Galaxy S4: Samsung's battle with Apple will be won or lost on software, not hardware

Samsung's next flagship smartphone will soon be announced - and whatever the features, the fight between Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry for the enterprise has already begun.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

While the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 evolution, not revolution is likely: leaks and rumours suggest it will come with a screen just under five inches, an eight-core processor and 2GB of RAM.

It'll also have an improved screen and camera in all likelihood, and arrive with new gesture-based features or bespoke services, as that's how manufacturers tend to differentiate between their phones nowadays.

But the enterprise battle is less focused on particular features and more on the broader strategy, and that's where things get interesting.

Traditionally, businesses would look to roll out BlackBerry devices. In more recent years, they've also been gradually convinced to introduce iOS and Android-based handsets and tablets for employees.

This shift hasn't so much been as a result of companies quickly adopting new technologies; in many cases it has instead come about as the result of employees bringing their own handsets into the office, which then need some form of management if they are going to be given access to sensitive business information.

This change has created dual routes to enterprise success for hardware manufacturers: appeal to the business with pricing and ease of integration or appeal to the individual, and then the company will have little choice but to support the devices.

On the second point, Samsung has done an incredible job of creating consumer success with its Galaxy range of devices. From launch the Galaxy S2 was popular, and the S3 even more so.

In January 2013, Samsung said sales of its Galaxy S series devices had exceeded 100m units, with the original Galaxy notching up 24 million sales, and the S2 and S3 both surpassing 40 million units each.

The only other handset posing any real challenge for the Galaxy S2 and S3 has been the iPhone. And regardless of the route the handset takes to make it into business hands, the S4 will be Samsung's most concerted enterprise push to-date, especially as Samsung has been focusing on management and security, both hot topics for business.

According to a recent Strategy Analytics market share report, more than 700 million smartphones were sold in 2012. Of those 700 million units, nearly 69 percent ran Android and just over 19 percent ran iOS. But the enterprise is different - here the iPhone is the handset of choice still, so Samsung needs to convince that its smartphones are fit for work, as well as pleasure.

A Knox at the door

At Mobile World Congress 2013, the South Korean handset manufacturer revealed the scale of its enterprise ambitions with the introduction of its Knox device management system, a result of its own development work and partnerships with companies such as Centrify.

While Apple's iPhone might be the company to beat in terms of numbers, BlackBerry's impressive device and service management features and systems are still hugely attractive to enterprise customers.

To address BlackBerry's stronghold in business, Samsung's Knox system is designed to help admins make data leakage, viruses and malware attacks a thing of the past for Samsung devices on the Android platform. BlackBerry is not the force it once was, but enterprises will still want Samsung to show that it can offer a similar level of security with its handsets.

As such, Knox also incorporates an enhanced-security version of Android developed by the National Security Agency, and supports integrity management services on a hardware and Android OS level. It will also play nicely with existing MDM, VPN and directory services, Samsung told ZDNet.

One of the smart decisions in the introduction of Knox was to give it the ability to separate personal and business data, reassuring both parties that the user will only get access to what they should, and that there won't be any problems with the IT department removing personal content such as photos from the phone. There's no better way to square up to a rival than by taking on its core strengths, and for BlackBerry, that's Balance and BES.

However, while Android and iOS clearly have had some success making it into businesses, convincing the more security-conscious industries such as banking or government to adopt the platforms has been more of a challenge. Knox should go some way to allaying these concerns on Android, at least.

We already know that the S4 will arrive with support for Knox out of the box, and while the latest range-topping smartphone is yet to be officially revealed, it will be no surprise to see it come out of the gate with its sights set firmly on BlackBerry - and then on Apple.

Whatever transpires at the Galaxy S4 launch on Thursday, the stage for this enterprise battle has already been set.

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