The Motorola Droid Pro is a fair approximation of a BlackBerry handset, minus the inferior keyboard and the fact that it doesn't come close to matching Research In Motion's security measures. Add the Divide for Android app, launching today in private beta, and suddenly the handset has a chance of fulfilling business professionals' Android dreams.
The awkwardly named Enterproid start-up has created an app (and platform) called Divide. It adds a secure, corporate-friendly business profile to the Android phone, akin in concept if not in technical specifics to a partition on your computer's hard drive.
With it, you can toggle from a secure, password-protected work profile that your company defines with IT policies, apps, encrypted e-mail, and perhaps a global address book, to your unfettered "regular" Android view heaped with all the widgets, apps, and openness you can stuff onto it.
Companies' reach includes a Web dashboard to manage Divide on employees' personal phones and the ability to wipe data if you report the phone lost of stolen--but only as it pertains to Divide, never your personal details on your personal profile.
Likewise, businesses can only track the whereabouts of your phone with your express digital permission. In addition, Divide runs on ActiveSync, so the company acts like a chute for transporting your bits and bytes; it isn't processing sensitive data.
Bye bye, Blackberry? So long, Sprint ID?
As targeted as it is for the corporate world, Divide is also whispering in the ear of everyday consumers, especially those looking to allay fears of Android's lack of encryption and loose permissions for third-party apps to access personal data. To that point, Enterproid's founders told CNET that half its pilot users joined for the security question alone.
In use on our Droid Pro demo unit, we enjoyed the multiple ways to toggle between profiles (four for that phone!), and the fact that you can still view notifications for the opposite mode. Although there aren't solutions flooding the market, Divide is hands-down the most successful of its type we've seen.
Sprint ID was the carrier's attempt to add profiles, but it takes ages to load, preloads packs of apps you can't whittle down until after they install, and is difficult and time-consuming to switch among profiles. Divide switches over in about a second. Sprint ID also doesn't explicitly address security concerns. We look forward to seeing Divide in action when tired to a company's IT policy.
Besting BlackBerry-maker RIM's market claim of comprehensive security is Enterproid's ultimate goal for Android--and in the future, for Windows Phone 7, iPhone, and other iOS devices. Enterproid's CEO Andrew Toy told us that the company is working on its own version of BlackBerry Messenger, an instant chat app for free communications with any other BlackBerry user.
Since Enterproid's Divide platform is only now entering private beta, there's no set release date or pricing information, except that there will be a tiered subscription model for businesses, and a model for everyday consumers.
Chances are good that if Enterproid can sell Divide to companies with large, smartphone-toting workforces, or get it preloaded onto Android handsets, the arguments propping up BlackBerry's most prized and yet unmatched security niche will become increasingly more fragile.