In IBM and Apple's wake, has Android lost its enterprise chance?

Summary:The IBM and Apple deal shook up the enterprise space last week. Where does it leave Android?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Yes

or

No

David Gewirtz

David Gewirtz

Best Argument: Yes

43%
57%

Audience Favored: No (57%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

It's a massive setback for Android

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: While Apple's partnership with IBM will unquestionably benefit both firms and give iPhones and iPads a greater foothold in enterprise, there are also losers, and one of the biggest losers from this is Android.

While it's easy to think that the platform and devices war is won and lost based on what consumers buy, enterprise adoption still matters a great deal because this puts devices on the back foot. in the hands of people who then go on to use them to make money. Not only does this raise the profile of iOS devices, but it will also drives more sales.

It's a win-win situation for the two firms.

On the flipside, the IBM/Apple partnership is a huge loss for Google, and a massive setback for Android, primarily because it simultaneously endorses Apple's previously weak enterprise endeavors, puts IBM's might behind pushing iOS to its customers, and puts Android on the back foot.

Android is the Borg

David Gewirtz: The short answer to this debate question is simply: No, of course not. IBM is far from the only enterprise player and the iDevices have inherent limitations that Android doesn't suffer from.

Let's take the limitations argument first. iOS devices are limited in how much they can be customized. Android is not. iOS customization stops at the app, and even the apps themselves are surprisingly limited. Android customization can extend to the launcher, the OS, add-on devices, and deep into the system.

Plus, of course, IBM isn't the only enterprise game in town. Beyond Dell, HP, and Microsoft, not to mention Google Apps (which are penetrating enterprises at breakneck speed), there are a wide range of other enterprise players.

This is a nice sales synergy for Apple and IBM. Nothing more. Android is the Borg. It will keep assimilating and certainly Apple and IBM can't stop it.

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Are my debaters standing by?

    We'll be getting started promptly at 11am ET. And welcome, readers! Please refresh this page at the start of the debate. And note that once the live debate does begin, this page will refresh automatically each time a new question or answer is posted.

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Ready here


    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Born ready


    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, first question:

    The IBM and Apple deal shook up the enterprise space last week. What do you see as the advantages of the partnership?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    IBM needs Apple more than Apple needs IBM

    While it's easy to think that the advantages of this alliance are purely monetary in the form of more device sales for Apple and software sales for IBM, there are more subtle things going on here too.

    To Apple it brings an enterprise stamp of approval for iOS, something which the company has long been accused of not caring about. It's also vindication for all high profile companies who have already worked to integrate the iPhone and iPad into their businesses.

    For IBM the benefit comes in the form of a massive, well-established platform to leverage, which will undoubtedly reassure shareholders. Another slightly more intangible but nonetheless important advantage for IBM is that an alliance with Apple gives the company a lot of street cred.

    Let's be clear, while there's no doubt that this alliance is important to both Apple and IBM, IBM needs Apple more than Apple needs IBM.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    IBM has a strong sales team and a wide range of enterprise-focused business partners.

    Many of these partners are already integrating iOS devices into their solutions (simply because of the market share of the iOS ecosystem) and a partnership may (I say "may" purposely) smooth the process. However, IBM and its business partners have had some channel conflict issues in the past, so what goes through corporate sales and what pickings are left for the business partners will remain to be seen.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Counterpitch?

    If you were Samsung, Google or another Android-tethered company targeting the enterprise what would your counterpitch be?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Fragmentation and the slow pace of updates

    It's easy to think that what the Android camp now needs to do is copy Apple's playbook and go out and create a similar alliance, but I think that Goole might be better off spending some time addressing some of the issues facing the platform.

    Specifically, when it comes to enterprise, the biggest problems are related to fragmentation and the slow pace of updates. Google needs to work with hardware OEMs and carriers to make getting updates out to devices a bigger priority, because without updates devices are missing out on vital security updates.

