Android vs. Apple: Operating System Battle for the Enterprise

By  Gene Signorini — September 05, 2012

The trend of  U.S. smartphone growth, the ascendancy of two dominant platforms — Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android — at the expense of struggling BlackBerry maker RIM, along with muted attempts by Microsoft to gain ground with its nascent Windows Phone platform continued in 2012. 

With 57% of total mobile subscribers now using smartphones, 29% on iPhones and 49% on Android devices, the market is revolving around these two ecosystems.  Will a third platform make a comeback or will the market settle into a de facto duopoly?

These overall shifts have a significant effect on enterprise IT and mobility strategies. The rise of consumerization of IT first manifested itself with bring your own device (BYOD) trends over the past two years.  However, BYOD has become even more predominant this year, accelerating the dramatic shift in device OS support within businesses.  

Last year at this time, Yankee Group provided here a detailed view of the “Mobile OS Olympics.” Much like some of the games in the actual 2012 Olympics, it appears the race for enterprise OS dominance is a dead heat, with other competitors struggling to stay in the race.

This climate was reflected in the results of two June 2012 surveys conducted by Yankee Group that examined the enterprise smartphone market — “U.S. Enterprise Mobility IT Decision Maker Survey”  and “U.S. Enterprise Mobility Employee Survey.”  The surveys garnered responses from more than 1,000 business decision makers and 1,800 mobile employees for the first six months of the year.

A Changing Device Landscape
As far back as 2007, Yankee Group research noted that consumerization would have a dramatic effect on the IT decisions enterprises would face. Since that time, enterprise IT and business leaders have been alternately combative, reluctant and accepting of this trend. Mobility has played a significant role in driving consumerization forward with smartphones and then tablets being purchased by individuals and essentially imposed on IT departments that were slow to react to the new realities of a mobile workplace.

It appears, however, that enterprise IT leaders are getting aboard the consumerization bandwagon at long last. Yankee Group survey results from 2011 and 2012 reveal a significant shift in business attitudes towards consumerization. A 2011 survey showed that 57% of IT decision makers either actively prohibited or discouraged the use of non-sanctioned applications and devices. Just one year later, attitudes have clearly changed and enterprises appear to be largely embracing consumerization with 60% of firms allowing employees to use consumer applications and devices in the workplace.

This behavioral shift has likely resulted from the increasing influx of consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets, and this influx is, in turn, reshaping IT policies and encouraging further individual purchases and BYOD. The survey revealed that 55% of employee respondents report using a smartphone. Of those, the vast majority are individually owned and procured.  

Only 19% of business smartphones can be considered corporate-liable, with the company procuring, owning and paying for the device and service. The remaining percent were acquired either via a corporate-sponsored individually liable program (essentially employees getting a discount because of their employer) representing 30% of business smartphone users, or pure individual purchasing through traditional retail means (52% of business smartphone users).

Consequently, employee purchase trends have had a tremendous impact on the devices being brought into the enterprise and on which devices are supported and preferred by IT leaders.

Apple, Android, BlackBerry
Since more than 80% of smartphones used in the enterprise are being purchased by the employees, they are essentially dictating what platforms will be supported by IT in the future. And,  when it comes to smartphone choices, employees are in line with overall consumer smartphone purchasing trends. Thirty-eight percent of respondents from the Employee Survey use Android, 32% use iPhone and 21% use BlackBerry.  (See. Fig. 1)

Comparing this to overall smartphone market figures in the U.S, Android and iPhone adoption is consistent with recent trends but percentages differ. Business smartphone users tend to skew slightly more toward iPhones and BlackBerry still holds a higher percentage among business due to its existing legacy within enterprises.  

In the future, however, users anticipate continuing to move away from BlackBerry in favor of iPhone and Android devices. Among employees who don’t currently use a smartphone, but are considering a purchase within the next several months, the survey reveals that iPhone leads (52%) followed by Android (45%), with BlackBerry (17%) and Windows Phone (10%) lagging significantly behind.

So far, these results are unsurprising, since the shift toward iOS and Android at the expense of BlackBerry has been well documented and widely reported.  However, the impact and influence of this movement on IT decision makers’ preferences has been dramatic. IT departments have responded to BYOD developments by offering support for both Android and iOS, and have done so quickly.

For example, as of October 2011, the  Enterprise IT Decision Maker survey indicated that only 26% of businesses were offering fully-sanctioned support for Android, 18% offer limited support and 47% provide no support whatsoever. The June 2012 results show a significant shift: (See Fig. 2) 39% of firms now provide corporate-sanctioned support for Android, 24% provide limited support and only 30% are not supporting at all.

iPhone support has continued to grow as well, with 46% of firms offering corporate-sanctioned support (compared to 36% in October 2011).

BlackBerry has suffered significantly in a short period of time, despite the presence of BlackBerry Enterprise Server within a vast number of companies. Fully-sanctioned corporate support for BlackBerry has actually fallen from 50% of firms in October 2011, to 36% as of June 2012.

IT Follows the Users' Lead
The data clearly show that IT is now following its users’ lead when determining what platforms to support, despite the fact that certain platforms (such as BlackBerry) have had legacy infrastructure and support investment.  

And instead of merely tolerating iPhone and Android by offering limited support for select users, IT organizations are rapidly making these platforms standard within their businesses. Plus those companies that haven’t already made the decision to support Android and iOS, appear to be ready to do so within the next two years.

The IT Decision Maker (June 2012) survey reveals that in two years, 63% of companies will fully support iOS and 56% will fully support Android (See Fig. 2)

These results clearly show that because of the surge in both Android and iOS support and continued presence of BlackBerry (albeit in reduced form), one dominant platform won’t take hold for the foreseeable future. However, IT typically likes to standardize on single platforms wherever possible, making application development and deployment and help desk support easier to streamline. So the survey also asks IT and business leaders to identify their preferred smartphone platform. Again, the results show significant shifts in a short period of time.

