Android, Windows, iOS or BlackBerry? Research reveals favourites of IT team and users
Because of the lack of standardisation and interoperability between platforms, many organisations need to choose between a native, web or hybrid approach to mobile app development. A platform-agnostic approach is ideal in theory but can be very, very difficult in reality. There is some evidence that instead of trying to support all platforms, firms are increasingly picking winners.
In a recent Computing survey 20 per cent of respondents were standardising on one platform (as opposed to 16 percent in 2014) and 22 per cent were choosing a dual platform strategy (16 per cent said the same in 2014). Indeed those pursuing a platform-agnostic strategy, either by using web apps or integration or MDM software working across all platforms dropped from 60 per cent in 2014 to 54 per cent this year.
Platforms of choice
The platforms actually being chosen have shown relatively little change in the last twelve months. However, the proportions opting for the current biggest players (iOS and Android) have declined slightly and BlackBerry has registered an increase in interest. Few analysts were predicting that development in 2014. This may well prove to be a small blip in what seemed to a relentless decline for BlackBerry but it may that BlackBerry’s return to an enterprise focus is putting it back in the game. It remains popular with some senior managers, as our interviewees explained.
“I have two devices, my personal phone and a BlackBerry, I use them both for work. The BlackBerry lasts a long time, it’s very reliable, it allows me to send lots of emails when I’m out and about and it doesn’t let me down… There are also the benefits of BES, it is secure and encrypted. I just find it very easy to use and functional,” said the CIO at a local authority.
“There’s a move back to BlackBerry demanded by some users, often senior management prefer the interface with less errors when writing emails. They spend 10 per cent of the time web browsing, but 50 to 60 per cent of the time on email,” added the head of IT at a gaming firm.
The slight reduction in the numbers selecting Android’s as their enterprise platform of choice is likely to be down to the fact that it remains, essentially, a consumer platform. The relatively cheap devices that run Android are popular with users and have undoubtedly helped to push the OS to its present position in the corporate mobility hierarchy. However, our survey found that Android was deemed to be the most problematic ecosystem for enterprise deployment. Thirty-five per cent of those surveyed rated it as such as opposed to 31 per cent for iOS, 19 per cent for BlackBerry and a mere 16 per cent for Windows (see below). The difficulties in supporting so many versions of this open source OS and concerns about security are likely to act as a brake on growth unless something radical occurs in the next couple of years.
“The explosion of apps and the lack of control and the wish to control users downloading and using apps does introduce additional threat vectors, particularly in the Android space where they are far less managed and protected as you can pretty much download anything. There are a huge amount of apps that are posing as other apps and doing insidious things in the background,” said the director of global threat management, in the education sector.
The IT manager in gaming said he had experienced problems with updates to Android.
“We have found with Android devices that when you get system updates it often messes things up. If you have an unmanaged phone with a system update, you just apply it and carry on, but when they’re managed, we found that they don’t really keep up with the mobile device updates…”
Meanwhile Android’s popularity with consumers made some wonder whether it is really the best choice for the enterprise, as the IT director in manufacturing said.
“Android does have a place in the enterprise and they need to put some skin in the game to get people there. That gives me more confidence. But even if they weren’t doing that, I’m still in a precarious position of trying to build enterprise applications on consumer technology.”
It would be easy to conclude from these results that our research participants were generally happier with iOS and Windows as corporate platforms but some had experienced issues here too.
“With Microsoft and Apple there’s a lot of issues with changes coming out with software integration and how security integrates with a lot of the new platforms which means more overhead and more work for IT…” said the IT manager at a restaurant chain.
Another finding of particular interest was the contrast in satisfaction ratings for various platforms and devices between IT departments and their users which is illustrated below.
The users favourite platform is clearly iOS and is also popular with IT. However, from an IT perspective iOS was rated slightly lower than Android, with some respondents putting this down to its walled garden approach.
“You can’t do as much with it because it’s a closed shop,” explained an infrastructure manager in technology.
“A lot of enterprises stick with iOS. The benefits are that it’s very stable, very backwards compatible. The downside is that it’s locked down with a padlock and it’s difficult to do anything useful with it…” said an IT director.
Android was only slightly less popular with users than iOS but more popular than iOS with IT teams. This is not what we would expect to find given the security and support challenges that numerous flavours of Android present, but some of our interviewees were more upbeat.
“I would say we’re actually reasonably happy with Android because you can pretty much leave it to people to just use and run…” said an IT manager in higher education, while the deputy director of a government department added:
“We said ‘we don’t care what device you have, whether you have an Apple or whether you have an Android, we don’t care. But the predominance has become Android, bizarrely, and that’s because of it’s low-cost consumables, it’s very quick to get. A lot of people are anti-Apple because of their closed nature.”
Both Windows and BlackBerry are more popular with IT teams than users, Blackberry because it offers much needed security and control out of the box and Microsoft’s offering because IT teams are often familiar with Windows on the desktop and find it less of a leap to extend support to mobile devices.
“Technical people are more used to working with Windows, it’s the same experience,” explained a CIO from a local authority, adding: “Windows is more seamless with existing technology deployment; it’s just extending existing capabilities into a mobile device. A more homogeneous technology platform.”
[“source – computing.co.uk”]