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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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Kellie Christensen
Kellie Christensen, IT director, Banner Engineering

"The old story was our sales reps and distributors would travel around in their cars with trunk loads full of literature and product material," says IT Director Kellie Christensen. "If you go to a customer and they ask about a certain product application opportunity, you may or may not have that material handy."

Obviously, this was far from an optimal solution, so Banner embarked on a project that brought these reams of documentation to the digital realm. The company now issues iPads to sales staff, who can use them as a reference and presentation tool.

"One of our specialties is [working] with our customer to specialize products -- so we'll have a standard product ... and if they need a slight modification to that product, or even an extensive one, we work with that customer to create what we call product specials," Christensen says.

With just one device manufacturer to support, iOS seemed like the logical choice.

"Internally, we chose iOS because it's a lot more predictable, a lot more secure. It's really been quite easy for us to support," she says. "We're a smaller shop, we have a smaller IT group here, and [Android] would just be too much for us to support."

However, Banner works with channel partners as well as its own sales staff. And not all of those partners wanted to use the iPad. Christensen says that the company used a third-party developer to translate the app over to Android.

The process was pleasantly straightforward, she notes.

"It actually was fairly easy to port [the app] over to Android devices. The biggest thing that we were dealing with from a design standpoint was that the screen was different ... and making sure that those buttons were still friendly to use and that everything could be seen on the screen," Christensen says.

Mobility vets: Don't sweat security, fragmentation too much

CompanionLink Software Marketing Director Rushang Shah says that this multi-platform environment has its own appeal to businesses, complexity issues aside.

"The business audience we've always catered to is one that values options more than being tied into one system like Apple," he argues. "That is one of the major drivers of Android's growth in the business market -- business users want options."

CompanionLink has made mobile device sync software since the days of Palm OS. Shah says CEO Wayland Bruns was one of about 30 people present at Palm's first developer conference, 18 years ago.

While the conventional wisdom holds that the two main factors holding back Android growth are security and platform fragmentation, Bruns and Shah say they question how valid those concerns still are.

According to Bruns, the issues caused by the complexity of the Android environment -- different devices, different software versions, etc. -- have been evaporating of late.

The credit for this goes to Google, he says. Ever since Android versions 2.2 and 2.3 (Froyo and Gingerbread), the company has been energetically attacking fragmentation problems.

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