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Thursday, June 24, 2010, 09:55 pm PT (12:55 am ET)

iPhone 4 and iOS vs. Android: desktop and cloud services


Exchange Server support

Apple originally marketed MobileMe as "Exchange for the rest of us," but the company also built Exchange ActiveSync support into iPhone OS 2.0 in order to also support push messaging for corporate users.

While the Android OS offers rudimentary support for Exchange Server sync, it fails to handle the remote wipe and other administration features (such as fleet provisioning and centralized enforcement of security policies) that Apple has increasingly perfected for iPhone users over the past two years.

Android hardware also lacks support for hardware encryption, making the devices ineligible for support by the default security policy of Exchange Server. Third party software for Android can only improve the situation by misrepresenting the security profile of the phone to fool Exchange into supporting Android phones. Apple's iPhone 3GS introduced hardware encryption features last year, but newer Android phones such as the Google Nexus One and Motorola Verizon Droid still don't support corporate use.

Additionally, part of Android's "openness" means that apps don't have to be signed by a trusted Certificate Authority; anyone can self-sign an app and distribute it. In fact, most Android apps are self-signed due to the hobbyist nature of the Android Marketplace. That does not make Android phones attractive to corporate users working in a secure environment.

Apple requires that all iOS apps in the App Store are signed using a developer certificate it issues, enabling it to revoke certificates for rogue apps or malicious developers. While Apple offers its corporate users tools to distribute their own internal apps using self-signed certificates, the App Store library is curated and secure, setting it apart from the shareware nature of Android and its app library using meaningless, randomly sourced self-signed certificates.

iPhone 4 and iOS vs. Android: desktop and cloud services


Open enterprise cloud services support

In addition to its own MobileMe service and support for Exchange Server ActiveSync (which is also used to give iOS devices sync support for Google's Gmail and Google Calendar cloud services), Apple is also building open source, standards based calendar and contact services in Mac OS X Server. iOS 4 adds support for the emerging CalDAV and CardDAV protocols used by Mac OS X Server, which are also supported by other third party products including Kerio, Scalix, Yahoo Calendar and Zimbra.

As open specifications, CalDAV and CardDAV enable companies and institutions to set up their own messaging servers and enable their mobile clients to access these using iOS 4. Google is a member of the teams working on CalDAV and CardDAV, and has added CalDAV support to its own Google Calendar cloud service.

Android still lacks support for either protocol however, leaving its users largely tied to Google's ad-supported cloud services. Because that's the core of Google's business model, Android is not likely to rapidly move toward embracing open standards for enterprise cloud services, nor greatly enhance its support for Exchange Server. As a hardware vendor, Apple has strong motivations to improve in both areas.

The next segment in this series will look at how Android offerings compare against iOS 4 in terms of the mobile carriers available.