    Maybe once this is addressed Google is better placed to make a bigger entry into the enterprise arena.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    The same as it's always been compared to iOS:

    iOS is incredibly limiting, on a very limited set of form-factor devices, and can't be modified with anywhere near the flexibility of Android. On top of that, no matter what form-factor/price you might need, there's an Android device to fill that need. Not nearly as much with a few iPads and an iPhone.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the advantages and disadvantages...

    ...for both iOS and Android in the enterprise?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Advantages and disadvantages...

    iOS advantages:

    • Massive user base
    • Regular updates
    • Updates come direct from Apple

    iOS disadvantages:

    • Price

    Android advantages:

    • Huge diversity of devices
    • Cheap devices

    Android disadvantages:

    • Fragmentation
    • Erratic patching

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Well, Android has already been heavily adopted in the enterprise...

    ...at least for certain security applications. I did an interview with Dell almost two years ago where they discussed how they'd built a military-hardened kernel in Android for devices on the battlefield. And Samsung has made great strides with Knox, also designed for enterprise work. Many mobile device management systems can integrate into Android at whatever level is necessary, most of that is impossible on the iOS platform.

    iOS has a lot of fan support, and it is a more predictable platform to manage. But it's far less flexible and far harder to take into a milspec or hardened environment.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is it easier to procure enterprise devices from IBM or Apple?

     

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Depends...

    Given how much cash Apple pulls in every quarter, I'm going to say that spending money with Apple seems like a pretty low drag affair. But that said, I know a lot of companies that don't have any problems spending big money with IBM too.

    Bottom line, it depends on which company you're used to dealing with.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Well, IBM is built around selling enterprise solutions.

    On the other hand, if you're in a hurry, you can buy an iPad at WalMart, but you sure can't do that with a System z. Of course, we're comparing apples with... IBM, and there's a big difference buying a consumer-grade handheld for enterprise use and buying a full-on enterprise system for enterprise use.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    BYOD's impact?

    How much do you think the bring your own device movement helps or hurts the ambitions of the IBM-Apple partnership? Do enterprises even buy devices in bulk now?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Industries differ

    While there's no doubt that BYOD is taking hold, there are plenty of industries – medical, engineering, military, banking etc – where BYOD isn't appropriate, and so there are plenty of companies still buying hardware direct and in big bulk quantities.

    As for how BYOD fits into this, I assume that Apple and IBM have their ducks in a row to be able to capitalize on the millions of devices already being bought into businesses by employees, as well as those corporate-owned devices.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Some enterprises do.

    James Kendrick just wrote about a school system that bought 9000 Chromebooks (which, for the record is Google, and not either IBM or Apple). In any case, BYOD has been a big driver to bring handheld and tablet devices into the enterprise.

    But IBM's involvement with handheld devices is anything but new. For a bunch of years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, IBM re-badged the old Palm devices (starting with the original PalmPilot and ending with the m505) and called them WorkPads. So even the "Pad" nomenclature isn't new for IBM.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Can IBM deliver?

    A big part of the IBM-Apple deal was the promise of industry focused apps. Does IBM have the knowhow to actually deliver?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Developing iOS apps isn't hard...

    ...kids in their bedrooms have developed and released iOS apps – so I have no doubt that IBM has the know how to create apps. The question is, does IBM know what apps enterprise users want?

    If it does, then this is a new chapter for IBM, and a chance for the company to gain a serious foothold in the mobile enterprise space. If not, I'm sure Apple will survive.

    I'm certain that Apple wouldn't have entered into a partnership with IBM if the company had no clue what it was doing.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Yes, definitely.

    IBM has been building (and working with partners) to build vertical applications. That's long been the strength of Lotus Notes (which became IBM Notes and Domino in later years). IBM may not have as much mobile app development experience, but building vertical, industry-focused solutions is one of its core competencies.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Better OS for custom enterprise apps?

    Do you think Android has an argument that it's a better OS for custom enterprise apps?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Not really.

    In fact, the myriad of devices bringing with them countless screen sizes and hardware configurations, combined with enormous fragmentation of the Android platform makes developing any apps – custom or otherwise – more difficult for Android than it is for iOS.

