Magazine Article | June 26, 2012

Tablets And The Enterprise: The Windows/Android Debate

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Chris Wright, VP of InfoMobility, DRS Technologies,

With Android giving Windows a run for the money, it’s important to consider which OS is the right fit for you.

As an increasing number of businesses deploy mobile applications, there is more discussion of which OS to choose for rugged tablets. This is happening for a variety of reasons, including the need to integrate tablets and other mobile computing devices along with increasingly sophisticated applications across the enterprise. Many businesses today are examining, if not actively considering, Google’s Android platform as well as Microsoft offerings.

Microsoft’s Windows OS has the largest market share of established workforce, especially in the rugged computing space. Although Google’s Android platform is still nascent in the enterprise, the growing demand for Android is driven by innovation and new application development. Yet enterprises may be reluctant to adopt and implement these newer platforms because of security, support, and other challenges. Many businesses find themselves asking: Which one should we choose?

The Case For Windows
Tablets that operate in the standard Microsoft environment enable corporate IT departments to utilize wellestablished management protocols. The task of troubleshooting efficiently and protecting against viruses is often done remotely — an important consideration with a dispersed, mobile workforce. Since IT departments have greater familiarity with the Microsoft environment and appropriate remote diagnostics, they are able to more easily walk mobile employees through what needs to be done should a problem arise in the field. This translates to a more productive workforce, keeping costs down. As well, a bigger pool of third-party developers continues to create a large number of Windows-based applications and tend to do so more than with a newer OS.

Additionally, there is a trend to move from singlepurpose devices to multiuse computers that extend the desktop into the field. If you are attempting to push standard email along with viewable, editable, and usable documents, then the interface with Microsoft Office programs should be considered.

The Android Option
The Android platform is growing, and businesses will see a slightly lower device cost. Another advantage is the ability to deploy applications directly from the "application store." Android affords more flexibility and customization options to developers; however, at this time a smaller Android developer community is generating fewer high-level business applications. Developers also are challenged with attaining support for older Android OS versions, even though there have been numerous upgrades and releases.

Making The Switch: Key Considerations
Businesses that are considering a transition from a Windows-based OS to an Android-based solution need to weigh issues like security, cost, and IT standards. Security may be a particular concern, given Microsoft's long experience. Businesses may be reluctant to change because they are uncertain whether Android devices and applications — which have bred from the consumer community — provide the level of security they need.

On the IT front, the correct version of Android must be chosen, hardware drivers created, and software rewritten. IT departments also need to determine whether the company's software provider supports Android and what is involved in the migration. It's possible that an alternative software solution is needed, which increases the cost and complexity of making the transition. The cost to support IT asset management tools within the enterprise also significantly increases if the tablets do not integrate with existing tools.

Looking Ahead
Android may very well become the go-to alternative for some businesses, especially those that are sophisticated enough to do both application development and OS integration. Still, Windows is the OS of choice for most enterprise applications. The highly anticipated release of Windows 8 will likely be a game-changer that will significantly impact rugged tablets. This OS will feature a revamped interface with all of the security and legacy compatibility that enterprise customers depend on. Users of rugged tablet platforms, in particular, will be able to take advantage of a new user interface that will marry the convenience of the consumer tablets with the security of an enterprise-worthy operating system.