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Android for Work arrives without Knox technology

Google went the container route with Android for Work for enhanced enterprise management, but left out Samsung Knox.

With Android for Work, IT should find it easier to manage the menagerie of different devices that run Google's mobile operating system.

Android for Work includes work profiles within current Android devices, and the profiles can be managed by IT. However, one aspect of the Android for Work program that was previously promised will not be included.

A Google spokesperson confirmed a published report that components of Samsung Knox technology were not used in creating Android for Work. Instead, Google used its own technologies. The spokesperson declined to provide details as to why Knox was left out.

When Android for Work was first presented last year, the companies said Samsung's contribution would be higher-level components including Security Enhancements for Android, the Knox framework and data separation technology from Knox Workspace.

The decision to leave Knox out of Android for Work's core technology wasn't entirely surprising, said Craig Mathias, founder of the Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.

"Google needs to own their own [product] and they don't want to be dependent on a third party," Mathias said.

With Android for Work and Samsung Knox, enterprises must question if they want to support two competing platforms that may have different policies, said Brian Katz, head of mobile innovation at a large pharmaceutical company in New Jersey.

Google needs to own their own [product] and they don't want to be dependent on a third party.
Craig Mathiasanalyst, Farpoint Group

"Knox allows your management to be more granular, but that can be more work," Katz said. "I'm not knocking Knox, but when you have two competing things, the general one can be better for enterprises."

Android for Work's support of the major EMM vendors also makes it easier for Google to allow anyone to deploy Android devices in the enterprise, Katz added.

Samsung is one of many Google partners that can build their own management technologies on top of Android for Work. These include major enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors such as AirWatch by VMware, Citrix, IBM Fiberlink, MobileIron, BlackBerry and SAP among others. A Google-approved third-party EMM vendor is a requirement for utilizing Android for Work.

Android for Work creates work profiles

Android for Work was released this week following its introduction last June.

The four key technological components of Android for Work include: work profiles for devices that run Android Lollipop, the Android for Work app for older Android operating systems, Google Play for Work for deployment and management of enterprise apps and a suite of built-in productivity applications.

The work profiles technology in Android for Work stems from Google's acquisition of Divide last May. The profiles are built on default encryption, SELinux security enforcement and multi-user support within Lollipop and IT can deploy and manage work apps to that profile separate from a user's personal apps.

The Android for Work app includes secure mail, calendar, contacts, browsing, documents and authorized Work app access for devices that run Ice Cream Sandwich through KitKat operating systems.

In addition to its EMM partners, Google worked with major Android hardware original equipment manufacturers including Samsung, LG, HTC, Lenovo, Sony and Motorola, app partners Box and Salesforce.com and networking partners Cisco, Palo Alto, F5 Networks Inc., and Pulse Secure to create Android for Work.

Android for Work is something Google "absolutely had to do" to compete with the likes of Apple's iOS in the enterprise market, Katz said.

"Samsung made great pushes, but not everyone wants to be locked into Samsung itself and not [all employees] love Samsung devices," Katz said.

The functions provided in the Android for Work user profiles, including the container where work apps can be separated from personal apps, may be better off embedded within operating systems as opposed to coming from third party tools, Farpoint Group's Mathias said.

"It's harder to tamper with [features embedded in the OS] as opposed to a third-party overlay," he said.

Android for Work capabilities are free and come automatically pre-loaded on devices running Android Lollipop, however a third-party EMM product is needed to use them.

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How will you utilize the Android for Work program within your organization?
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More than a billion people today use android smartphones and they are used in checking email, editing documents, approving deals and reviewing sales among others. We will be utilizing the Android for work application that delivers emails, contacts, documents, calendar and access to work apps more securely. This will ensure constant communication between staff, and important communication from the management. This will also ensure completion of specific work tasks even when away from the office.     
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Although I can see where profiles and containerization have beneficial applications in our particular context, we do not have any plans to utilize the Android for Work program at this point. This may change as more employees encounter either the need or the benefit of using mobile devices to complete their work, but we have not reached that point yet. When the time does come, I suspect that we will use it to use profile management deploy the right apps to the right people.
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Currently, Android for Work is not the format we are using. We have an internal system to help with deployment on BYOD setups, and I suspect that will be the model going forward. Should we become more app centric, we may well revisit that choice.
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Hate to be a told you so, but I did....see my Forbes piece last fall....
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Care to share the link, mobileanalyst?
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It is a good thing that, with the Android for work, Google has gotten itself into the BYOD business and has attempted to make it more secure. However, I am against the fact that Google decided to use its own technology in the creation of the Android for work and ignored the Samsung knox technology, which to me is a better option. I feel Google placed their company's interest ahead of the consumer's interest.
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