AT&T is preparing to offer an application for businesses that allows employees to bring in their own Android-powered mobile devices without creating a device management nightmare.
Dubbed AT&T Toggle, it allows a device to be set in either work mode or personal mode, with the activities in each mode segregated from the other. The personal mode functions without restrictions; the work mode is secured and can only run approved applications. Data for both modes is kept separate.
The whole system is managed company-wide from a central Web portal. There, employers and IT admins can manage allowed devices and permitted applications, including performing features like remote administrative wipe.
The service is being sold directly to enterprises, but isn't being limited to AT&T-network phones. Support for other phone OSes, including the iPhone, is planned for the future as well.
Android has long been criticized for not having proper enterprise management tools. Version 2.2 of the OS included various APIs for device administration, but those new native features were minimal. They included password enforcement policies and connectivity for commonly requested services like Microsoft Exchange, but device-level encryption (a standard feature on the iPhone since the 3GS) wasn't available. It's still not available as a standard feature on Android devices.
AT&T isn't the only company looking at ways to enable BYOD by making one device do the work of two. Red Bend Software, for instance, is working on a mobile hypervisor system, VLX, that would allow multiple instances of a phone's OS to run side-by-side in complete isolation. This, too, could be used to create a work-mode and personal-mode phone--but AT&T Toggle is being promised as a more complete end-to-end solution with admin tools, not just as a standalone technology.
Toggle is to be offered to enterprises by the end of the year, and will work on most any device running Android 2.2 or greater.