Does the Droid Pro deliver the goods for enterprise users?

Re-tooled e-mail client, native encryption are major steps forward for Android smartphone

While Android-based devices have been making headway onto enterprise IT networks, the Droid Pro could be the first one to really blow the doors off.

Although Android-based devices have been making headway onto enterprise IT networks, the Droid Pro could be the first one to really blow the doors off.

That's because, more than any Android smartphone released so far, the Droid Pro is utilizing the formula that has made Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices so successful in the enterprise. Start with the physical design of the phone that trades in a smaller touchscreen for full QWERTY keyboard, much like the BlackBerry Curve. The phone also has the usual features found in most popular smartphones nowadays, including a 1GHz TI OMAP processor, connectivity to both 3G and Wi-Fi, and a 5MP camera.

Businesses gobbling up Android smartphones

From a software standpoint, the Droid Pro runs on the Android 2.2 ("Froyo") platform that has added the ability to enforce password policies across Android devices, to remotely wipe any Android devices that become lost or compromised and to support Exchange Calendars and auto-discovery to make it easier for users to set up and sync Exchange accounts. Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin says that Froyo has gone a long way toward making Android devices suitable for enterprise use.

"You have the ability to enforce security requirements that wasn't there uniformly in previous versions of Android," he says.

But what makes the Droid Pro such an improvement for enterprise users, says Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, is its retooled e-mail client that gives users much more granular control than what they typically get on Android e-mail clients.

"They spent a lot of time with the e-mail client and it shows," he says. "You get more comprehensive synergy with your calendar, you can check off multiple things and delete them all at the same time, and there are a lot more features that are natively in Outlook that you don't usually get with Android devices."

In addition to a more enterprise-focused e-mail client, the Droid Pro will also have a native encryption program pushed out in early 2011. Dulaney says that this will make the process of remotely wiping Android phones vastly quicker and simpler than it is right now, as Android devices without native encryption can take up to 20 minutes to wipe.

While these are all major improvements to Android, the open source platform still isn't on par with BlackBerry for corporate users that require the most stringent wireless security systems available. As Michael Morgan of ABI Research put it earlier this year, the only way Google will ever catch up with RIM is if it runs all Android applications through its own network operations center.

A recent survey taken by research firm ChangeWave indicated that corporate IT departments' support of Android has been surging throughout the past year, as 16% of IT departments now support Android, up from a mere 3% last November.

BlackBerry OS is still by far the most popular operating system supported by corporate IT networks, however, as 66% of IT departments reported supporting it. Dulaney says that BlackBerry is still the go-to option for enterprise users because its ability to enforce a wide range of security policies, its secure network operations center and its popular smartphone keyboard have yet to be matched.

"Android has come a long way but RIM is still going to have some advantages," he says.

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