The countdown is underway to the Droid invasion. Verizon has unveiled the official specs and contract details, and pre-orders are already underway at Best Buy. By this time next week the Motorola Droid will be unleashed and we will find out if the reality can come close to the hype.
The Droid is the first device built on Android 2.0, the latest version of Google's open-source mobile operating system. Android is a capable mobile platform that offers benefits for any user, but small and medium businesses have even more to gain by embracing Android-based mobile phones like the Verizon Droid.
Building on a Google Foundation
For starters, if you are an owner or IT manager of a small to midsized business and haven't looked into Google Apps, you should. Even large enterprises like Genentech and Delta Hotels have adopted Google Apps in place of more traditional solutions like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange Server.
It is relatively simple to set up Google Apps on your own domain. Google offers two different plans for Google Apps: Standard and Premium. The Standard edition is free and serves up to 50 users with up to 7Gb of storage space per user--more than adequate for many SMB's. For larger companies the Premium Edition costs $50 per year per user (but non-profit and educational institutions can get Premium Edition for free as well).
Google on the Go
Google Apps is not yet fully integrated with the Android operating system, but Google says it is working on it. However, the most critical components--e-mail and calendar--can be leveraged from the Droid right out of the box.
Business professionals on the go need to be able to keep in touch and maintain their schedules. Droid provides access to Gmail and Google Calendar as part of its core feature set, so roaming workers can send and receive e-mails, check their calendar, and schedule meetings while away from the office.
Droid also includes Google's newest free service, Google Nav. The turn-by-turn navigation service is integrated into Android. Comparable to portable GPS devices, or iPhone apps that cost $100 or more, the free tool can help roaming professionals get from point A to point B.
Small and medium businesses can also leverage Google Voice for advanced voice features. Google Voice provides call routing, simultaneous ringing of the desk and mobile phone, custom ring tones based on caller, voicemail transcription, and other features for free.
Enterprise Tools on an SMB Budget
Let's set aside all iPhone comparisons. The bottom line is that the Droid appears to be a more than capable hardware platform, built on an impressive operating system, that is capable of providing small and medium businesses with the communications and productivity tools they need while on the go.
Much of the promise and potential of what Google Apps can do and how all of the Google tools will integrate with Android is yet to be realized. But, the basic business functionality of email, calendaring, and voice can be achieved today, and the foundation is there for the combination of Droid and Android 2.0 with Google Apps to rival RIM Blackberry given time.
Google tools and services are web-based to begin with, so technically speaking any web-enabled mobile phone is capable of leveraging Google to some extent. Google also has a vested interest in having users adopt its tools and services no matter what mobile device they use, so there are tools and connectors available for other platforms as well. But, there is no need to try to fit a square peg in a round hole when the Android OS offers the potential of seamless integration with all that Google has to offer.
By embracing Google Apps and other Google tools, and adopting the Verizon Droid (or other Android-based device), small businesses can create a cost-effective alternative on par with large enterprise Blackberry or Microsoft server implementations.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.