The final nail in the coffin of the non-GMS Enterprise devices?

Google had taken a long way to make GMS (Google Mobile Services, i.e. Play Store etc) acceptable, useful and then essential for the Enterprises. Now, the final nail in the coffin is being prepared…

Pre-history

Initially, GMS-enabled devices were unusable in the Enterprise setting: wonky Google’s privacy policy, requirement for individual user accounts (on 1000s of de-personalized devices?), permanent backdoors via Play Services, specific CTS (Compatibility Test Suite) requirements that contradict Enterprise security common sense (prevents UI lockdown etc). No wonder, why most organizations deploying Android in the Enterprise have started with AOSP.

Current state

However, as time went by, Google addressed most, if not all, of the issues, and introduced new great features: Android Enterprise, Managed Play Store, adjustments to CTS requirements, EULAs and policies etc. Combined with additional management features and developer-facing APIs available only with  GMS – it all made having Google’s Services and apps on the device much more lucrative. Around 2016-2017 I’ve seen a major shift in perception and a “GMS-by-default” approach (i.e. only use AOSP if there are specific issues).

In addition, those who wanted Google’s apps and services on AOSP devices, could have simply installed them independently. One such popular distribution is GApps.

Though technically illegal (while AOSP Android is sort of free, GMS apps are proprietary and Google only allows installation only on GMS-certified devices), Google turned a blind eye at this at large.

The near[est] future

Finally, the upcoming Android P seems to have nailed the rest of the required enterprise features: among many there is rapid provisioning via barcodes, ephemeral users for depersonalized (kiosks and the like) and multi-user (shift workers) devices, great UI lockdown enhancements etc etc etc. Basically, in my opinion, if everything declared works as intended, Android would have become a fully-fledged Enterprise mobile OS (legal/policy matters aside).

The final nail

Finally, having implemented all that, Google seems to have begun tightening the screws. There are reports coming, that non-GMS devices will be denied access to the Play Store, and other APIs may follow suit.

 

Image from the linked XDA post

It may sound scary, but basically it just means that Google now takes piracy of its own apps seriously. A special touch is providing an escape hatch for Android enthusiasts using custom ROMs.

This workaround, however, doesn’t scale. Which means using non-GMS devices in large quantities (Enterprise) will be very much impossible.

On the positive side, it means that

  • Less customers will be fooled into buying GMS-incompliant devices with [illegally distributed] GMS apps on them.
  • Google will be able to mop up and further unify and advance the GMS APIs to further perfect Android in the coming years.

Provided the “escape hatch” won’t be closed – I find this a positive change. What about you?

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