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Google Expands Its 'Android for Work' Efforts in Bid to Get More Businesses Using Its Phones

However, Google did not -- as originally planned -- use code offered up by Samsung.


Google on Wednesday announced — or rather, re-announced — its plan to get Android devices more broadly adopted by businesses.

The company detailed an “Android for Work” initiative that will see the company beef up its own mobile software to make it better suited to business as well as working with an array of partners that specialize in that area. With the latest version of Android, known as Lollipop, Google has added support for separate work and personal spheres within a single device — building on technology it got through its May 2014 Enterproid acquisition.

A new Android for Work app will bring some of the same features to older Android devices dating back to those running the Ice Cream Sandwich version of the operating system. Google will also offer an option for businesses to distribute and manage the apps that go on employee’s devices through a work version of the Google Play store.

Google first talked about its Android for Work efforts at last June’s I/O conference. However, the company didn’t go into a ton of detail at the time.

Now, just ahead of next week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google is ready for its big push.


“Every employee should have a work-enabled mobile device in their hands,” Google product management director Rajen Sheth said at a briefing with reporters. “We want to do everything possible to make that happen.”

Historically, Apple devices have proved more popular with businesses in part because of the fact that its hardware and software are so locked down. Apple also announced a partnership with IBM last July to help spur business adoption of the iPhone and iPad.

Sheth, though, tried to position Google’s openness as an asset going forward, noting that the device a CEO wants probably isn’t the one best suited to use on a shop floor.

“One size doesn’t fit all in the workplace,” Sheth said.

As for security concerns, Sheth said one of the things Android for Work allows is for businesses to have their devices as open or closed as companies want.

“If you only want your employee to use these six applications, you can do that,” Sheth said.

Google is also partnering with a range of companies, including those like AirWatch and BlackBerry that specialize in mobile device management, as well as device makers like Samsung, which is adding additional hardware-based security. Google has been working with a handful of customers to test out Android for Work in recent months, with the tools now supported by those partners.

Sheth said to expect some of the companies announcing flagship devices in Barcelona to announce that the products either already support Android for Work or soon will, though the goal is for Google’s approach to work on nearly any Android device.

One thing that has changed since last year’s announcement is that Google did not — as it announced it would — use any of Samsung’s Knox technology in building Android for Work.

“That was the original intent,” Sheth told Re/code. “We didn’t actually integrate code from Samsung.”

Instead, Sheth said Google stuck with its own technologies, with Samsung and other hardware makers free to add their own technologies either on top of, or in addition to, Android for Work.

While the initial effort is around getting more companies using Android phones, Sheth said the long-term goal is to get businesses using Android in all kinds of new ways, including single-use devices, such as cash registers.

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