Salesforce Ditches Most Android Phones
Along with making a statement about the state of Android, Salesforce might be giving us a new way to look at the smartphone market. Will UC vendors follow their lead?
In another testament to the wild world of Android, Salesforce.com recently announced it would end technical support, bug fixes, and enhancements for Salesforce1 on all but a few Android devices later this year.
Apparently fed up with the variety of Android implementations, the company said the only Android devices it will support are the Samsung Galaxy S5, S6 and S7, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and Google Nexus 5X and Google Nexus 6P phones, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Tab A 9.7 tablets. In the same notice, Salesforce said it is pulling support for some older Apple models, including the iPhone 5 and 5C. Users can still install Salesforce on the unsupported devices, but the company won't provide support for those devices or provide fixes for any bugs that appear.
Given the lackluster adoption of Android in the enterprise, you get the feeling that Salesforce is taking the position that the mess of Android implementations is just too much to deal with. It has long been the case that Apple iOS devices dominate in the enterprise, with Apple's market share estimated at between 70% to 90%. Android's weak acceptance in the enterprise is something of an anomaly, as it clearly dominates in the overall smartphone market. IDC puts Android's worldwide market share at 83% to iOS's 14%.
In a recent InfoWorld piece, "Why Android hasn't beaten Apple in business," my friend Galen Gruman, executive editor (never one to shy away from a strong position), rolls through a litany of problems from continuing security concerns, a lack of business apps, and, of course, the mess created by the wide variety of Android versions in circulation. It's not like we haven't been through this before. I remember the days when working with Windows Phone meant every app description had to include a list of the specific device models on which it would run. Microsoft put an end to such foolishness when it moved from Windows Mobile to Windows 10 Mobile.
Clearly, Apple's strategy of maintaining direct contact with iOS users through iTunes has been one of the keys to its success. Apple deploys each new version of iOS on the vast majority of devices within a month -- even if the first version of the release includes a pile of bugs that need fixing within a week. Android device manufacturers are notoriously slow in deciding which models will get an update and then the carriers have to sign off before the upgrades can occur. The problem for CIOs and chief security officers is that a significant percentage of their Android users could be running those earlier (and typically less secure) versions for years.
Salesforce did make a smart choice in focusing on Google Nexus and Samsung Galaxy models. With its backing from Google, Nexus devices have long delivered the best and least encumbered Android experience. And in regards to Samsung, it is the worldwide leader in sales for Android devices and is strongest at the high end of the market. It has done the most to address the ongoing security concerns with Android, particularly with its Knox security platform. Knox addresses the malware problem with a secure boot process that ties to the device hardware, a practice BlackBerry started and Apple continued.
With its support on dozens of manufacturers' devices and open approach to developers, Android is a unique case study. In any event, you can't argue with success -- and an 83% overall market share is a strong testimonial to that. Of course, that percentage is inflated with low-end devices sold in developing countries, with many of those devices lacking key enterprise requirements like crypto chips that make full device encryption with acceptable performance a possibility.
We will, no doubt, see other app developers copy Salesforce's approach. This will include UC vendors, though the presence of their mobile clients on smartphones has been negligible.
In the bigger picture, this might be the start of another partition in the smartphone market. Rather than dividing the market by operating system as we do today, the new dividing line might be business-capable versus low-end consumer-focused devices. In specifying Android devices for enterprise use, either corporate liable or BYOD supported, mobility managers will need to take a more granular look at the device models that make the cut. That's good news for Samsung, but not so good for others.