iOS vs. Android in the enterprise

Apple iOS and Google Android have emerged as the two most popular operating system platforms for mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets.  They are also both backed by rich development and application ecosystems. There are, however, pluses and minuses when it comes to enterprise adoption. Which one has the leg up?  We went to a company, MEDL Mobile, that develops for both to give us the opposing views.

The Experts
Jeffrey Berthiaume
Jeffrey Berthiaume

Vice President Technology at MEDL Mobile says no other mobile platform can deliver what iOS can, and points out that the Android ecosystem is too fragmented. View debate

Dennis Baliton
Dennis Baliton

Senior App Manager at MEDL Mobile argues that the beauty of Android is that it is backed by the world of Java, including many existing enterprise tools and legions of Java developers. View debate

Jeffrey Berthiaume

iOS - the only choice for a modern enterprise

IT departments, which need to balance security with the desires and needs of corporate users, have been debating the merits and drawbacks of iOS ever since the iPhone launched (or rather, since executives started buying them and demanding access to corporate infrastructure).

At the time, Blackberry devices were most commonly used for corporate use -- they supported email, light Web browsing, and had a number of security options. Barack Obama even fought to keep his Blackberry, finally getting it authorized in part based on its robust security features.

Today, iOS answers those enterprise needs and a few more that the Blackberry and even Android-compatible devices do not. After all, business users are looking for a lot more than simple email. They want access to social networks, they want to be able to read and participate in different online discussions, they want to be able to use custom applications created for their workplace, and they want to access enterprise-level applications like SAP Crystal Reports and Salesforce.com.

No other existing mobile platform, including Android, can accommodate everything iOS can.

For business owners, iOS delivers:

* Email: iOS supports Microsoft Exchange accounts, and also supports ActiveSync, which allows contacts, calendars, and email hosted on existing enterprise Exchange servers to be pushed to any iOS devices.

* Documents: Email attachments with Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, or Word documents can be easily viewed without having to download any additional software. Apple's iWork suite of apps support document editing, which also can be exported into Microsoft formats.

And from an IT perspective, the following make iOS compelling:

* Security: iOS apps are restricted from accessing data from other apps, which guards against malicious third-party apps accessing sensitive corporate data. Devices can also be remotely locked (or even wiped) if lost or stolen using mobile device management. Additional security measures allow the management of devices (via over-the-air policy enforcement), the network (via SSL/TLS), local data (via built-in hardware encryption using AES 256-bit encoding as well as device Data Protection which uses the device's passcode to create a secure encryption key), and platform security, which "sandboxes" each application so data cannot be transferred or accessed by the wrong application. (In fact, iOS security is so robust, that the government of Australia has approved it for use to handle secret information up to "Protected Level.")

* Exchange ActiveSync, LDAP and CardDAV: Corporate directory information can be accessed through the iOS contacts app through Exchange ActiveSync as well as open-source LDAP- and CardDAV-enabled accounts. In fact, with access to the IMAP mail protocol, LDAP directory services, CalDAV calendaring and CardDAV contacts protocols, iOS can be used to integrate with any standards-based mail and calendar environment (yes, even Lotus Notes).

* VPN/SSL VPN: iOS supports standard VPN protocols, which allows employees to securely access corporate intranets while on the road or away from the office. Depending on what is implemented internally, enterprise users can access their private corporate networks using IPSec, SSL VPN, or WPA2 Enterprise Wi-Fi.

* Product Lifecycle: iOS updates have historically supported current devices as well as those introduced in the last two to three years, and tend to be backwards compatible, giving a greater lifespan to older hardware that is still deployed in the field. This is the real nail-in-the-coffin for Android, as Android devices are at most "compatible" with each other, and even different devices with the same version of the OS might still perform differently -- or cause applications to crash altogether.

* Remote Configuration: iOS devices can be remotely configured to handle changes in mail settings, WiFi settings (both internal and public), parental controls, application installs (both from the company and from the App Store), and manage other enterprise access restrictions (such as disabling app installations, or blocking applications such as Youtube or Facebook). Remote deployment of in-house apps is also supported. In contrast, each type of Android device would need to be configured and supported internally -- and with the different vendors (HTC, LG, Samsung, etc.) as well as mobile providers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.), there is too large a universe of SKUs to evaluate and support.

