Analysis: Is Android losing its grip on the workplace?

By Peter Gothard
05 Sep 2012 View Comments
Tablet user

According to IDC, Google’s Android OS saw its share of the US smartphone market decline in Q2 to 49.5 per cent, down from 52.4 per cent the year before. This news was followed by a report by mobile device management firm Good Technology that a staggering 73.9 per cent of Good-activated devices ran iOS, while only 26.1 per cent ran Android. When compared to last year’s 62.3 per cent for Android versus iOS’s 37.7 per cent, that could be seen as a serious problem for Google’s platform.

By all accounts, it seems Android might be losing ground to Apple in the business market.

Further reading

However, a recent survey of Computing readers suggests the picture is more nuanced than that. When it comes to personal smartphones, 51.3 per cent of Computing’s readers use Android-based devices, while 22.6 per cent have iPhones and only 14.2 per cent prefer a BlackBerry.

At work, however, most readers use company-issued BlackBerries – a fact that is not reflected in Good Technology’s findings. According to the survey, 60.8 per cent of Computing’s company phone-equipped respondents use RIM devices. With iOS users making up 37.5 per cent of this group of respondents and Android users 29.7 per cent, some readers are obviously packing more than just a BlackBerry at work.

Around 70 per cent of companies provide contract smartphones to staff, while 33 per cent provide tablets. Of these, only 4.8 per cent are RIM devices, while 25.4 per cent run Android and a hefty 79.4 per cent are Apple iPads.

Of those who use Apple products, 84 per cent said that it was the selection of apps available on iOS that attracted them, with a “simple user interface” and media playing abilities also figuring highly in decisions to use Apple products for both work and personal use.

This contrasts with the fact that nearly half of Android device users described the OS as “too fragmented”, with many users revealing that they have never updated their OS. While 36 per cent use Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich to its friends – 35 per cent are still using the aged Android 2.3 platform. Some 84 per cent of Apple users, meanwhile, are up to date with iOS 5.

The clear lead the iPad enjoys in the workplace certainly doesn’t reflect its share among readers’ personal devices. Some 42 per cent of Computing’s readers don’t even own a tablet, while those who do are neatly split between 29 per cent with iPads and 26 per cent with Android-based devices.

The huge iPad buy-in from business, then, can most probably be attributed to the device’s ease of use and mass popularity, which CIOs clearly feel outweighs Apple’s reluctance to offer bulk buy discounts, and general lack of interest in tailoring the device for business.

Google’s Asus-built Nexus 7 could still become the tablet to change all this, but only if the company can resolve the hardware problems that have plagued the device since its July launch.

As for Microsoft, 11.6 per cent of Computing readers already use Office-based Windows tablets. When the Surface tablet arrives on 26 October, it shouldn’t take a miracle to persuade IT leaders that the device’s Modern UI, more focused cloud integration and the Windows 8 architectural standard itself might be a sound investment for business use.

As it stands, UK IT seems open to the huge changes 2013 will bring to the business mobile devices market. Whoever makes the first positive move to carry a robust, multiplatform model could find a niche quickly and effectively. Android’s scattered and insubstantial systems and devices still have a lot of ground to make up in this area, as new OS version Jelly Bean tries to prove its mettle in the latest wave of devices.


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