Samsung beefs up Knox mobile management software

Move follows Galaxy S5 with fingerprint reader

BARCELONA -- One day after announcing the Galaxy S5 smartphone with a security-focused fingerprint scanner, Samsung announced that second-generation Knox software for enterprise-level security and management of Samsung devices will ship sometime in the second quarter.

Knox 2.0 gives IT shops cloud-based purchasing and control of all Samsung services and apps, and launches a single sign-on for end users of Samsung gear, three Samsung officials said in a briefing prior to the announcement on Tuesday at Mobile World Congress.

Also, a Samsung Knox Marketplace apps store will be available as part of Knox 2.0. It offers, initially, 150 enterprise-focused apps that IT shops can make available to end users. Samsung plans to include Office 365 and Google Docs in the store.

As with other mobile device management (MDM) software products, Knox 2.0 does not allow end users to add their own applications to the work-side partition of its dual personality interface. Samsung joins BlackBerry and other vendors offering the ability to separate apps, emails and other services into two profiles: work and personal.

With the update, however, Samsung will allow some third-party MDM and enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors to run in an untrusted state on the personal side of a device. Software from MDM vendors Good, Mobile Iron and Fixmo will be allowed to run on the personal side. Good's software will work better on a Samsung device than any other device, Samsung asserted.

The cost of Knox 2.0 service will be $3.60 per user per month with pricing discounts for larger volumes. IT shops will be able to sign up for Knox software online.

Injong Rhee, Samsung's senior vice president of research for business-to-business mobile communication, led the Knox briefing for Computerworld. He was joined by Carl Nerup, vice president of global business development for regulated markets, and Timothy Wagner, vice president and general manager for the Samsung's U.S. enterprise business unit.

Samsung's original Knox was launched in October 2013 and is used by 1 million users on 10 device models, the Samsung executives said. In all, about 25 million Samsung devices are running Knox. The number of Knox-capable models will triple in 2014 to include the Galaxy S5 and other gear. Knox is used in 230 countries over 40 carrier networks.

Wearable devices, like Samsung's Galaxy Gear and a new Gear 2 smartwatch announced this week are expected to heighten management and security needs for enterprises, even as they are primarily tethered over Bluetooth to users' smartphones.

The Samsung officials said they are seeing keen interest in wearables from executives and workers in healthcare and financial services, where it a quick glance at a watch or other device can provide an alert on a patient's condition or sudden change in a stock price. Having that convenience and speed is seen as an immediate benefit with a smartwatch over searching for a smartphone in a pocket or purse, they said.

BlackBerry was once considered the best management and security resource for enterprises, but its ranking in the smartphone market has fallen even as BlackBerry adds improvements to its BlackBerry Enterprise Service software. Version 12 of BES was announced Tuesday at MWC and is expected to ship later in the year.

Competing with the iPhone in the enterprise

In recent years, Apple has made a strong foray into enterprises, both with iPhones and iPads. Android, while powering up to 80% of smartphones globally, is gaining some ground among enterprise users, but still trails iOS.

Samsung's addition of the fingerprint reader to the new Galaxy S5 also follows the fingerprint sensor added to the iPhone 5S last fall.

According to a recent analysis of 250,000 Android users in businesses, Samsung devices were used by more than half. The analysis used real-time data gathered by Fiberlink Communications, a mobile management and security company purchased by IBM in December. Samsung also dominates all Android smartphone sales globally.

"Android is becoming more of a force in enterprises, and Knox elevates Samsung above the rest of the contenders," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "There are many vendors of security solutions for Android, so it remains to be seen just how much of an advantage Knox is."

Knox was hindered because it wasn't previously available for all the Samsung smartphones and tablets that enterprises want to use, Gold said. The added cost for including Knox on top of other EMM solutions that a business might have doesn't help. By comparison, EMM capabilities with iOS don't cost extra, Gold noted.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy, said there's a false impression that Apple's iOS and Android from Samsung will be the choices for IT shops in protecting corporate data in coming years.

"Enterprises don't look to Samsung or Apple to protect their corporate data today. They look to companies like Intel and Microsoft," he said. "I give Samsung a lot of credit for moving the [data protection] conversation along, but I think enterprise IT will wait for Intel."

Moorhead was referring to Intel's announcement at International CES that it would provide hardware and software security and management capabilities called Intel Device Protection Technology. It will work with third-party software or Intel's own security software, formerly called McAfee.

Moorhead estimated that up to 95% of all enterprises run data center applications on Intel servers and Intel-based client devices, which potentially give Intel and Windows a decided advantage over Android and iOS.

This article, Samsung beefs up Knox mobile management software , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile security in Computerworld's Mobile Security Topic Center.

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