Smart Money: Where There's Mobility, There's Margin

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If there's one thing that has further complicated the mobile device landscape for businesses, it's been the extreme growth and popularity of Google's mobile operating system. Android initially was viewed in the commercial market as a fragmented platform and a potential security risk, due to plenty of bad press about malware disguised as legitimate apps in Google Play.

While the security concerns are still there—a recent study by British Telecom claimed one-third of Android apps contained some kind of malware—Android's market share has skyrocketed behind growing popularity with consumers and a range of supporting vendors such as Samsung, HTC, Lenovo and others. Like many solution providers focused on mobility, Colorado Computer Support has seen Android take off in the corporate world. Blake Schwank, CEO of Colorado Computer Support in Colorado Springs, said a year or two ago Apple was the clear leader in the mobile device market. But today, that's not the case. Schwank, like others, sees about a 50-50 split between Apple and Android today, with Google's mobile OS growing at a faster clip.

"BYOD is absolutely driving Android growth," Schwank said. "Android as an OS has gotten a heck of a lot easier to use— and cooler—in the last couple years compared to iOS." The numbers look even better for Android on a worldwide market scale; according to IDC's first-quarter smartphone market share study, Android and iOS combined for more than 92 percent of the entire OS market—but Google's OS earned an amazing 75 percent of the smartphone shipment share, leaving Apple with just 17.3 percent.

The numbers are nearly as strong for Android in the tablet market: IDC's first-quarter numbers show Android with 56.5 percent of all tablet shipments, as opposed to just 39.4 percent one year ago. Apple's iPad, meanwhile, saw its fortunes reversed as its share fell from 58.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 39.6 percent this year.

So why has Android made such gains? And which vendors have most benefited from that growth? "It's very easy to use and manage and develop for, so it's the most popular choice with the IT guys," Findlay said. Noratek Solutions works with all of the major mobile platforms, from iOS and Android to BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone, and Findlay said he's seen a definite trend around Android adoption.

"It's a toss-up between Android and Apple right now," Findlay said. "And I think it depends who you're selling to, if it's IT department or if it's line of business. If the IT guys are involved, they almost always go with Android. If not, the executives go with Apple." XMatters' Haider Ali agrees. He said xMatters still sees the majority of its customer base going with iOS devices but said Android's popularity and adoption recently have surged. "We've seen an overall trend of Android being the popular choice for consumers and tech-savvy people, and Apple for executives who prefer ease of use and a simpler experience," he said.

On the device side, Samsung has emerged as the strongest Android player with its Galaxy family of smartphones and tablets. According to IDC's first-quarter market-share study, Samsung owns 41 percent of the Android smartphone market and trails only Apple's iPad in total tablet market share with nearly 18 percent.

Samsung isn't alone, however. Lenovo and Asus have competing Android tablets, and the market has gotten more crowded recently as HP introduced its first Android device, the HP Slate 7.

Samsung is faring even better in the smartphone market. The company recently released its newest flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S4. Samsung is hoping to capitalize on consumer-level demand with a new B2B marketing campaign this year, which will in part promote the company's Galaxy brand around BYOD and MDM trends in the enterprise.

Lenovo’s Cheston said he has seen more and more customers actively utilize smartphones in the business environment. "I can do work related things, access company resources and I can improve my productivity at work and away from work." Cheston said. "And they've started getting a lot,of traction [among] C-level executives."

NEXT: Ease Of Use: The Apple Advantage

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