base set of standards for Android devices is making it easier for organizations to deploy mobile devices in places where the users have been under-mobilized.

The problem is that iOS really only comes in one flavor: whatever Apple tells you. Which is fine; that works for plenty of companies. But when you get into those custom niche deployments, you need an OS that you can customize. You need a device that has extra peripherals custom-built to go into freezers or hazardous environments. Right now, that's not where Apple's focus is.

What do you make of the device-as-a-service trend for mobile devices?

Bassett: Device as a service is kind of interesting because it has existed in the enterprise for hardware outside of the mobile industry. It's sort of a merry-go-round where you can flex up or flex down based on your employment needs.

A full enterprise push for mobile devices as a service is something organizations are interested in, but mobile carriers are still the gatekeepers. You could get the device, but you still need to go through a carrier for a data plan.

The problem is that iOS really only comes in one flavor: whatever Apple tells you.
Bryan BassettSenior research analyst, IDC

A lot of managed service providers tack in these value-added services where you can get whatever device you want on whatever plan and carrier you want. The service providers tie it into the enterprise mobility management [EMM] platform that you're currently paying for as a managed service.

Device as a service is bigger than just making sure somebody has a mobile phone. Mobile phones are very personal devices, so if you're going to be swapping them out regularly, there has to be a value added there, like getting the devices at a heavily discounted rate -- which carriers already do to some extent. Companies that are interested in device as a service have to be able to simplify their IT costs, and they have to be able to flex up and down with their devices.

Are device manufacturers making it worth the cost for organizations to switch away from BYOD?

Bassett: BYOD does save money. Device deployment programs, such as Apple DEP [Device Enrollment Program] and Android zero-touch [provisioning], are making it much easier for IT to mass-enroll devices, enforcing EMM policies that make sure [users] have all the applications they need before they even open the box. Essentially, [users] turn on the device, it boots up, they log in and it's ready to go. IT is automatically enforcing security policies, so it's less work for IT, and the users have highly secure devices.

The need for BYOD is diminishing a bit because a lot of what drove it in the first place was employee choice on device type. With choose your own device, the users can select their devices from the options their employer gives them. Why would a user need to use their personal device for work when they could have a device of their choosing for free?

CYOD is a happy medium between BYOD and corporate liable. BYOD will exist in pockets -- currently, around 33% of U.S. companies support BYOD.

There is a clear cost benefit of not having to purchase a device for all of your employees. On the other hand, your knowledge workers and executives make a lot more sense as corporate device users. The demand for BYOD is there, but it's shrinking a bit because it's less secure and a bit more difficult to manage.

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