Google has launched an enterprise-focused Android and Chrome for Work suite in a bid to combat fragmentation and security problems hampering Android's business appeal.
Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome for Work, announced the launch in a blog post.
The suite will add work profiles, an Android for Work app, Google Play for Work and an array of built-in productivity tools to Google's mobile platform.
Work profiles refers to the previously inactive SELinux Enforcing Mode that Google promised when it first announced Android Lollipop. The profiles are designed to let IT managers seamlessly deploy and manage business apps on employee devices.
"We've built on the default encryption, and enhanced SELinux security enforcement and multi-user support in Android 5.0 Lollipop to create a dedicated work profile that isolates and protects work data," explained Sheth.
"IT can deploy approved work apps right alongside their users' personal apps knowing that their sensitive data remains secure.
"People can use their personal apps knowing that their employer manages only work data and won't erase or view personal content."
The Android for Work app aims to deal with the fragmentation affecting Android, and is compatible with devices running Ice Cream Sandwich through to Kitkat.
The app creates a separate managed area where employees can access approved mail, calendar, contacts, documents and web browsing work apps.
The platform can be managed by a variety of technologies and is compatible with applications from partner companies including Box, BlackBerry, VMware's AirWatch and Citrix.
Billy Ho, executive vice president of enterprise products at BlackBerry, welcomed the support for BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12.
"Android for Work with BES12 will provide customers with another option to enhance their mobile security and the productivity of their employees, and the peace of mind that they will not have to relinquish any control over corporate data, sacrifice user experience or introduce more complexity into their environments," he said.
BlackBerry had previously listed its Balance service, which provides similar application containment and management powers, as a unique selling point for its handsets.
Erik Frieberg, vice president of end-user computing at VMware, was similarly positive, arguing that Android for Work will help IT departments deal with mixed device BYOD environments.
"The benefits of Android for Work will enable AirWatch to deliver an even more extensive mobility solution for the management of all devices from a single pane of glass," he said.
Members of the security community have been less positive about Android for Work. F-Secure security advisor Sean Sullivan told V3, while a move in the right direction, Android for Work will not solve the inherent security issues around BYOD.
"It's not a bad move. But it will be difficult to wrestle back control from employees who have already started finding their own solutions for BYOD. The Android for Work app in particular looks like a helpful way to encourage employee to keep company contacts off ‘their' personal lists," he said.
"Unfortunately, I'm not sure just how much security can be gained. People will always hand off their phone to their child, who will then possibly install something which compromises the device.
"At which point, the ‘secure' Android for Work is running on a compromised end-point. If companies want truly secure end-points, they'll provide employees with a device to be used strictly for work."
The news follows ongoing concerns about Android, which is universally listed as the mobile operating system of choice for hackers and the target of over 90 percent of all known mobile malware.
Researchers at McAfee highlighted poor app development and patching practices as key problems hampering Android's enterprise appeal in the firm's Labs Threats Report: February 2015.
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