LOW COST DEVICES IN
GOVERNMENT AND EDUCATION
-Windows vs. Android-
This paper discusses the penetration of tablets in public sector and options that organizations are considering as they evolve their IT infrastructure to address new user needs in the world of mobile devices. Android-based tablets have a lot of obvious appeal considering low acquisition costs against tight public budgets. However, when judged against 4 areas critical to public sector and education Ease of Use, Security, Productivity and Lifecycle - Android-based solutions fall short. An in-depth comparison shows that Windows devices are a superior choice, offering better security, a more productive experience for users and an improved ability for IT to manage mobile devices within the boundaries of existing PC cost structure and technical infrastructure.
Tablets in the Public Sector
The growth of smart mobile devices has impacted all sectors including governments and education. General policy initiatives to develop digital literacy, digital inclusion and deliver greater information access have led public sector leaders and institutions in both developed and emerging markets to search out ever cheaper devices. For many scenarios, the touch-centric user experience of the tablet offers an appealing and modern way for constituencies and especially a large number of young students to access the Web, communicate and work.
Android and the Public Sector
With the proliferation of devices, Android has now garnered the largest mobile OS share. The low hardware requirements for Android, the apparent lack of software royalty and the lack of a central governance body to maintain standards enabled OEMs to offer low cost devices with differentiated software experiences. These are often the same criteria which have made Android appealing to government and education deals – within a limited budget, on the surface, lower cost Android units should enable more people to benefit from 1:1 device programs. Additionally the goal of many governments is to foster “openness” and transparency, and thus the “open source” element of Android also holds tremendous political appeal.
Challenges and issues with Android
There are significant challenges and issues with Android in general which often get amplified with low cost Android device programs. While Google does release the core Android operating system source code as open source, free for anyone to use, the fact remains that many of the key apps that make an Android device useful (Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Play, etc.) are all proprietary to Google, and there is no blanket open license to use and redistribute that code. Google often designs these key first party apps and services for the latest hardware, and thus even if there are redistribution rights, they may not work well or at all the cost reduced hardware designed for 1:1 device programs. Security issues are found all the time in software, in particular, the Linux kernel which is used by Android gets security patches and fixes on a regular basis, but Google and OEMs do not go back and update all older versions of Android (and devices) with those patches. More than half of the Android device installed base is still running Android 2.x or older, but those devices are no longer being supported by Google and the device manufacturers, leaving them vulnerable to security threats, old and new. Even if Google were to update all older versions, there is no common, streamlined way to get those updates out to the install base of Android devices. That ...