Announced in February, Google's Android for Work offering is now available as an app via the Google Play Store. Aimed at businesses and their employees, Android for Work is part of Google's effort to build a stronger presence for its operating system in the mobile enterprise space, which is currently dominated by Apple's iOS.
Android for Work helps business IT administrators ensure that the mobile devices used by their employees keep work data secure and separate from personal information on their phones and tablets. It also offers a suite of built-in productivity apps and makes it easier for businesses to deploy and manage their own in-house apps for employees.
While Android has become the dominant operating system for consumer mobile devices over the past several years, it is not as widely used by enterprises. According to the Q4 2014 Mobility Index Report from Good Technology, Apple's iOS enjoyed a 73 percent share of the mobile enterprise market during the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to a 25 percent share for Android.
iOS remains far ahead of Android, particularly in the legal industry (95 percent), the public sector (82 percent) and financial services (81 percent). Android use is higher among enterprise users in high tech (45 percent), manufacturing (39 percent) and transportation (35 percent), according to the Good report.
Aiming for Growing BYOD Market
With more than a billion people estimated to own Android smartphones, Google clearly sees an opportunity to increase its share of the market for mobile business users. (The company has also launched another program, Android One, aimed at the more than five billion people in the world who still don't have smartphones.)
According to recent figures from Gartner Inc., about 90 percent of businesses are expected to support some form of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) for employees by 2017. By 2018, the analyst firm predicts that twice as many employee-owned devices as enterprise-owned devices will show up on the job.
As Google noted when it rolled out Android for Work earlier this year, today's average smartphone is much more powerful than the typical desktop computer used just a few years ago.
"For many, these phones have become essential tools to help us complete important work tasks like checking e-mail, editing documents, reviewing sales pipelines and approving deals," said Rajen Sheth, Google's Director of Product Management for Android and Chrome for Work, at the time. "But for the majority of workers, smartphones and tablets are underutilized in the workplace. Their business and innovation potential remain largely untapped."
Ice Cream Sandwich and Higher
The Android for Work app is available only to users whose organizations have enabled the program through one of Google's enterprise mobility management partners. They include Airwatch from VMware, Blackberry, Citrix, Maas360 from IBM, MobileIron, SAP and SOTI.
Once an organization deploys Android for Work, its IT administrators can set up the app to ensure that work-related data and applications on employees' mobile devices are encrypted and isolated from other personal information. This allows them to, for example, remotely wipe business-related data from a device without touching any of the user's personal information or apps.
While Android for Work is natively supported by devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop, the app on Google Play supports users with older versions of the OS, Ice Cream Sandwich through Kitkat.