    Develop custom apps for iOS and you only need to support a few different hardware platforms. Do that for Android and you have to make the same app work on hundreds of different hardware configurations running one of several dozen versions of Android.

    Does that sound like a better platform?

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Absolutely.

    With an Android solution, you have access to all of the system to do what you need. You're not limited to an icon on the home screen. You can replace the home screen and build a completely self-contained solution that is entirely designed for the work at hand.

    Take something as ridiculous as the Newsstand app on iOS. It's there, whether you want it or not. You can't even hide it in a folder. That's not a custom, enterprise-friendly solution. That's Apple's way or the highway. Android has Apple beat here.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Security concerns?

    How much of Android's enterprise case is hurt by security concerns?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    It's a huge problem.

    After all, what business wants to allow devices into their digital fortress that are running old versions of the Android operating systems containing vulnerabilities that will never be patched?

    I certainly don't, and neither do a lot of other IT admins.

    Sure, endpoint software can help plug the holes in the dam, but it's a big job made much harder by the myriad of devices and versions of Android that need to be supported.

    iOS on the other had is a much easier animal to manage simply because apple pushes updates directly to the devices, and it seems that users are enthusiastic about installing updates onto devices. Not only does this make devices safer, but it also keeps fragmentation down to a minimum, making the device pool easier to administer.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Android can be both far less secure and far more secure than the Apple devices.

    It's entirely dependent on how the mobile device management is set up. Since Android allows Knox-like secure environments, it can be vastly more secure than an Apple device. Android also allows the installation of military-grade secure kernels. On the other hand, mobile device management systems are configured to allow users to install apps, and they do so from outside the Play store, there could be serious security problems.

    I won't discuss jailbreaking here, because both environments can be jailbroken, and once they are, they're both at risk.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Can Google pull together the enterprise partnerships needed to counter IBM and Apple?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Probably. After all, Google packs a lot of clout...

    Problem is, it hasn't managed to enter into one yet, and pursuing one now makes the company look reactive.

    Some questions to ponder though:

    • With IBM snapped up, who would be a good match for Google?
    • Given that Samsung is the largest supplier of Android hardware, what does Google bring to the table?
    • Additionally, Samsung is making much bigger waves in the Android BYOD arena than Google's Nexus hardware or Motorola's hardware is. Wouldn't Samsung be a better target to form an alliance with than Google?
    • Given that Google's income from Android is tied so strongly to ads, what does a partnership achieve beyond publicity?

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Absolutely.

    Google is working hard (and succeeding) at taking seats away from both IBM and Microsoft. The Google Apps offering is taking the enterprise world by storm and both IBM and Microsoft have lost accounts to Google Apps. And that's just Google Apps.

    When you add in the entire Android ecosystem and combine that with the power of, say, Samsung, there's a huge amount of potential there.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the challenges for Apple and IBM when it comes to actually executing?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    For Apple, the biggest challenge will be balancing enterprise needs against those of consumers.

    Adding enterprise knobs, bells and whistles to iOS could add a lot of additional complexity to the platform.

    Apple can't sacrifice consumer convenience in exchange for enterprise approval.

    For IBM, the biggest challenge will be adapting to a fast-changing post-PC world. The rapid pace of change may come as quite a change, as will the rapidity with which Apple adds new features and functionality to iOS. IBM will need to be in a position to take advantage of this if it is to capitalize on this partnership.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Well, it's good that Tim Cook is a former IBMer.

    There's some cultural connection there, at least. Surprisingly, IBM is the more flexible of the two. A big challenge will be finding a way to make sure Apple is responsive enough to needs brought by IBM sales teams, especially when they need to sell some sort of wildly customized solution and Apple starts digging its heels in and refuses to make changes. Frankly, I hope the IBM sales folks have a large supply of antacids on hand.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How important is Samsung's role in making Android's case to the enterprise?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Samsung is the biggest hardware player in the Android space...

    ...and as such it carries a fair bit of influence – and Google is quite possibly relying too heavily on the South Korean company. It is also a player that has made an effort to make Android better suited for enterprise, and used this as a selling point for its flagship Galaxy handsets.

