Android 5.0 to support business features?

News by Steve Gold

Widely reported changes to the next version of Google's Android are starting to make the operation system "look like a professional platform", say analysts.

Android newswires and forums are abuzz with reports that an alpha developer's program for Android 5.0 - code-named 'Lollipop' - has started, in preparation for a formal launch of the new version of the portable operating system this June at the Google I/O event in San Francisco. 

Of most interest to businesses, however, are the reports that Android 5.0 will be much more focused on business users - a strategy that Apple adopted with iOS v4.2.1 released in November 2010 when full multi-tasking and enhanced iPad support was added. The iPad was first released in April of that year (along with iOS 4.0), at which stage companies started buying the tablet computer in their droves. 

Android - which now supports more than a billion devices worldwide - has enjoyed some support in the business community, but the fragmented and open-source nature of the Google operating system seems to attract malware creators, which has subsequently held business adoption back. 

According to Android Police, however, Android 5.0 will include the ability remotely wipe certain storage areas, allowing for business apps and their data to be erased, but leaving the personal apps and information. There will reportedly also be a business version of the Android app store, which can be customised and locked down for business users within corporates. 

Reports also suggest that Google is working with chip and device manufacturers to make stronger data encryption and password protection at the microprocessor level, as well as moving away from the Holo Dark Theme seen with Android 4.x 

Commenting on the reports, Rob Bamforth, a principal analyst with Quocirca, the business and research analysis house, said that the adoption of business features with the new version of Android - which is expected to be seen on the new Nexus 10 tablet due out in late June - "are not before time". 

"It's starting to make Android look like a professional platform, rather than the amateur and tinkerer's aspect to the portable operating system that has seen to date," he said. 

"Samsung and few others have been going in this direction for some time, but if security features such as containerisation and sandboxing are supported in Android 5.0, then this will propel the platform firmly into the business arena," he added. 

Bamforth went onto say that the key security challenge with Android on mobile devices has been the problem of how to support both business and personal usage securely on the same device. 

"This has been Blackberry's approach for some time. Doing it on the Android platform, however, will ensure widespread industry support, rather than having one or two manufacturers going it alone," he explained. 

The Quocirca analyst told that the lack of a native ability to run business and personal apps securely on other platforms has been the reason why companies and their business users have hung on thus far to their BlackBerry handsets. 

This is particularly true, he said, of UK BlackBerry users, who have been given their support to the BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) platform, despite the troubles the company itself has been going through. 

"I think it's interesting to note that there has been some support in the business community for the latest Windows mobile phone platform - despite the lack of apps seen on this smartphone and tablet environment. If Google offers business features with Android 5.0, then I think you will see a lot of BlackBerry supporters start looking very seriously at the advantages that Android has to offer," he said.

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