It's hard to determine whether IT departments should start thinking hard about Google's open source mobile Android platform, mostly because no Android devices or enterprise applications actually exist yet.
In contrast to the Apple iPhone, which recently added a plethora of new corporate applications and capabilities, Google isn't aiming to make Android an enterprise fixture just yet.
Android, the platform that Google and its partners in the Open Handset Alliance unleashed last fall, was created to open up carriers' wireless networks and allow users of Android-powered devices to connect to any network and to add whatever applications they choose. Google doesn't currently have any plans to develop its own device a la the iPhone or the BlackBerry, and therefore any enterprise-friendly applications or features added onto Android-powered phones will have to come from third-party developers.
While some analysts have said that Google's consumer-oriented strategy will render Android's enterprise impact minimal, others have noted that consumers like to bring popular mobile devices to the office, and often prefer to use them for both work and play.
"If it's successful and people have it, it will come into businesses and we'll adapt to it," Dave Leonard, CTO of IT outsourcing provider Infocrossing, told Network World in an earlier interview.
The challenge, then, will be for IT administrators to decide whether to support a platform on their network that was not specifically designed for enterprise use. One possible approach to integrating Android-powered devices into the network, argues Linux Foundation COO Dan Kohn, would be to pick one set of standards that IT will support for calendaring, e-mail applications, VPN and so on, and tell users they can use any mobile phone compatible with those standards.
Of course, one of the main advantages of being a completely open platform is that heavy hitters within the industry will be able to create devices that have whatever security and enterprise applications and protocols that they please. Earlier this year, for instance, Cisco created a prototype for an iPhone-like device that employed the Android platform included both unified messaging and enterprise 2.0 features.
As a platform, Android should be in a good position to attract consumer attention as Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all committed to supporting Android-powered devices on their networks. Google expects that Android-powered devices will start hitting the market later this year, and with handset makers Motorola, Samsung, and LG already onboard, it's reasonable to expect that Android will be on a wide variety of new handsets.