Enterprises need e-mail support to adopt Android

An analyst lists some barriers to adoption for Google's mobile OS, but noted that lack of enterprise e-mail support remains one of its more significant challenges.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Of Android's barriers to adoption in the region, lack of enterprise e-mail support remains a significant one for companies, according to an analyst.

Bryan Wang, research director, connectivity, at Springboard Research, said the lack of support for enterprise e-mail platforms such as Microsoft Exchange on Google's newly released mobile OS will be a big barrier to its integration with companies.

"And I doubt if Google may integrate Exchange in their next release," Wang said in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, adding that Microsoft competitor, Apple, has also chosen to support Exchange.

"I think Google needs to monitor [Android's] sales performance for the first 12 months before deciding," he said.

Furthermore, price--one of Android's touted selling points--may not translate to users in the region, as the devices go through the various channels before they reach users' hands, said Wang.

Google, several months ago, highlighted the price benefit to manufacturers of the free and open source OS, saying manufacturers stood to save some 20 percent--that would otherwise be spent on licensing a mobile OS--when building devices. Theoretically, this 20 percent could be passed on to end users, which would help lower device prices to appeal to the emerging markets in Asia, said Google.

However, Wang said this impact would be "minimal": "Android is still a smartphone OS," he said, quoting the recently-released HTC G1 Android device as being still a "costly" smartphone. He added that Microsoft's charges of approximately US$15 per device would therefore make a "minimal" difference to customers.

Wang said consumers in the Asia-Pacific region prioritize phone design, functions and branding when choosing a smartphone--above price.

Applications an open playing field
Mobile platform vendors have been focusing on making their OSes attractive to users via a rich variety of applications available. Apple released an SDK (software development kit) for its iPhone before the second version of the device debuted, Nokia recently announced a developer competition for its Symbian OS, and Microsoft is likely to open a mobile app "store" similar to Apple's and Google's app markets.

Android's open source nature is expected to help boost development on the platform, but Wang said volume is still the bottom line for developers.

"App developers will only develop applications for a given platform where there are enough customers. If Google cannot [attract] a large enough base of users in the next 12 to 18 months, open source as the selling-point alone cannot save [Android].

"Consumers do not care about open source or closed source; they only care about availability of applications," he said.

Wang agreed that it would be in Microsoft's interest to set up a central "store" from which users can browse and obtain apps, but also noted that "there are currently far more Windows Mobile apps available in the market place than [for the] iPhone or Android platform".

John Starkweather, Microsoft international director of marketing, mobile communications business, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia, the software giant has focused on making Windows Mobile a similar experience to the PC for both users and developers.

"Developers have the headache of dealing with differences among each manufacturer and device. The API surface from device to device is consistent [on Windows Mobile]...developers are not forced to learn new development paradigms or tools," Starkweather said.

Microsoft estimates some 18,000 Windows Mobile consumer apps available.

On the competition, Starkweather said: "With open source, it sounds great, but who’s going to ensure consistency, security and stability of apps? We think we have a good balance here, making it appealing for developers, and drawing users as a result with the number of great apps available."

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