Adopting Android for Enterprise Devices is challenging for OEMs

  Jul 15, 2019 3:34:50 AM

Over the years, Android has seen a steady rise in popularity in the enterprise device space and today, 78% of business device* shipments worldwide are Android. It offers several enterprise solutions, security features, and unparalleled access to a huge community of developers and apps. However, several OEMs find the transition from proprietary OS to Android an uphill task mainly in three aspects: implementation, maintenance, and security.

Implementation – Not a core focus area for OEMs
Android offers flexibility and ease of use which are proving to be attractive to the enterprise device segment. With frequent updates being released, OEMs have to constantly work on customer-specific tweaks for their enterprise devices while ensuring device reliability and robustness with minimal downtime. This is biting into time reserved for OEM’s product innovation and R&D.

Additionally, each device maker has to customize user space packs for the integration of external devices such as scanners, LCD, keypad, biometric readers, and thermal printers while optimizing power management. Demands from the modern enterprise customer require compatibility with Android which is not the OEM’s core area of expertise.

With Google announcing its Android Enterprise Recommended program, OEMs now have to ensure that their devices meet the standards specified. Throw in multi-operator compatibility, multi-region support, third-party modem integration, rigid certification requirements, as well as live network testing and implementing Android OS on an enterprise device becomes a mammoth job.

Security challenges in the Android ecosystem
Rising cyberattacks has made OS security the leading criteria for device selection. Although Google has tremendously improved security on Android in the last few years, there is increasing concern of Android fragmentation which reduces interoperability between devices of applications coded using the Android SDK. Thus Google has introduced limited three-year security support and a 90-day security upgrade mandate that make security an on-going challenge for OEMs.

OEMs need to develop and secure native apps to minimize any risk from infection. Furthermore, as more employees access personal information at work, it becomes crucial to deploy policies, security measures, and network configurations to separate personal and organization data, while also ensuring employee and user data integrity across devices and versions. Adhering to country-specific regulations such as Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) is also challenging.

Keeping up with newer versions of Android
Integrating the OS with legacy systems and installing regular updates across devices are not the only challenges OEMs face today. Android fragmentation also demands critical attention. In a scenario where there are multiple enterprise devices running on Android, it is highly likely that the devices will be operating on multiple versions of Android. Currently, Oreo enjoys the majority in distribution but Nougat and Marshmallow are close second and third. In such a setting, regular updates can become an ordeal as developers are forced to create multiple versions of the same code to satisfy different version specifications. OEMs also have to consider how to go about protecting investment and reducing total cost of ownership over the entire lifetime of the devices. Additionally, developers need to protect user data and ensure there is no delay in production due to maintenance updates.

Since an average lifespan of an enterprise device is more than six years, OEMs face lack of support for the latest version of Android on the chipsets chosen by them. To add to that, Google’s certification timelines (certification window for specific Android version) put constraints on OEM’s choice of Android version.

The Way Forward - Powerful But Complex
Mobility for businesses is the key to moving forward and OEMs need to boost multi-layered security, robust hardware, and comprehensive management functionalities. The affordability, flexibility, and functionality of an Android OS are unparalleled. However, longevity, security, and short-term support for upgrades will continue to be challenging for OEMs.

Sasken has over 20 years of experience on Linux and Android and has successfully enabled OEMs to port Android – from Jelly Bean to the latest Pie – on devices with various chipsets. Sasken offers the following services to OEMs:

  • New product launch that involves bring up, validation, certifications
  • Maintenance of devices that involve upgrades and sustenance
  • Security patch management

Diagram-65 *Business devices are mobile computers used for business in a variety of form factors including smartphones, tablets, and rugged machines.

 

Posted by:
Krishna Kishore
Senior Architect

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