What IT Really Wants
First, the survey asks respondents to identify their current preferred smartphone OS. (See Fig. 3) The June 2012 results show Android actually nudging Apple iOS out by a few percentage points (35% to 32%). More interesting however, is how these results have changed dramatically from last year’s results in June 2011.

At that time, BlackBerry was still the dominant preferred OS within almost half (46%) of companies surveyed. Android’s overall market surge is reflected in its shift to the top of preferred OS from just 19% a year ago.

This trend continues looking ahead two years, with IT respondents predicting their preferred platform in 2014. It’s a virtual dead heat between iOS and Android. Both of these platforms continue to take mindshare away from BlackBerry, which slips to only 10% in the results.

Again, what is remarkable in these results is how much perception has changed in just one year. The results from last year’s survey had IT leaders predicting a triumvirate of Android, iOS  and BlackBerry. That opinion is clearly different as BlackBerry struggles to launch new devices that appeal to end users. BlackBerry’s struggle among consumers has directly impacted their standing among their most historically fervent supporters within IT organizations.  

The standing of Windows Mobile/Windows Phone is also notable. With Microsoft maintaining a significant presence for productivity applications and software, it appears IT is taking a wait-and-see approach. Windows Phone remains a distant fourth place, although it is interesting to see that some respondents anticipate a stronger presence than they did a year ago.

The Future for the Four Contenders
Putting behind the snapshot that both IT leaders and end users have provided on the smartphone market, here’s a brief look at the future prospects for the four main contenders, Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

Apple iOS
It appears that nothing can slow Apple down, and unless the company makes a significant misstep with the next iPhone release (and it truly would have to be a disaster for it to be a misstep), it’s likely that  iOS will continue its inroads into enterprise acceptance.  

While, this discussion has been focused on smartphones exclusively, the role and influence of tablets in the OS battle cannot be overlooked. Apple’s dominance of the tablet market will continue to drive the perception of iOS as a true platform for business applications. Other tablet manufacturers have barely made a dent, so the business tablet market right now is really a business iPad market (73% of tablets in the enterprise supplied by company are  iPads.)  

As IT leaders consider alternatives to iPad when thinking about their next tablet purchases, Apple still leads, with 59% considering iPad and, the next closest, at 26%, is the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Remarkably, these results are almost identical to those from the Employee survey, with 60% considering iPad for their own tablet purchase and 24% considering Samsung Galaxy Tab. 

Although Android has been discussed as a single unified entity, in reality, the  implementation of the OS across multiple device manufacturers creates a more fragmented reality for the ecosystem. This becomes evident when asking employees what manufacturers they are considering for their next smartphone purchase. Beyond iPhone, the list is extremely fragmented, especially among Android manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and LG (note that these manufacturers are not exclusively Android, but this provides a good proxy).  

Samsung leads the pack with 11% considering for purchase; and the company’s recent success places it in probably the best position for future success among the Android players. Two recent Samsung announcements are noteworthy for enterprise implications.  

First, the fact that Samsung recently launched the Galaxy S III as a single branded device across all major carriers in the U.S. is important. For the first time it provides Samsung with a true flagship device that consumers can purchase from whatever carrier they prefer.  

Secondly, with the launch of the Galaxy S III, Samsung has brought its Samsung Approved For Enterprise (SAFE) program to market for the first time.  Any Samsung device labeled as SAFE provides support for 338 IT policies, including on-device AES-256 bit encryption, enhanced support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and support for mobile device management (MDM) solutions. Both of these initiatives make it easier for IT departments to identify Samsung as an “approved” and sanctioned Android manufacturer in the event they want to standardize their approach to Android support.

Overall, the presence of Android in the enterprise environment will continue to grow along with its gains in the overall smartphone market. But Android’s long-term success could face potential hurdles. The continuation of patent litigation between Apple and Android manufacturers creates instability and risk.  And Google’s acquisition of Motorola, while initially claimed for its IP and patents, also makes them a competitor to other Android manufacturers.  Depending on how committed Google is to creating its own devices and a complete hardware/software offering similar to Apple, this could scare OEMs away from Android to another alternative.

BlackBerry’s struggles have been well noted in the survey data and in the endless barrage of negative press it has received over the past year. It has become clear that BlackBerry cannot rely on its legacy in the enterprise and the success of BES any longer. CEO Thorsten Heins is committed to delivering on the BB10 operating system, which is the correct approach at this point.

The one thing that can swing the market back into RIM’s favor is delivery of a compelling device that end users want to buy – and not just devices that IT wants to support. Clearly, IT is willing to support what their users want. If RIM is able to deliver on the promise of BB10 and create buzz in the consumer market, and combine that with its historical approach to security and manageability, then BlackBerry can climb back into the enterprise.

Windows Phone
What holds true for BlackBerry largely holds true for Windows Phone as well.  The key for Microsoft, along with its partner OEMs (most importantly Nokia), is to gain consumer traction. Enterprise IT leaders would likely be ecstatic if Microsoft were to gain ground among consumers, especially if Windows Phone integrates more effectively with Microsoft productivity and collaboration applications.  

While the survey results show a healthy degree of skepticism for Windows Phone’s future prospects, another bit from the survey is intriguing and positive for Microsoft. When asked to identify which supplier across a list of IT vendors and service providers is most critical to their organization’s productivity, respondents placed Microsoft at the top of the list. (See Fig. 4) With this type of tie inside of enterprises, Microsoft cannot be counted out – yet.


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