Google buys Divide to boost Android in enterprise

Might Android finally get serious about business out of the box?

In a recent post, I compared how Android supports Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). We saw that out-of-the-box Android does not really address the enterprise very well, leaving device manufacturers to come up with their own systems for managing devices in a corporate environment. For example you can see what Samsung is doing with KNOX, or to a lesser extent LG, Lenovo, and Motorola are doing with basic device management software on their devices. If you wanted comprehensive device management before, you had to support and deploy devices that had customizations to Android for the enterprise.

Today that seems to have changed.

Here's the announcement on Divide's site:

Divide is joining GoogleWe're thrilled to announce that Divide is joining Google!The company was founded with a simple mission: Give people the best mobile experience at work. As part of the Android team, we're excited to continue developing solutions that our users love.For existing customers, Divide will work as it always has. Thank you to everyone who has downloaded our app, partnered with us, invested in us and provided feedback along the way; we truly appreciate all your support.

Let's take a look at what this might mean for Android in the big-picture sense.

What is Divide?

Divide is a "work container" or "work persona." Normally when you activate your Android device against an MDM system, restrictions and controls are placed on your device, for example forcing you to set a device password. When you use a work container like Divide, you activate your work container against an MDM system, instead of your device.

What this means is that all of the restrictions and policies are applied to the work container and not your entire device. Your IT administrator can send a remote wipe command, and now instead of your whole device being wiped, only the work container is wiped.

Instead of giving your work access to your entire phone, Divide provides a secure 'container' for the IT department to use.

Divide also emulates the Android Home screen, including multiple panes, and the Launcher so your experience as a user remains the same no matter if you are in the work container (or work persona) or your regular device persona.

Take a look at how it works with this app.

The benefit of a work persona or work container is that the employee keeps his or her personal device untouched by IT. The employee can also choose when they want to work and play, instead of both work and play being mixed up in the same Inbox, Calendar and Contacts.

When you install and start using Divide, you immediately have access to a personal web management console that shows you information about your device, and how much data is used, how many voice minutes are used, and how many text messages are send and received, broken up by personal and work. Your IT administrator has a management console where they can set IT policies, group users together, and manage the work persona on each device.

Today Divide supports iOS and Android and is aimed at companies that adopt a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) policy.

Does this mean Android is finally ready for business?

Details of what will happen now that Divide is part of Google are unclear. The press release doesn't provide much information. There are some scenarios we could consider though.

Google may make Divide available as an option when companies want to deploy Android in the enterprise. With this option, Divide won't be built into Android, but rather an option that companies can make use of if they adopt a BYOD policy.

The question is, what does this mean for Android as a whole?

Google may make Divide part of Android in a future release. If they do this, then all versions of Android will automatically be enterprise-ready, as long as those enterprises adopt a BYOD or COPE policy. If Google does this, I think it will be a direct play to marginalize Samsung's KNOX. Today Samsung heavily modifies Android to include its add-ons, and include a work container called KNOX. If Android comes with Divide built-in, businesses may not need KNOX.

I think that no matter which option Google goes with, it does mean that they have the options on-hand to make Android enterprise friendly at the source.

We will continue to follow the developments on this story as more details emerge.

What do you think about Google buying Divide? Is this Google blocking Samsung? Is this a good move for Google to make Android enterprise friendly at the source? What do you think Google will do with Divide's iOS support?

Craig Johnston