Enterprise Mobility: Android vs iOS vs Windows Mobile

Rob Borley
by
on 05 December 2013

In an effort to balance the BYOD free-for-all with the need for standardisation, enterprise IT departments need to choose their own preferred mobile platform. Apple has dominated the workplace for several years with iOS-powered devices, but the low entry cost of Android is of particular interest to the cost-conscious enterprise. Windows Mobile has also started to assert itself, offering native interoperability with Microsoft networks – attractive to the CIO who needs to reduce support overheads. At Dootrix we are asked to help guide our partners through this decision.

iOS 7 vs. Windows Phone 8 vs. Android Jelly Bean 4.2

What does the marketplace look like now?

The enterprise mobile OS market is hard to accurately define, with many analysts reporting conflicting statistics to decide whether Android or iOS are currently ahead in terms of market share. The only thing that all analysts agree on is that the situation remains a two-horse race now and into the foreseeable future. Notably the once dominant BlackBerry features almost nowhere in any up-to-date statistics or forecasts.

According to the Citrix Enterprise Mobility Cloud Report, the largest share of enterprise mobility in Europe is held by Apple’s iOS with 43% of the total. Just behind is Android with 36% followed by Windows Mobile with 21% (far higher than anywhere else in the world).

Other studies suggest that iOS is actually strengthening its grip on the enterprise computing arena. Hybrid Cloud storage company Egnyte reported that the 100,000+ business subscribers to their service are overwhelmingly iOS users. Commenting on the figures, they were reported as saying;

“Apple seems to have at least temporarily won the hearts and minds of business users with its products accounting for about 70 percent of our traffic. […] It’s also an indication that when BYOD wrested control over what devices consumers used from IT, they overwhelmingly chose an easy to use product that focused on UI and usability, perhaps even at times over depth.”

It is also worth noting that Windows Mobile is growing significantly. “Windows devices now own 3.7 per cent of the market, representing a 20 per cent gain on the same period in 2012,” claimed IDC in their Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report in August.

Why choose Android?

Android has a number of major factors in its favour:

  • The OS is free, making hardware much cheaper.
  • Android is open source, allowing for much greater customisation and development potential.
  • Deploying custom apps via an enterprise app store in house is easy.
  • A mature app store with 800,000+ available applications.
  • Multi-user support makes devices “shareable”.

Android does present some major challenges for developers. Although Android hardware tends to be relatively cheap, there are literally thousands of devices, each of which has its own specifications, from screen size to peripheral support. The more testing required, the more expensive custom development becomes.

The open nature of Android has also seen it become the focus for hackers and cybercriminals. According to antivirus vendor McAfee, malware attacks rose to nearly 40,000 in 2012, the majority if which (97%) where created specifically to exploit Android devices.

Why choose iOS?

iOS is extremely popular in the enterprise for several reasons:

  • The OS is believed to be more secure than it’s rivals thanks to a “sand box” approach that prevents resources and apps accessing each other.
  • A very limited range of supported devices makes it easy to develop and test custom software.
  • The interface is felt to be extremely intuitive, making it popular with employees.
  • Apple’s luxury brand status further assists with employee “buy in”.

The Apple App Store is populated by hundreds of thousands of apps that cover most generic business needs, and the implementation of MDM in iOS 7 makes deploying apps to company devices much easier. The fact that the range of iOS 7 devices is small, also makes custom development much easier – there are less variables to consider when deploying apps.

On the other hand, Apple devices command a heavy premium. For the cost of the “cheaper” iPhone 5C, businesses could buy at least two equivalent Android devices.

Why choose Windows Mobile?

One of the biggest selling points for Windows Mobile is that the operating system now appears to offer a consistent experience across devices. Few organisations have yet made the switch to Windows 8, but when they do, operations and appearance will be similar across smartphones, tablets and desktop PCs.

There is also the added benefit of dropping straight into the existing Windows network infrastructure, making management and support much easier than with other devices. Similarly mobile software deployment can be easily managed via Systems Centre.

On the downside, Windows Mobile devices remain quite expensive, and suitable development skills are scarce. Consumer uptake of Windows Mobile is growing, but enterprises committing their future to the Microsoft platform will probably have to supply suitable devices to their workforce.

No easy answers

The bad news is that the choice between iOS, Android and Windows Mobile is purely subjective and should only be made in light of what is right for your organisation. Globally iOS may still be the dominant force in enterprise mobility, but the “open” nature of Android, or a need for native Windows support may be better for your business.

If you have any questions or would like some advice about what platform or platforms is suitable for your organisation then please get in touch with us at Dootrix.

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