Android for Work is the latest buzzword among the halls of Google these days, at least among the “For Work” team at Google building products for businesses.
On Wednesday, Google made yet another announcement: that it has added a bunch of Android for Work features to its paid version of Google Apps as well as its paid version of its cloud service, Google Drive for Work.
These features will help businesses manage how employees access sensitive data or apps on their smartphones, part of a trend called “mobile device management” (MDM).
Even though Google calls this Android for Work, the good news is that, most of these features cover both Android and iOS devices.
This means that if your company uses Google Apps, your IT department can set up some controls to protect your work email and documents, even if you own your own phone and just use it occasionally for work.
The IT department, for instance, can tell employees to create a separate “work” login on their phones and this will be used to access the company email and other Google Apps documents. Even if IT doesn’t mandate a separate work profile, they can encrypt work email and documents, and wipe the device remotely of that stuff if the device is ever lost or stolen.
The work profile can also be set up to show off your company’s own corporate app store, if your company has set that up. Google calls this feature Google Play for Work. It allows companies to show which apps they have licensed for employees. When you log into your company app store, you see only the apps you are approved to use.
Google announced most of these Android for Work features last week, as well as a bunch of partners that have made their enterprise apps work with this new secure version of Android.
But by making Android for Work part of Google Apps and bundling in MDM, Google is making both Android and Google Apps a better deal for businesses.
Many large companies already have sophisticated MDM apps from companies like IBM, SAP, BlackBerry, or specialty MDM providers like MobileIron or Good Technology. But small to mid-sized companies — the businesses most likely to be using Google Apps — often have no MDM protection at all. So this is a smart move by Google to bring them into the fold, while also making Apps and Android safer and more attractive to businesses of all sizes.