Google tries to woo enterprises with new Android for Work initiatives

The new plans include a free phone for companies that want to try out Android management

Credit: Play Store

Credit: Play Store

Google continued its enterprise push on Wednesday with the launch of new programs relating to Android for Work, its group of features and services that help make the mobile operating system easier to manage for businesses.

To attract more companies to the program, the first 3,000 businesses that deploy enterprise mobility management services and set up Android for Work will get a free Nexus 5X phone that they can use to test all of the mobility management features in Google’s operating system. It’s a way for Google to encourage more organizations (beyond the 19,000 already testing, deploying or using Android for Work) to give it a shot.

According to Andrew Toy, Android for Work’s product management director, the company chose a Nexus phone because it will have access to the latest version of Google’s operating system and current updates.

The choice is somewhat interesting, however, since Google doesn’t have a dedicated plan for selling Nexus phones into enterprises at scale. Toy suggested that IT professionals who want to do a large-scale Android deployment should look to one of the many manufacturers building Android devices.

Speaking of equipment manufacturers, BlackBerry has agreed to provide monthly security updates to its Android devices (starting with its just-launched Priv smartphone), and will also make them capable of receiving security hot fixes for serious problems.

It’s an understandable move for the Canadian smartphone maker, which has been known for both its friendliness toward business users and its commitment to security on its phones. BlackBerry joins a handful of other smartphone makers already on the same program, which matches the security bulletins and updates Google rolls out to its Nexus line of devices. The other companies agreeing to provide those updates are Samsung and Silent Circle, the maker of the “Blackphone” security-focused smartphone.

Having OEMs lined up to provide security updates is something that’s important for Google as it tries to push Android into more and more security-conscious business environments. There has been a lot of hay made about security vulnerabilities in the company’s mobile operating system that remain unpatched because of manufacturers and cellular carriers dragging their feet with regards to patching devices.

In addition to all of the announcements, Google is also pushing features it added to Android for Work in the Marshmallow release of its mobile operating system, like the ability to more easily deploy single-use devices, like Android tablets that get used to power kiosks. While businesses and developers have been able to try out the new functionality since the Marshmallow developer preview was released in May, Toy said that Google is now being “more strong” in its promotion of the new features.

All of these announcements add up to the second push in two days that Google has made to try and appeal to business users. The company revealed a group of updates around Apps for Work on Tuesday, including a new set of recommended partner apps that integrate with the online productivity suite.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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