Google has always seen the long-tail SMB opportunity as a goldmine, which has played out through various flavors of local search marketing tools. That manifests today in GMB and its orbiting components, which have several generations of forbears (Google Local, etc.) and continue to evolve.
Speaking of evolution, Google’s broader set of SMB offerings are a moving target. From its rapid-product culture, we continue to see experimentation from the mother ship as well as its Area 120 incubator. Recent examples include Tables (SMB project management) and CallJoy (inbound call management).
The latest rollout that we put in this bucket of smaller and experimental SMB products is this week’s launch of Android Enterprise Essentials. This is a device management system that lets SMBs do things like require employees to use a lock screen to make remotely-accessed company data more secure.
Drilling down on the feature set, it’s best characterized as an SMB-friendly version of larger enterprise device security systems. In addition to the above lock-screen example, it imposes basic encryption protocols for employees that access company data through smartphones… a common activity these days.
Enterprise Essentials also prevents users from installing apps outside of the Google Play Store, which is a feature of the separate Google Play Protect service. It also gives SMBs centralized authority to wipe all the company data from a given employee phone (or all phones) that are lost, stolen or compromised.
Back to the “SMB-friendly” part, the service strips out some of the activities usually performed by enterprise systems administrators or IT pros. For example, it eliminates the need to manually activate each device or have employees configure their own phones. It can be installed and activated remotely.
This represents Google’s latest step in positioning Android smartphones for workplace use, following programs like Android for Work and Android Enterprise Recommended. Google has also taken greater steps in the past few years to clean the Play Store of malware, as it had become a breeding ground.
The program will roll out initially through Android enterprise distributors (Synnex in the U.S. and Tech Data in the U.K.). At an unnamed future point, Google says it will expand the program globally, and with additional distribution partners. It’s also hosting an online launch event and tutorial in January.
It’s All About Timing
As noted above, the timing is clearly right for this, as companies have scrambled in the past nine months to devise systems to manage remote employees (not applicable to all SMB verticals obviously). Those systems include everything from communications to collaboration and maintaining continuity.
But device security is one of those components that’s likely lower down the list for non-technical SMBs. But it’s arguably a critical component in terms of risk management. So Google’s play here is to build something lightweight and simple that takes complexity out of the equation for SMBs.
In fact, the title says it all about this approach. Despite the “enterprise” qualifier, the product is expressly targeted to SMBs. Instead, the branding implies bringing enterprise-grade device management and security down market to SMBs. That makes it a sort of democratization play, which is in Google’s DNA.
Speaking of Google’s DNA, it’s all about loss-leaders that drive other revenue centers (all roads lead back to search). In this case, Enterprise Essentials makes Android a more compelling choice for enterprise device purchases. And from there, SMBs are further brought into Google’s ecosystem.
So the program’s ease and affordability could have other strategic endpoints. In fairness, it’s a compelling offer for SMBs to stay secure amidst fractured work environments. As a final note, we could see this move up-market to larger enterprises, which could disrupt device management… another Google calling card.