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New Samsung enterprise mobility deal may give Knox a kick start

A new deal with U.S. government MDM partner DMI has analysts thinking Samsung's enterprise offerings could get a needed jolt in the New Year.

Samsung's latest partnership may give the device maker the clout it needs to get its enterprise mobility offerings through the door of big IT shops.

Samsung's U.S. division said it struck a deal with Bethesda, Md.-based Digital Management Inc. (DMI) where DMI will provide managed mobility services for Samsung Approved for Enterprises smartphones and tablets.

DMI made waves last summer when it was awarded a $16 million contract with the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for mobile device management (MDM) and a mobile application store.

Now, Samsung and DMI will work together to deploy Samsung Enterprise Services and to include MDM implementation, migration services, device configuration and implementation, end-user help desk services, and security assessments.

Additionally, DMI will implement some of Samsung's security platforms, including Knox, which went through its share of delays and adoption issues in Samsung's enterprise Android devices last year.

Analysts view the partnership as an attempt to wrestle U.S. enterprise attention away from Apple Inc. and also bite into BlackBerry's strength within governmental institutions.

While BlackBerry will likely continue to be primary mobility choice for the government, the Samsung-DMI deal creates an opening with many possibilities, according to Chris Hazelton, a mobile analyst and research director with 451 Research, based in New York.

"Getting into U.S. government deals is a great way to essentially validate the use of Samsung Android devices for the enterprise," Hazelton said.

In addition, the deal gives DMI "a reference customer a lot of EMM [enterprise mobility management] vendors would die to have," Hazelton said.

Samsung wants to become the top replacement for BlackBerry as it relates to security by using Knox capabilities to do that, according to Ralph Rodriguez, a former chief technology officer and current CEO of Boston-based Blue Hill Research. DMI already has other numerous EMM partners, including AirWatch and MobileIron, among others, and the DMI deal gives Samsung access to what they offer, Rodriguez said.

With Apple being "dragged into the enterprise," more competition from an archrival like Samsung could help both continue to sharpen their enterprise focus and offerings, according to Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at Natick, Mass.-based VDC Research.

Deal a signal of Knox turnaround?

Klein said Samsung has gotten "very little traction" with KNOX in the enterprise and thinks the deal with DMI is something of an acknowledgement that Samsung needed some help.

"DMI has demonstrated they can win large deals, and they can help Samsung get into some really large deployments," Klein said.

Rodriguez offered several examples of problems still associated with Knox, including pricing. He said Knox's price of $3.60 per month per device for what is essentially an add-on is not competitive when, for example, a company like Good Technology offers its MDM suite, beyond just security, for $5 per month per device.

"They have to figure out how to adjust that and adjust that quickly," Rodriguez said.

Still, because Samsung isn't historically a software company, it can improve Knox with a commitment to research and development, according to Hazelton.

"[Knox] is one of the better containers out there because it's fully integrated into the device down to the firmware," Hazelton said.

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Jake, I appreciate the direction you took on the piece. Samsung could presumably choose any vendor, so why DMI? Their government revenue was only ~$40M vs. say WidePoint's $600M recent federal win. I think you make the smart deduction about DMI’s government enterprise appeal. I’d encourage readers to check out my blog post too for a little more background