As iPads Invade Enterprises, Google Beefs Up Android

While it’s certain that Android’s smartphone share is on the rise in the consumer market, Android’s potential success in the enterprise is still up in the air. Google today is introducing one new tool and bringing two updates to an existing service to give its mobile platform a greater chance to gain favor in the corporate world, both for tablets and smartphones.

An updated version of the Google Apps Device Policy app is now available for system administrators and employees alike. New to this version is a feature to locate, secure or remotely wipe a device running Android 2.2 (s goog) or better. These actions are accessible through the My Devices web app, and can be used to ring the phone and change either the device password or PIN security as well. The updated Device Policy app also allows administrators to require full data encryption on Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, tablets. The encryption feature is new to tablets, so admins could already implement this data security on Android handsets.

Google Apps Lookup is a new Android software title that functions much like a corporate Global Address List found in Microsoft Exchange (s msft) environments. Either through voice search or keyboard input, the app searches through the Google Apps contact directory, provided system admins have enabled the “Shared Contacts” feature for the organization. The app, which supports Android 2.1 or better devices, offers one-touch communication options for found contacts: call, IM, email or text message.

This maturing of enterprise features for Google Apps users is key, else Google will cede the lucrative mobile enterprise market to Apple (s aapl), Research In Motion (s rimm), Microsoft (s msft) and even HP (s hpq), as all have or will soon have smartphone and tablets targeted for the business world. Just this morning, Techaisle, an I.T. Market Research firm, noted that 8.8 million tablets are in use within U.S. small and medium business.

I’d be surprised if that number was close to one million tablets at this time last year; even though the first iPad was just launching then, there had to be some Windows Tablet PCs in use. Given that the first true Android tablets only just arrived in February of this year, it makes sense that most of the 8.8 million tablets are iPads, so Google and the rest are already playing catch-up. The right tools, in combination with eliminating Android fragmentation in the enterprise, should help.