With the amount of iOS products available in the marketplace (and in the enterprise, whether officially sanctioned or not) it makes sense for IT to embrace iOS and firmly integrate it into their enterprises' needs. The Android OS is too fragmented, continually evolving (leaving behind devices from the previous year), potentially insecure, and simply not stable enough to be allowed into an enterprise.

MEDL Mobile Inc., an early leader in the emerging mobile applications software market, is engaged in the monetization of mobile apps through four primary revenue generating platforms: (i) development of customized apps for third parties to monetize their particular intellectual property, persona or brand, (ii) incubation of apps in partnership with third parties and from a library of more than 85,000 original apps concept submissions, (iii) sale of advertising and sponsorship opportunities directly to brands and (iv) acquisition of apps from other developers and use of a proprietary application programming interface, or API, to make Apps recommendations for our user base.

Dennis Baliton

Android provides the whole answer

Android outshines iOS in the enterprise for a variety of reasons, chief among them being the fact that it is an object oriented architecture based on the mature Java language. Being open-source, developers around the world are contributing to and improving Android every day. That helps account for Android's staggering market share. Even though Android is a relative new-comer, it already has half of the market for mobile devices, while Apple has slipped down to a 30% share.

Java's portability also means the Android framework can be run on a range of hardware, including devices from Samsung, LG, Motorola and HTC, and can be picked up by any hot newcomers. That means Android is not limited to a single mobile phone, tablet and music player and, what's more, can be integrated with embedded hardware such as monitoring equipment, automated processes, robotics, etc.

The Java language is mature and well documented and much of the functionality of this extremely robust language has been ported to the Android framework. This allows developers to easily find APIs for their specific needs. From creating a custom bitmap, to leveraging helper functions, Java allows for a smoother experience for developers and engineers.

The Java languages' maturity also means there are many talented Java developers who are working towards Android's success, vs. the few Objective-C developers who can only develop for Apple products. Any iOS have, or will be, ported over to the Android framework.

What's more, Android can leverage a wealth of enterprise J2EE backend services, whereas iOS is only now offering enterprise focused services. The J2EE standard represents a collaboration between leaders from throughout the enterprise software arena and Android can take advantage of existing J2EE architecture by using native connectivity to backend Web services, enabling the development team to focus mainly on the mobile application's user interface.

This legacy also means there is a generation of traditional Java developers who are able to easily transition to become mobile Android application developers by simply learning the Android framework and leveraging free development platforms and documented libraries.

Java teams have long been spoiled with free development tools that give them a complete development environment, and a basic Android development environment can be setup by downloading the Android SDK and tools for Eclipse for any Operation System: Windows, Mac OS, or Linux. Everything is free and, with a little bit of elbow grease, you can get up and running in about an hour in a very familiar environment.

This familiarity with Java's vast array of excellent libraries, frameworks and tools allows teams to easily re-use existing infrastructure for solving most of the common use-cases. In many cases, there is more than one good choice for addressing a particular need, and oftentimes those libraries are free and open source under a business-friendly license.

Taken together, the Java base makes it much simpler for companies to use existing infrastructure -- database, service layer and application server -- as the backbone for Android applications.

For a newcomer, Android has already garnered an incredible share of the market for all of the reasons outlined, and it still has a lot of room to grow. This, coupled with the fact that Android can be run on multiple types of hardware, promotes market competition that safeguards against monopolization of the emerging mobile device markets, and spawns creativity among hardware and software companies.

In the race to be the leader in mobile Operating Systems, Android is a true contender with its ability to leverage the portability of Java and the strength of a global community of developers with its open source platform. The bottom line is that any app you can develop for iOS can also be done for Android.

MEDL Mobile Inc., an early leader in the emerging mobile applications software market, is engaged in the monetization of mobile apps through four primary revenue generating platforms: (i) development of customized apps for third parties to monetize their particular intellectual property, persona or brand, (ii) incubation of apps in partnership with third parties and from a library of more than 85,000 original apps concept submissions, (iii) sale of advertising and sponsorship opportunities directly to brands and (iv) acquisition of apps from other developers and use of a proprietary application programming interface, or API, to make Apps recommendations for our user base.

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