Samsung aims to step up B2B efforts, court enterprise developers, launches rugged tablet

Samsung's B2B unit has been quietly growing and could be pivotal to expanding Android use in the enterprise. Here's the plan to distribute enterprise apps for specific business cases.

Samsung is looking to give its business-to-business unit a higher profile via developer relationships and device growth via new front-line tools like the Galaxy Tab Active Pro and Samsung Mobility Platform, which will be used to deliver custom enterprise apps.

At its Samsung Developer Conference, the company featured panels, sessions, and partners on business topics such as artificial intelligence, gaming, enterprise, Internet of things and Blockchain, as well as new B2B devices.

Taher Behbehani, head of Mobile B2B at Samsung, said the set of announcements and the developer conference serve as a bit of a "coming out party for Samsung B2B." Behbehani said:

"Last year we grew a revenues by 20%, which is quite significant in the mobile side. And for example, our tablets sales were doubles in just in one year and it's important to note that most of the tablets are actually deployed for a B2B enterprise specific solution sets. Though our products are widely used. In the solution sets that enterprises choose to deploy or when they try to solve complex problems we have been a preferred partner. We think the growth will continue just in the next few years driven by different factors and we are upbeat in terms of B2B and we have segments of the market."

Indeed, Samsung Mobile B2B is a formidable unit, but one that's overshadowed by mostly consumer-focused marketing and devices such as TVs and appliances. Nevertheless, much of Samsung's portfolio applies to business. Samsung's customer base includes 15,000 enterprises globally. In the US, the company has 2,000 large enterprise customers, as well as hundreds of thousands of SMBs.

Also: Samsung, IBM team up on platform to track vital signs, health data for first responders

Samsung's business applications, devices, and services are sold directly through the company, carriers, and partners. "We are a growth area for Samsung," said Behbehani. For enterprises, Samsung is often a default device along with Apple's iPhone and iPad but increasingly splits the Android business share with Google's Android Enterprise Program.

The B2B push for Samsung comes as wireless carriers are also getting more serious about business. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all have services to pitch businesses and plan to ramp up efforts as 5G launches. 5G is likely to be more appealing to business use than consumers at first. 

Gartner's vendor rating on Samsung remains positive, but the research firm did raise concerns about whether the company could leverage artificial intelligence well compared to rivals. Gartner had a positive view of products and services, pricing, technology, strategy, and viability. Support and account management was rated variable, a notch below positive.

The software plan

Like its parent, Samsung Mobile B2B sees itself as a software vendor as well as one-armed with devices.

To that end, Samsung Mobile B2B is using its platform to court developers who have created industry-specific apps designed for everything from public safety to farming to any other industry. Samsung highlighted apps that were created with Medtronic for Parkinson's Disease.

The pain point for these developers and the enterprises they serve has been discovery and distribution for companies. "We work with 100,000 developers -- some from independent companies and some within organizations -- have solutions, apps, and need to distribute it," said Behbehani. "And form SMBs they have one customer for a custom app and need to scale it."

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Samsung Mobility Platform is well defined and can distribute applications via Knox under an effort called Project Appstack. This initiative isn't an app store, but will enable enterprises to distribute applications via searches like the following:

  • "Latest app to check tire pressure on 18 wheelers, IoT"
  • "Latest app to detect water leakage for builders."

Project AppStack is built as a "differentiated B2B SaaS and native app delivery mechanism." AppStack will be populated with Samsung's existing database of Knox-verified applications and leverage the company's customer base. AppStack will have single sign-on.

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With AppStack, customers can select and bundle enterprise apps with the purchase of new Samsung devices. These apps are delivered to the device when activated. Existing customers can get recommendations for apps based on industry, business size, and usage. Should a customer buy an app it is delivered to the device's Workspace, a container that isolates enterprise apps. 

Behbehani noted that Project Appstack isn't a store. "There will be an economic model and onboarding services," he said. "It will be more about the intelligent push and not a shopping mall where you have to go through rows and rows of apps. We don't want to do that."

The software developer and app distribution effort will launch next year and come with a community site to connect industries, identify talent, and deliver apps to make app makers money. To court developers, Samsung is launching a new partner program that will have various tiers. The Knox Partner program has three tiers. The bronze tier is free and is available to developers that have D-U-N-S verified company data. Platinum is an invitation-only group with gold for Samsung's largest, most active partners.

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All partners will have access to Knox SDKs and APIs and development and commercial licensing keys. The silver tier will have regional support and gold has a catalog for top solutions as well as test devices. All tiers are Knox validated. 

Behbehani said Samsung can solve problems for enterprise developers.

"When we talk to developers, what they tell us is they say, 'Look, okay, I have a solution. I have an app, I have something that I've created specifically, how do I get into the customer base? How do I distribute this?' I always give this example, it's very salient, stuck in my mind. Last year I was at the Mobile World Congress through, just right after I joined Samsung and I saw a number of different apps companies. One of them had an app to control tractors. I developed it for one of our customers, really unique company and I'm impressed. There's something really cool and that question immediately the owner asked me was, 'How do I take this app and how can you, Samsung help me take this out to your other customers on a global basis?' And we actually didn't have a solution for him at the time, so this is something we want to address."

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Devices tailored for industries

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Image: Samsung

Now a Samsung B2B push wouldn't be complete without a few flagship devices. Yes, Samsung has targeted creative pros and business decision-makers with the Galaxy Note. Yes, Samsung's flagship Galaxy line has smartphones and tablets that are often deployed in the enterprise. Then there are screens for signage and other business devices.

One area where Samsung can grow its rugged devices: An expensive category. Samsung is launching its Galaxy Tab Active Pro. This ruggedized tablet is designed front-line workers in tough environments. Think hospitals, urgent care, insurance claims, and public safety.

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"The next frontier for devices is front-line workers and equipment out in the field," said Chris Briglin, director of enterprise mobile product marketing at Samsung.

Briglin said that the Galaxy Tab Active Pro  can court companies that need ruggedized devices, but don't want the weight and expense that comes with current devices. "These are business decision-makers on the front lines and need a device for individual use."

Indeed, the Galaxy Tab Active Pro is a follow-up to the Galaxy Tab Active that launched in 2017. The device will connect with DeX to provide a PC experience and has a solid set of specs.

Also: Samsung expands B2B push with US availability of Galaxy Tab Active Pro rugged tablet TechRepublic

More importantly, the 10.1-inch device can work in the rain and with workers who need to tap a screen wearing gloves. There is also an NFC chip to badge in for secure applications, serve as a point of sale terminal and work with bar codes.

Galaxy Tab Active Pro batteries are also replaceable and charge with the same gear as the Galaxy Tab Active. The device is in pilots and will ship in the fourth quarter. Retail, public safety, and manufacturing are likely to be target industries.

The B2B use cases are likely to proliferate as 5G rolls out. "5G will be driven by or the demand is created by the enterprise as well as the consumer side. But the enterprise is where you probably make your most money," said Behbehani.

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