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Is Android in the business world to stay?

Security, fragmentation concerns persist, but Android smartphone and tablet choice a big lure

By , Network World
April 02, 2013 06:31 AM ET

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"Basically it's a headless Android device -- complete with quad-core CPU, but it's on a stick that has an HDMI end on it," Johnson explains. "[Users] can plug it into most any monitor or television that has an HDMI port and it works, but is powered by a USB port. Embedded Bluetooth and Wi-Fi allow it to connect to a keyboard and mouse, and gain access to a network."

Moreover, the idea of dedicated-use consumer devices running Android is beginning to get more popular, he says.

"There is significant interest in using low-cost, consumer-grade tablets and smartphones for a whole host of new uses, from movie ticket scanning at the theater front door, to electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) for truckers," according to Johnson. "In applications where the device needs to be fully ruggedized, Android is preferred because manufacturers can build the devices precisely to suit the need."

Custom devices aside, the cost advantages of Android are substantial for this type of bespoke application, particularly in the tablet sector. To give an example: A Google Nexus 7 tablet, as of this writing, retails for $200. That buys a 7-inch, 216ppi display, 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. By contrast, the cheapest iPad option available, at $329, is the basic version of the iPad Mini, which has a larger but lower-resolution screen and half as much available RAM with the same amount of storage.

Android popular now, but plenty of future demand for Apple

A recent survey of nearly 10,000 global IT workers performed by Forrester Research offers a clear indication that Android adoption in the enterprise has grown -- along with several statistics that could mean that growth will be short-lived.

According to the February Mobile Workforce Adoption Survey, Android has actually surpassed Apple as the most-used type of business smartphone, as shown below:

Mobile Workforce Adoption Survey
Credit: Forrester Research

While that's clearly an important milestone, particularly in light of the fact that nearly half of respondents said they used smartphones in the course of their duties, the study also found that one-third of those wanted an iPhone for their next work device, compared to just 22% who wanted an Android phone.

Mobile Workforce Adoption Survey
Credit: Forrester Research

Despite the aforementioned economic advantages for Android tablets, the business tablet world still appears to be Apple's. The iPad's usage share among Forrester's respondents is more than double the size of Android's.

Mobile Workforce Adoption Survey
Credit: Forrester Research

The numbers also show that Apple tablets are more desired by the IT workers surveyed, by a ratio of about 2:1. (As a side note, there's a surprisingly large amount of interest in Windows tablets, outstripping both Android and Apple.)

Mobile Workforce Adoption Survey
Credit: Forrester Research

Clearly, while Google's platform has made progress in the business world, there are major hurdles to overcome.

iOS users dipping toes into Android

The case of one user, who primarily uses iOS but has taken baby steps toward Android adoption, is illustrative. Banner Engineering is a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of industrial equipment like sensors, machine safety systems and wireless controllers. The company's enormous selection of available products -- more than 30,000 individual SKUs -- means that providing detailed information on each one is a challenge for sales representatives in the field.

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