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Knox: Why More Enterprises Don't Buy Samsung

Knox: Why More Enterprises Don
December 5, 2013 1:27PM

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"Enterprises would be interested in Samsung phones if Samsung could actually release a working Knox," said analyst Michael Disabato. "Enterprises like the safe-management protocols, but while everybody is thinking that Knox is going to be the next best thing since the microwave oven, we have yet to see it really work."

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Samsung is crushing the smartphone competition in terms of units sold. But the company has a perceived weak spot that is preventing it from dominating in the enterprise market.

The weak spot is called Knox. Indeed, some have called the delay of Knox Samsung's Achilles' heel on the enterprise front. Knox is Samsung's enterprise mobile solution for work and play. Knox aims to address the mobile security needs of enterprise IT without invading the privacy of its employees by creating two distinct containers on the phone: one for business and one for pleasure.

But, as The Wall Street Journal reports in a story about Samsung's challenges selling phones to businesses, Knox has seen delays and programming bugs that have left enterprises -- as well as the U.S. Department of Defense -- frustrated. With the open-source Android operating system's reputation for attracting malware writers, enterprises are not fully on board with Samsung phones without some extra layer of protection.

Is Knox Reliable?

We asked Michael Disabato, managing vice president of Network and Telecom at industry research firm Gartner, for his take on Samsung's challenges selling to businesses. He told us that an unreliable Knox is indeed a key issue.

"Enterprises would be interested in Samsung phones if Samsung could actually release a working Knox," Disabato said. "Enterprises like the safe-management protocols, but while everybody is thinking that Knox is going to be the next best thing since the microwave oven, we have yet to see it really work."

As he sees it, Knox probably turned out to be a bigger project than Samsung anticipated. For example, Samsung doesn't sell management-system tools like BlackBerry so it has to integrate into a Mobile Device Management system like MobileIron or AirWatch in order for enterprise users to benefit from Knox features. That may have been one hang-up for Samsung.

Samsung Still Confident

Nevertheless, Samsung this week made Knox available on more devices, including flagship smartphones like the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, as well as tablets like the Note 10.1. Samsung said users can activate Knox in minutes and secure private information and protect against malware. Samsung said it is working with "several Fortune 500 and government customers" to deploy Knox and expects to see the fruit of its labors in 2014. But Disabato isn't so sure.

"Knox was based on Security-Enhanced Android, which was developed in conjunction with our good friends at the National Security Agency. So anything that's been developed in conjunction with NSA right now is painted with a big tar-brush of privacy violations and security backdoors and nobody really knows how secure it is," Disabato said.

"There was a series of articles out about how NSA tampered with the standards process and weakened some of the security protocols. So what makes you think they'd help develop a fully secure mobile phone operating system?"

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