Those who wish to purchase a smartphone with a touchscreen or a tablet PC are no longer restricted to products from Apple. LG, HTC, Motorola, Samsung – numerous devices are now available from South Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers. They are similar to the iPhone and iPad with regard to the user interface, but they are much more affordable.
All of the devices have one thing in common: the Android operating system. Android was purchased by Google in 2005 and has been continually developed since then. Since 2008 it has been competing with iOS, Windows Mobile and Symbian as a mobile operating system. And it’s successful: according to Gartner, the market share was 25.5 percent in 2010. During the first quarter of 2010, more Android smartphones were sold in the USA than iPhones.
There wouldn’t be any Android without Apple, according to some malicious rumors. And it’s true that the Google operating system is very similar to iOS at first glance. However, Android does not simply aspire to be a copy – it provides a number of special features.
Multitasking, HDMI interface, SD card slot
Smartphones or tablet PCs with the Android operating system often have SD card slots, USB and HDMI interfaces and cameras with a digital zoom and flash. What’s more, Android is also multitasking-capable. That means that multiple programs can run in the background at the same time.
This was not possible with previous Apple devices, the shortcoming was however rectified with iOS 4.2.1.
Smartphones from manufacturers such as HTC or Samsung can also be found in the business environment, but these devices currently run Windows Mobile or Windows Phone in the newer versions. However, if Android continues to assert itself, the Google operating system will soon be available in the business area as well.
How business-ready is Android really? Read more on the next page.
In addition to common functions, such as e-mail, Internet, and GPS, and special business programs, security is essential for mobile devices that are used in business environments. Mobile operating systems must be securely protected against viruses, Trojans, and malware. Smartphones must also be protected against loss or theft. In the event of an emergency, it must be possible for administrators to restore the factory settings or encrypt personal data via remote control.
Android special features
Android is based on the Linux Kernel 2.6 and in contrast to its competitors, is an open platform. Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo or Gingerbread – the version numbers always include the name of some dessert. And Android 3.0 is due to be released soon under the name “Honeycomb”. This version has been especially designed for use on tablet PCs.
Android works differently on every smartphone and looks different on every mobile. The basic functions, however, are always the same.
Android does have one advantage vis-à-vis the Apple OS: it supports Adobe Flash. Flash content such as videos cannot yet be displayed on iPhones or iPads.
Another aspect that set Android apart from the rest for some time was Multitasking. However, this is now supported by all Apple devices running iOS 4.2. This means multiple programs can now run simultaneously on iPhones and iPads, such as the music player and Internet browser.
When iPhone users download apps from the AppStore, the mini programs automatically appear on the desktop as small icons. This is not the case with Android devices: the users must therefore drag these to the main menu after purchasing them. What’s more, the icons cannot be moved on the display, something that is possible with iOS, and iPhone users can also store websites in their start menus just like applications. Android devices cannot do this.
E-mailing and Internet access
Android smartphones can also be connected to an Exchange-Server, just like Apple mobile devices running iOS. IMAP and POP are also supported. This means e-mails can be synchronized, read, and edited while on the go and contacts and calendar entries can be managed. The program also utilizes the folder hierarchy from the office e-mail system.
However, user-friendliness has proven to be somewhat lacking with certain Android devices. For example, white text is displayed on a black background. And unlike iOS, Android does not remember e-mail addresses, which means autocomplete is not possible when entering an address.
A further disadvantage: many users have reported that folders can only be synchronized manually and not automatically. Calendar entries are also not synchronized automatically via Exchange, something that is possible with iOS 4. What’s more, the acceptance of invitations, which is possible on Apple devices, is not supported by Android.
With the “TouchDown” application, Android devices can be connected to Lotus Notes. Novell is not supported.
Read all about security and SAP applications on the next page.
Everyone who uses a smartphone or tablet PC with the Android operating system – business users and private users alike – must have a Google Mail user account. These are rarely used by businesses, however, for reasons of security. An Exchange user account can be imported using an SD card.
The main disadvantage is the limited support of Exchange ActiveSynch (EAS) policies. As a result of this, other devices can obtain unauthorized access to Exchange servers. Smartphones cannot be managed via remote control either. If a device is lost or stolen, the company loses control over the device. However, many Android devices cannot be connected to company servers anyway, due to the lack of EAS support.
Users can purchase applications via the Android market and download these onto the smartphone, just like with the AppStore. At the moment, some 218,000 applications are available on the Android market, a lot less than in Apple’s AppStore. This could be overlooked, if not for the problem of insufficient security. Many developers find the limitations in the AppStore restrictive, but these restrictions do provide a number of advantages. Unlike the AppStore, the Android Market is not coordinated via a central location. This makes it easier for developers’ app to be offered, but it also enables phishing apps and Trojans to be distributed.
Android and SAP
Despite the disadvantages, smartphones with Android operating systems are taking a foothold in the business environment. This includes SAP: as Android 2.2 (Froyo) supports Flash, users can utilize applications such as BusinessObjects Explorer, BusinessObjects Dashboard Design (previously known as Xcelsius) and WebIntelligence, check out the article “BusinessObjects conquer Android.” The applications are operated via the Internet browser. Users should however adjust the resolution on the display before starting the software.
The Feature Pack 2.5 for Business ByDesign has been available since the beginning of February. Feature Pack 3.0 is planned for August. Thanks to this new release, on-demand software can also run on Android devices and support for Windows Phone 7 is provided.