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Samsung Knox retools with free, cheaper EMM options

Samsung has answered questions about the future of Knox with three new versions of its EMM product, two of which will be free.

Samsung Knox will head in not one but three new directions after months of speculation about its future, with new options for both IT and individual users.

Samsung updated its Knox website this week to include three new versions of the enterprise mobility management (EMM) product, two of which will be free, while the third significantly drops its price from the only other available version.

The three versions—My Knox for users, Knox Express for small-to-medium sized businesses and Knox Premium for larger enterprises—represent a shift in philosophy for Samsung. Samsung is contributing parts of its Knox framework to Google for use in its upcoming Android L operating system, which prompted reports of Knox's impending demise.

I don't find security to be that challenging of a concept, but implementation of it gets devastatingly ugly.
Craig MathiasAnalyst, Farpoint Group

But the Korean tech giant denied Knox was going away and its path is clearer, and possibly more attractive to IT.

Samsung wants to position Knox as a strong mobile security option, with security continuing to grow in importance in an age of widespread information breaches, said Craig Mathias, principal at wireless advisory firm Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass.

"I don't find security to be that challenging of a concept, but implementation of it gets devastatingly ugly," Mathias said.

Samsung still remains in a difficult position due to the vibrant EMM market, competing with vendors such as Citrix, AirWatch by VMware, IBM's Fiberlink, MobileIron and Good Technology. Samsung is still viewed primarily as a hardware vendor that may not be using its best resources in enterprise software, Mathias said.

"It's a huge company that has everything but it's hard to put emphasis on everything," he said. "Are they going to have the best people on it? That's a challenge for them."

Samsung may have removed some of the early difficulties with Knox with these changes, but it may not be enough, according to Michael Finneran, mobile analyst with dBrn Associates in Hewlett Neck, N.Y.

Even though Google is trying to shore up its enterprise credentials with Android L, it still isn't perceived as being as enterprise-friendly as either Apple iOS or BlackBerry's operating systems.

"I don't see this as a dramatic altering of the landscape at all," Finneran said.

Three new ways to get Knox

Knox Express, which is geared to businesses with 250 users or less, could lure IT pros based on the simple fact that it is free.  It combines the Knox Workspace for device security and Knox EMM for management for both Android and iOS devices, however Knox Workspace doesn't support iOS.

 Admins must complete a survey and agree to receive additional information about Samsung products to receive Knox Express for free.

Knox Express contains basic components of Knox Workspace and its mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) features. More Knox capabilities are available in the paid version, Knox Premium, which costs $1 per user per month. Knox previously was only available at $3.60 per user per month.

"The pricing was ridiculously high at the outset," Finneran said. "$3.60 for a secure container capability was about twice the price of what a secure container cost directly from the MDM suppliers."

Knox Premium includes Active Directory integration, application whitelisting and blacklisting and increased security capabilities over Knox Express. The full capabilities of the Knox Workspace are still available as an add-on, although Samsung didn't provide pricing specifically for the add-on. The Knox Workspace can still be purchased at the $3.60 price.

Knox provides users with a strong security profile, the secure container and a secure boot function that also works in concert with other MDM products in a given environment, Finneran said.

"This removes the obstacle of purchasing Samsung devices [for enterprise]," he said. "It can be essentially as secure as either an Apple or BlackBerry. But you still have to appeal to the buyer, and that's a challenge."

How well Samsung Knox does will depend in part on how the market around enterprise security evolves, Mathias said.

"How many different security products do people want to manage?" he said. "It's going to get so complex customers won't want to deal with it."

My Knox is geared to individual users looking for added security for work applications. My Knox is currently supported on only two Samsung devices, the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4, but more device support is coming, according to the company. End users must also have a valid Microsoft Exchange account.

My Knox integrates with Exchange ActiveSync  and synchronizes an individual user's email, calendar and contacts between desktops and mobile devices. Individual users can manage their device from this Web user portal. My Knox can be downloaded for free now from the Google Play store.

Samsung also expanded its partnership with identity and access management (IAM) provider Centrify for Knox to include a new standalone paid software as a service (SaaS) application called Knox IAM. It includes support for over 2,500 SaaS applications as well as unlimited application single sign-on from any device or desktop. Knox IAM is available for $4 per user per month and is also an add-on to Knox Premium.

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