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Samsung Knox to co-exist with Android's secure container knockoff

Samsung forges ahead with Knox EMM, despite a free Knox knockoff coming in Google Android L.

Reports of Samsung Knox's death have been greatly exaggerated, but a path forward is unclear.

Predictions around the demise of Samsung's Knox were published after Google introduced last month a secure container platform based on Knox for the Android L operating system. But Samsung plans to move forward with Knox on its own.

Samsung is contributing "a part of Knox technology for the benefit of the entire Android community and enterprise customers" and will continue to work with partners to enable Knox for its customers, a spokesperson said.

Why would they maintain Knox when basically what they are trying to do is going to be free in Android?
Jack Gold, analyst, J. Gold Associates

Samsung did not respond to an inquiry seeking more details about a roadmap for Knox, including how it plans to compete with a free, native Google mobile management platform, when Knox costs $3.60 per user per month. Samsung has also not specified which part of Knox will be included in Android L.

Knox got off to an inauspicious start when it was beset by delays and security issues, but Samsung moving away from it completely would have surprised some industry watchers, given how much effort and investment the company gives the platform.

A pivot as opposed to completely closing the door on Knox is more likely, and the agreement with Google might be part of that, according to Eric Klein, analyst with VDC Research Group in Natick, Massachusetts.

"They may be saying, 'We're going to have to do something to make this platform have some legs, so if we work with Google in some capacity, clearly it will get some serious traction and it will be in every Android device now,'" Klein said.

Other partnerships could also help. In January, Samsung struck a deal with Digital Management Inc. (DMI) to distribute Knox and associated Samsung mobile security products to DMI customers, not long after DMI made its own deal to provide mobile device management for the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency.

Samsung's list of enterprise and government clients for Knox is "growing rapidly," according to the company, but it did not provide specifics.

A month after the DMI deal, Samsung beefed up Knox with support beyond its own devices to include Apple iOS. Knox's enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform includes a secure container, management of Web and mobile apps, a self-service portal, and separate work and personal profiles.

At the time, enterprise mobility insiders were interested in the improvements to the platform, but questioned how a company best known for its hardware could compete in the ever-expanding world of EMM software vendors.

Now, analysts don't see much of a path for success for Knox.

"Knox is going to go away, without a doubt," said Jack Gold, analyst and principal at J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass. "Why would they maintain Knox when basically what they are trying to do is going to be free in Android?"

It's possible Samsung may try to reorient Knox into a different kind of platform, but Knox is "dead for all intents and purposes," according to Gold.

At the same time, the new deal between IBM and Apple to produce enterprise applications and services on the iOS platform might hurt both Samsung and Google in its enterprise efforts, but Gold thinks IBM may warm up to Android as it continues to get more serious about the enterprise.

"Those enterprises that are interested in Android are going to look at Android for Android's sake," Gold said.

It's going to be hard to pin down the future of Knox until details become public on what part of the platform will be part of the Android L operating system, according to Klein.

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