Google phones could suffer from lack of interoperability

Enterprises may be wary of supporting multiple Google-powered phones

Phones built with Google's Android operating system may suffer from a lack of interoperability, and enterprise IT executives will probably be wary about supporting multiple devices built with the much-hyped software platform, says Ken Dulaney, a Gartner analyst.

Android, a software stack complete with an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications, was announced Monday and will be released as an open source software development kit next week. Phones based on Android are expected to hit the market in the second half of 2008.

But the openness of the platform -- which Google and its partners consider a key to collaborative development -- will make it difficult to achieve interoperability across phones, Dulaney says.

T-Mobile and HTC have already said they will develop mobile devices with Android, and it's likely numerous other vendors will do the same. The downside to this, Dulaney says, is that creativity will breed differentiation, and Web applications designed for one phone may not work well on another.

Applications "will probably run. The question is will they run well," Dulaney says. "That's the biggest concern about this effort. There's not enough control exerted by Google to force this to be consistent across the board."

Dulaney previously warned enterprises against supporting the iPhone en masse, and says that device still lacks the security necessary to qualify as an enterprise-class supported device.

Dulaney's not issuing any similar warnings this time, saying the Google phone platform "doesn't affect enterprises at all. It's really a consumer play. What enterprises want more than anything is connectivity to the back end, stability and interoperability, and this doesn't address that."

If there's enough employee demand, enterprises will support Google-powered phones, says CTO Dave Leonard of Infocrossing, an IT outsourcing provider in New Jersey.

"If it's successful and people have it, it will come into businesses and we'll adapt to it," he says.

It's hard for IT departments to decide whether to support Google's Android, because it's a platform for developing phones, rather than a phone itself, Dulaney notes. Each IT department is likely to pick one type of Android-powered phone to support and not support others, because they don't want to risk lack of interoperability, he says.

"Enterprises want to treat the phone like a Notebook or PC. They want consistency," he says. "Eventually IT will come to support the iPhone. It's not clear they will come to support this [Google] platform."

Leonard hasn't been closely following Google's plans, but said the impact on IT can't be as bad as when BlackBerries first became popular. Leonard's organization, for example, supports the iPhone and says it's not any worse than supporting any other smartphone.

"The BlackBerries took IT by surprise. They didn't know how to support them and they didn't think they had to support them," Leonard says.

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