Google’s MDM program for putting Android to work

Google’s MDM program for putting Android to work

In what might be good news for government IT managers, Google’ recently announced Android for Work program provides mobile device management (MDM) options for organizations supporting growing numbers of Android devices. Android for Work is an MDM platform that supports Android applications and a partner program for Google's hardware and software vendor partners.

In introducing the program, Google said it wanted to tap into the potential for the use of smartphones and tablets that so far as been “largely underutilized in the workplace.”

IT departments will get the benefit of having a consistent management approach for Android devices via the program's standardized management APIs, Google said in unveiling the platform. Developers will be able to, "create a single version of any Google Play app that can be securely deployed to any Android device without alterations or wrapping," Google promised, in its announcement.

The platform has four technology components: a Work Profiles security capability, an Android for Work suite of apps, a Google Play for Work deployment and management solution and built-in Microsoft Exchange and IBM Notes support.

The Work Profiles component is designed to help IT pros isolate the work apps and data on an Android device from personal items. Google is promising that "people can use their personal apps knowing their employer only manages work data and won't erase or view their personal content." Work Profiles uses encryption and security capabilities in Android 5.0 Lollipop, according to the announcement.

The Android for Work app provides "secure mail, calendar, contacts, documents, browsing and access to approved work apps," which can be managed by an IT organization. It's for devices running Android versions ranging from Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) to KitKat (4.4). Apparently, the Android for Work app is an alternative option, since Google states that its Android for Work platform requires using mobile devices with "Android 5.0 and higher."

Google Play for Work is a system for managing and deploying Android for Work apps. A Google support article explains that the icons of the business apps managed with this system will appear with badges that distinguish them from personal apps. IT pros can white list permitted business apps for deployment to end users and control application access based on policies. They can also remotely wipe applications and data from a device, "without touching the device owner's personal data."

Google's announcement states that its business apps include built-in support for Exchange and Notes, providing "document editing capabilities for documents, spreadsheets and presentations."

Organizations can use the Google Play store to approve and purchase Android for Work apps. That capability can be set up via the Google Admin console, as Google describes here.

There are even "free" Google Play for Work apps. IT pros can assign them to individuals or groups. The free apps also have "enterprise mobility management" capabilities, according to a  Google support article.

The mobile management capabilities depend on Google's enterprise mobility management (EMM) partners leveraging Google's platform. Organizations will have to use the services of these partners, it seems. For instance, a Google support page states that "companies must choose a third-party EMM provider to provide the tools to administer their Android for Work deployment."

Google already has management, device, application and networking partners that have signed up to support the Android for Work program. Google's management partners include companies such as AirWatch, BlackBerry, Citrix, MobileIron and SAP, among others.

A longer version of this article originally appeared on Redmond, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.


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