Google Unleashes Enterprise App Store

By | Dec 31, 2012

One of the major downfalls of the BYOD movement is that employees are often careless when it comes to downloading mobile applications. These seemingly harmless tools and games can harbor key-loggers, viruses, GPS trackers, malware, and so much more. Although antivirus protection can effectively combat these threats, a corporate-owned app store is an easy way for businesses to oversee employee applications. In an effort to become a major player in the corporate market, Google has adopted their own unique system called "private channels".

According to eWEEK, this feature will allow midsize businesses to create and distribute their own Android apps through the popular Google Play marketplace. Ellie Powers, Google Play's product manager, explained the service, saying, "Whether you've built a custom expense reporting app for employees or a conference room finder, the Google Play Private Channel is designed to make your organization's internal apps quick and easy for employees to find." To streamline this process even further, employees simply has to input their corporate email addresses to gain access to these exclusive resources. Currently, this program is being offered to all enterprises subscribing to Google Apps for Business, Education, or Government.

Balancing Security and Satisfaction

The main allure of Google's new development is improved security for mobile users. IT firms often have a difficult time enforcing mobile device management (MDM) policies that balance employee satisfaction and corporate privacy. Dan Maycock, an analyst at Slalom Consulting, said such businesses are "trying to see what they should do that isn't overly restrictive, but at the same time falls in line with corporate governance, best practices, and their legal needs." In essence, the Google Play private channels will provide workers with a collection of white-listed apps that the business deems acceptable. It will make it easy for users to identify useful programs without having to worry about the hidden risks.

The real question is whether these private channels are ideal for midsize businesses, or if there are better options available. From a security standpoint, it is always best for a company to limit their interaction with third party sources. This means that although Google's new program is an improvement over public app directories, creating your own internal store always provides the best security. That said, custom built app stores are expensive and often exceed the budget of midsize businesses. As a result, many midsize firms may find the new Google program to be their only safe haven - at least until they have the money and time to develop their own custom store.

Mending a Fractured Ecosystem

Moreover, Google's new program might be an effort to resolve the compatibility issues between different Android devices. Currently, not all Android apps will work on the entire line of devices; multiple versions of the same app must often be released to fix these problems. Consequently, enterprises employing an internal app store will usually focus on developing Apple iOS apps, rather than their Android counterparts. Maycock added, "It's simpler to support one device than 20 different devices and a fractured ecosystem."

In early 2011, Google's management recognized this problem and promised to make changes. Maycock believes that the private channel program is Google's first response. "This is yet another step to make Android more viable in the enterprise, to help resolve the fractures of different Android operating system versions."

Regardless of the reasoning behind Google's new development, midsize businesses should be happy that the private channel program is now available. Rather than having to settle between an unprotected marketplace and an expensive internal app store, midsize firms have finally been granted a healthy medium. At the very least, it demonstrates Google's effort to please the corporate community in an industry that is seemingly run by the consumer market.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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