    While an enterprise alliance with Google would work, an alliance between Samsung and an enterprise partner would also make sense.


    In fact, this would be more along the lines of the Apple/IBM alliance. Samsung would make the hardware and customize Android to make it better suited for enterprise usage, while a partner makes the enterprise software.

    And Google could just keep working on Android as the base platform.

    But while we're thinking about Samsung making an alliance, what about Amazon? The Kindle Fire HDX is already packed with a number of advanced enterprise-related features, and the company has big ties with enterprise thanks to its storage business.

    Given this, I wouldn't rule out Amazon forming a strategic alliance with a business player.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    It's certainly big...

    ...in the sense that it's the dominant device supplier. But the benefit of Android (among many other benefits) is that there are many other providers beyond Samsung. There's a much better chance of finding the right vendor to fit the right solution almost all the time.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, final question:

    Do you think there's a difference in the way Android will be adopted in the enterprise in emerging markets vs. the EU, AU and U.S.?

     

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Headway in emerging markets...

    Android, because it is aimed at a cheaper market, is making better headway in emerging markets.

    But, that's a consumer model, and it is unclear as to whether this will be how the enterprise model plays out. After all, there's a big difference between spending money on a device to user at home, and spending money on a device that is going to be used at work to make money.

    My educated guess would be that if Android does still have a chance to make real waves in the enterprise arena, it'll be done in emerging markets where Android has a better foothold.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Yes, absolutely.

    Take China. China can build its own Android stack and sell that into enterprises there, and not have to deal with issues related to American systems or American companies. It's possible to sell a nation-localized and locally-coded enterprise solution in emerging markets using Android, but not with either IBM or Apple.

     

    David Gewirtz

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks, Adrian and David, for a Great Debate

    Readers, stay tuned for our debaters' closing arguments, delivered tomorrow, and for my final verdict, delivered Thursday. Cast your vote!

    Posted by Larry Dignan

Closing Statements

iOS is where the real money is

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Android might dominate when it comes to overall device shipments, but iOS is where the real money is. And now the Cupertino giant is about to get a lot more cash, this time from enterprise users.

The alliance between tech giant Apple and enterprise heavyweight IBM represents an enormous shot across the bow of both Android and Google. In one swoop Apple has gone from not seeming to care about enterprise to making a huge splash. And it's doing this with one of the biggest and most established names in technology.

iOS has just leapt into the enterprise space in a big way, and it is leaving Android to play catch-up. If you're thinking "well, this is just enterprise so it doesn't matter," or "the real money's in the consumer space" then you're missing the point. Enterprise is really important. Think about where enterprise took companies like Microsoft. Apple's starting out on a similar path.

This is a very long game

David Gewirtz

We're not asking whether IBM and Apple might get some sales out of this deal. We're asking if the IBM/Apple deal is enough of a game changer to blow Android out of the enterprise water.

Of course not. This is a sales partnership deal for IBM and Apple. IBM makes these deals all the time, for all sorts of markets. They're good at partnering and it does help them close business. But as we all well know, it certainly hasn't helped them keep their competitors out of the game.

Android has proven to be a brutally effective competitor. It has grown in popularity at an almost incomprehensible pace. The combination of complete flexibility, low-cost suppliers, and many vendors has given Android the option to be whatever it needs to be, for whoever needs it. This inherent diversity and flexibility will surely impact the enterprise space, and that's before considering that companies like Google, Dell, and Samsung are themselves pretty fierce competitors.

So, no, Android has most definitely not lost its enterprise chance. This is a very long game and Android stands a very good chance of assimilating everything in its path. IBM and Apple may be resisting Android's dominance for now, but resistance is futile.

This question was loaded from the start.

Larry Dignan

IBM and Apple are formidable in the enterprise and it's clear that Big Blue will move a lot of iPads and cement iOS' standing in the corporate world. To me, the death of enterprise Android may be a bit premature. But David Gewirtz didn't make that case well. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes made a better argument that had me shoveling dirt on Android's enterprise hopes for a few minutes.

I'm going against the crowd vote and giving Adrian the win. 

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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