Thursday, March 14, 2013

Samsung KNOX and SAFE initiatives poised to take aim at the enterprise market

Last Friday, Samsung had courteously invited me for some one on one time to talk about their enterprise initiatives with Knox and SAFE (Samsung for Enterprise). We had the opportunity to meet with Steven Cull and Philippe Lozier who were courteous enough to go through their strategy in breaking into the still lucrative enterprise market.

For those of you unfamiliar with Knox, it's a comprehensive business solution that at the end of the day, turns your Galaxy S III or Galaxy Note II into two separate devices, a personal phone and a work phone. Many people today are looking to bring their own devices as work phones or BYOD (Bring your own device) and Samsung's Knox initiative looks to take advantage of this trend.

As mentioned earlier Knox is following in the trend of business allowing employees to bring their own devices. With the Galaxy S III or Galaxy Note II for example, people are looking to get the features they expect with those phones without having to use a company supplied phone.

This is an interesting strategy as it hinges on getting people to want the device, which is obviously already the case with Galaxy brand phones, and bring them to their employers rather than carriers/OEMs going to companies to have them buy devices on behalf of their employees.

According to numbers provided in the one on one, 85% of companies have some form of BYOD support from their IT department. In Canada however, Canada has been lagging behind with 30% of companies actually having a formal BYOD policy with another 65% intending to support it at some point in time.

To entice more companies to adopt BYOD practices Samsung has partnered with many of the known Mobile Device Management services to integrate in a seamless fashion with existing IT infrastructures. In addition, Samsung has done a lot of work with Microsoft to ensure Exchange support on a Knox enabled device, as well as support for partition encryption, VPN support. Lastly, their MDM integration supports up to 338 policies vs. 35 policies out of the box with Android.

Apps on the "Work" section of the phone will have access to the phone limited to the policies enforced by IT and access to the Google Play Market is completely removed in favor of the Samsung app market which has all of the application pre-approved by Samsung to be used with Knox. They also mentioned that at the base OS level, apps are actively monitored for security breaches that are reported to IT if they occur.

I also had a few questions that I brought up and here were their responses.

When asked about the "perceived" vulnerability or weakness of Android due to its "openness", they responded that in several layers of the OS, from secure boot to the kernel, Samsung has made the appropriate changes to the Android base to shore up security.

This lead to the next question about speedy Android updates. With the Galaxy S III and Note II running a relatively recent Android iteration (4.1 Jelly Bean) and done in a reasonably speedy manner, would installing Knox onto work phones impeded the ability of users to receive software updates. They responded that they didn't believe that it would add significant overhead and that they were taking necesary measures to make the update cycle as streamlined as possible by being pro-active and making their kernel changes public (which by virtue of being a Linux kernel they are obligated to do) and maybe submit them to the main Android branch.

I also asked what would they do to convince more IT departments to adopt a BYOD policy and most importantly get them to allow Samsung Galaxy devices. They responded that Samsung's Knox solution provides the most flexibility to leverage existing MDM systems requiring less from an IT perspective.

According to both Steven and Philippe, the Knox would be available to the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II as well as other flagships moving forward. I asked if there were any minimum specs required and without going into great technical detail they did say that there were some minimum specs required at the hardware level and that future flagships (we presume like the Galaxy S IV to be announce to today) will be compatible as well.

As far as tablets were concerned, I was told there are plans to have Knox compatibility with tablet but couldn't say what models or when to expect support.

Last, I asked if they were going to try to work with carriers to promote BYOD and they responded that they are committed to continue to push the BYOD movement, especially in Canada.

In the end, we must admit we are pretty bullish about Samsung's prospects in the enterprise market. Not unlike Apple's iPhone, people want to use their personal Samsung Galaxy devices as both their personal and work phone and we see the Knox & SAFE initiatives are steps in the right direction.

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