Samsung's Knox rides Asia BYOD wave to draw enterprises

Samsung's Knox rides Asia BYOD wave to draw enterprises

Summary: Pre-built manageability and partnerships with mobile device management vendors make the Knox tool a welcome addition for Asia-Pacific companies looking to support Samsung's mobile devices, but BlackBerry's BES offering still dominant.

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Samsung is expanding its presence on the enterprise front with its Knox offering pre-built into the Galaxy S4 smartphone, which will be rolling out worldwide at the end of the month, and this will be well-received by Asia-Pacific companies.

However, while helpful for companies' IT departments to better support the South Korean company's mobile devices, Knox "cannot compete" with BlackBerry's mobile management solution yet, said analysts.

According to Ian Song, research manager for client devices at IDC Asia-Pacific, Samsung is already playing heavily in the enterprise market in the Asia-Pacific region, contrary to popular belief.

"There has always been a misconception that Apple's iPhone is more proliferated among Asia-Pacific enterprises, but it just isn't the case. While iPhone is the market share leader for enterprise usage in developed markets such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, that lead is shrinking. Across the region, [however,] more Samsung smartphones are being used in enterprises than iPhones," Song stated.

"Think of Samsung as the arms dealer. Not only does it have the best weapons, but it also makes them available to all factions, in this case MDM vendors, so it doesn't matter who wins the enterprise mobility war as [long as] Samsung wins."

- Ian Song, research manager for client devices at IDC Asia-Pacific

With the introduction of Knox, which evolved from the Samsung for Enterprise (SAFE) initiative, more organizations in the region will likely consider supporting mobile devices from the South Korean giant, he added.

Elaborating, he said the aim of Knox and SAFE is to deliver additional manageability so Samsung becomes the de facto Android choice in the enterprise space. Since Knox is pre-built into the Galaxy S4, end-users can start compartmentalizing the services on the mobile device according to work and personal use without involving support from the company's tech team.

The other consideration is that Knox can be managed by third-party mobile device management (MDM) vendors which are Samsung partners. In fact, the company's approach to enterprise mobility is to work with as many such MDM partners as possible to broaden its reach and appeal, the analyst explained.

"Think of Samsung as the arms dealer. Not only does it have the best weapons, but it also makes them available to all factions, in this case MDM vendors, so it doesn't matter who wins the enterprise mobility war as [long as] Samsung wins," Song said.

Tang Pin-Chen, research analyst at Canalys, added Knox was a "smart move" from the Korean manufacturer since the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend shows no signs of abating.

"What sets Samsung apart from the competition is it incorporates the security solution into the device, instead of opting for an 'add-on' security solution through an application," Tang noted.

He did point out Samsung was not the first to offer such capabilities to separate personal and work on the user's device though. VMware had earlier introduced its Horizon software to offer similar capabilities, and this was incorporated into some of LG Electronic's handsets, while BlackBerry too has its Balance tool that allows for dual profiles.

The analyst also said while Knox offers an additional plus for companies considering supporting Samsung devices, the tool is still in its beta phase and will not immediately help dissipate the stigma of poor security on Google's Android operating system (OS).

BlackBerry still tops

Many companies in the region have also invested in highly secure MDM systems such as BlackBerry's BES and, from a financial standpoint, would find it more efficient if they were to continue relying on existing options, Tang said. Furthermore, BES has been positioned the Canadian phonemaker as a cross-platform management tool that supports iOS and Android devices, which would make it tough for Samsung to compete against, he added.

Song also noted that in terms of capability, Knox cannot compete with BES. However, by adding Knox on top of a "real" MDM solution, Samsung devices would become more capable and enterprise-ready, he said.

Samsung had earlier this month revealed it was collaborating with security provider Absolute Software to integrate the latter's Computrace management platform into its devices, including the Galaxy S4. The software will provide a foundation for managing all governance, risk management and compliance activities while remotely securing the devices from a cloud-based console.

"For now, Samsung's enterprise presence is mostly coming from BYOD, but in the coming 12 months, more enterprises will start to look at Samsung as a viable corporate replacement for BlackBerry," he predicted.

BlackBerry CEO Thorstein Heins, however, downplayed Samsung's enterprise push earlier in March. At the launch of the company's flagship Z10 device in the United States, Heins said Android was fundamentally susceptible to attacks and Samsung's efforts to secure Android with SAFE and Knox are the equivalent of leaving the front door open but locing the windows. 

Topics: Mobility, Data Management, BlackBerry, Samsung, Security, Bring Your Own Device

Kevin Kwang

About Kevin Kwang

A Singapore-based freelance IT writer, Kevin made the move from custom publishing focusing on travel and lifestyle to the ever-changing, jargon-filled world of IT and biz tech reporting, and considered this somewhat a leap of faith. Since then, he has covered a myriad of beats including security, mobile communications, and cloud computing.

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