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Android security a challenge and advantage for enterprise adoption

by Kristen Nicole

Android-inspired Apple security tests

There’s nothing like learning from a competitor’s mistakes, but sometimes the things they do right can be just as inspiring. When it comes to the evolution of mobile devices, Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) are still settling into their respective designs. Android’s default unlock screen seems to have sparked a format update for Apple’s iOS. Apple is currently testing a new gesture-based lock screen, which expedites the sign-in process.

While the feature is unconfirmed for upcoming iOS consumer devices, it raises an important discussion point around mobile security. As PCworld notes, Google’s dot-connected security mechanism is considered more secure than typing in a password. But mobile security goes far beyond the sign-in screen. For the entire mobile industry, security is another area where market share matters. As smartphones and tablets work their way into schools, corporations and government organization, the OS with the best security will win.

Security battlefields

Widespread and uniform adoption is an important goal for Apple and Google, though Android’s open format leaves it more susceptible to malware.  It’s encouraged a sub-market around security apps for Android, from PC-era firms like McAfee (MFE) to mobile-centric startups like Lookout. iOS may have its advantages over Google’s Android, but Apple may be holding back its own scalability. “The biggest problem with Apple's security is its walled garden philosophy, which relies on the wisdom of Apple approving applications rather than by consensus or the individual user,” PCworld notes in an OS security comparison.

For the enterprise area in particular, security is a necessity and a competitive advantage. The gains to be made in the mobile enterprise span several companies in the industry. Motorola (MMI) and Samsung (005930.KS) have taken on Google’s weak spot, adding security at the manufacturer level. Cloud services like VMware and Box.net, which stretch from corporate to consumer, are securing Android access and usage as well.