By B.K. DeLong
With this morning’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Google has made the move to bring in a solid hardware component for their Android mobility platform and fired another shot across the bow of Apple. But one big questions remains: What does this acquisition mean for those trying to better secure the Android platform for their users?
Some of the business implications of the deal are clear. Google CEO Larry Page said in his blog post today that “Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open”. But what’s less clear is how the acquisition will affect the way that security is handled on the Android platform. Security has been a problem for Google and Android users, particularly in the form of malware-infected apps in the Android Market. As Page said, the company plans to keep Android open, but it’s possible that Google will push to lock down the Android Market, further scrutinizing its offerings.
“The market has always rewarded those who move toward what the consumer wants – making devices easier to use, apps easier to install, and integration of the hardware with the platform,” said Aaron Turner, mobile security specialist and founder of IntegriCell.
“Google is ensuring the absolute survivability of Android with this purchase,” says Diana Kelley of analyst firm SecurityCurve. “In turn, this could also foster the success of other manufacturers where Motorola failed in competition with Apple [with the Motorola Xoom tablet] such as with the Samsung Galaxy Tab – so-called ‘iPad Killer’.”
Based on some insights from both Turner and Kelley, there are several things to be on the watch for as this merger winds its way through the approval process:
- As with their other offerings, we can continue to expect the same level (or lack) of privacy we’ve come to expect with Google as stated in their Terms of Service – always read before use.
- With Motorola, Google possibly will invest in and promote flagship devices. This may lead to a tightening down of the Android Market so applications are subject to more than a cursory manifest check and possibly a more robust security development lifecycle for the platform. In the end it comes down to what customers demand.
- The Motorola Mobility Information Protection group has always been proactive and forward-thinking in their efforts around risk management and asset protection. Whether this will carry forward to product security and be embedded into the SDLC is something to keep an eye on.
- While the company’s actions speak to its strategy for targeting Apple and catering to the consumer market, Google’s support for the Android platform over the long term will be encouraging to mobile device management (MDM) firms such as Good Technology (formerly of Motorola), Mobile Iron, Air Watch and Sybase as well as security vendors considering whether it would be viable to make investments creating products for or supporting Android device security.