What Does Nexus One for Enterprise Mean for IT, Mobile Industry?

Google is already working on an enterprise version of the Nexus One, being called the Nexus Two or Nexus Pro by the media, that will sport a keyboard and have improved battery life, according to recent comments made by Google's Android chief.

But will it be a viable contender in the mobile enterprise category -- and should Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) be squirming? One mobile analyst thinks not, though he does offer reasons for why Google would want a presence in the mobile enterprise.

The Internet giant is considering the future release of an enterprise version of the Nexus One, Andy Rubin, who heads the Android division of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), said during an interview with Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal.

Despite the hints dropped by Rubin about an enterprise version possibly having a physical keyboard and longer battery life, Google's vice president of engineering did not disclose any further details during the interview -- and Google had little to add on the issue.

"The Nexus One is the first in what we expect to be a series of products, which we will bring to market with our operator and hardware partners. We do not have any specific details to share around our next device, however. And there is no specific timeframe on when the next product will be available," a Google spokeswoman told EnterpriseMobileToday.com.

The news of a work-friendly, Google-branded, Android smartphone comes just days after Google rocked the wireless world by introducing the Nexus One, which is being sold only online directly by the Internet behemoth at a dedicated Web store.

The Nexus One is generating a lot of buzz in the industry for several reasons. First, Google is issuing its own self-branded handset, even though it was made by HTC, and selling it online without exclusive carrier contracts. Second, the Nexus One is unlocked, which means it can operate on multiple networks.

As industry watchers wait to see how the untraditional business model pays off for Google -- both in the short term, as in how many units sell, and in the long-run, how it impacts Google's mobile search and ad profits -- there's already speculation about how well the Nexus One fits in the enterprise. And, now, also what a dedicated workplace Google phone would mean for the sector.

Based on the Nexus One and Google's track record to date, an enterprise Nexus would have little impact on RIM's dominance in the workplace -- which may be OK with Google, Ken Dulaney, mobile analyst at research firm Gartner, told EnterpriseMobileToday.com.

"(Rubin) doesn't seem to know what the enterprise wants based on what we have seen so far. They have totally missed our criteria for reaching the enterprise and none of the Android phones are recommended by Gartner for enterprise use," said Dulaney.

He goes on to say that Gartner's clients have made it clear that they do not want to purchase devices from a Web site and that they want dedicated vendor support.

"They want much closer support from the vendor, something RIM does but something that we've never seen Google do.I seriously doubt that any Nexus will be a competitor to RIM," said Dulaney.

In the big picture, in terms of Google's mobile strategy, Dulaney said taking on RIM is not likely the goal. "I don't think that Google wants that. They want to do what Apple does -- have a minimum amount of enterprise capability, just enough to get into 80 percent of enterprises for PIM, e-mail and so on," he said. "All I can say (based on no official information from Google) is that to date, they have done a very poor job of meeting rudimentary enterprise needs."

So, why bother with a new Android smartphone for the enterprise at all? Dulaney thinks Google wants to have a presence in the workplace to further its enterprise apps. "Maybe what they mean is that if you buy enterprise Google Apps you will have a phone that works well. So clients who are on that get a great experience. But if you are on other systems then you are on your own."

Though it's too early to tell how the Nexus One will fare in the market, one thing is certain: Google's open source mobile platform Android is clearly gaining traction in the industry.

A slew of impressive smartphones have recently been issued, including the Motorola Droid and Cliq, as well as HTC's Hero and myTouch. Meanwhile, several vendors, including Dell, Samsung and Motorola, unveiled more Android handsets recently at CES while e-readers and netbooks running Android also make their way into the market.

Developers are also flocking to the new OS, as mobile Android apps are forecast to dramatically increase in the coming years, narrowing the huge leadership gap Apple's iPhone App Store has in the sector.


Google, Android, nexus one, RIM, Nexus Two